Ted Mills has a passion for roses.
A master rosarian, Mills, 89, is known nationally throughout the rose community as "Rose Doc." But it's not the numerous accolades he's received for his award-winning roses that means the most to him. It's educating others about roses that has been the most rewarding, he said.
Mills began growing roses shortly after he retired in 1986 as a senior vice president with American National Bank (now SunTrust). "I wanted a hobby that would be beneficial to me and to others. First, I wanted to win awards in our local rose shows. I spent as much as four hours daily trying to excel. After winning trophies, there was a void in my mind. I wanted to teach others how to grow God's most beautiful flower."
So instead of seeking awards, Mills started teaching others how to grow roses.
"Local, regional and national instruction became my lot," he said, noting that he is a member of the executive committee of the American Rose Society (ARS). "The highlight of my life with roses came in 2010 when I was awarded the second highest award in the national body -- most outstanding educator of roses in America."
Mills advises rose gardeners to first consider how big they want their gardens.
"Large gardens require more time," he said. "It is best to view the rose garden daily. Many things attack these beauties -- diseases and insets. I would recommend a minimum of two hours daily. If the garden needs attention as to things being wrong, double the time spent fertilizing, pruning, deadheading spent blooms and especially watering, if rain is not present.
The Rose Doc was honored by Whit Wells, a nationally known rose hybridizer, who has created a new hybrid named for Mills, called Mills Magic. "It will be introduced to the American market soon," he said.
Mills Magic is also the name of an organic fertilizer, sold nationwide, developed by Mr. Mills.
1. Choose plants with at least three strong, lively canes. Garden centers are good sources for plants that have been jump-started by the staff. Inspection of plants is possible at point of sale; whereas, mail ordering is grab-bag style.
2. Using a good planting mix that affords 1/3 fertile soil, 1/3 creek sand (not as in golf courses) and 1/3 organics, such as manures. Be sure the planting site is located in an area that has good drainage and receives at least 6 hours of sunlight daily.
3. Roses are heavy feeders. Apply fertilizer regularly -- chemical and organic. Prune away dead or twiggy growth that is unproductive. Shape the bushes throughout the growing season. Prune away spent blooms, which hastens a repeat crop of roses. Provide protection against diseases and insects. Spray weekly on a defensive basis for diseases. Conversely, spray for insects only when sighted. Good garden centers can supply effective chemical spray materials.
4. Most importantly, irrigate roses regularly. A rose bush needs 6 to 10 gallons of water each week to perform well. Share roses to make the hobby more enjoyable.
5. We have four seasons and virtually no harsh winters. Providing simple insulation to the bushes is sufficient to endure the low temperatures. Most days are really good in the spring and fall. Excessive heat in summer does affect local roses as evidenced lately. The remedy is to irrigate sufficiently to cope with the heat until fall.