Roses Return After Nearly a Century

growing roses in miami historic garden salted soil

Salting the Earth

Vizcaya’s Fountain Garden was once known by a different name. Originally, this space was designed to be a rose garden. It served as such when the gardens were completed in 1922. James Deering enjoyed the roses while he wintered here from November to March.

When the Great Hurricane of 1926 hit Miami, however, Vizcaya’s formal gardens were flooded with salt water. Further storm surges in the following decades salted the soil and made it difficult to grow roses in their designated home. During the cleanup after the storms, simplified the garden to only include grass panels. The roses would not return for many years.

Back to Basics

Over time, as the estate changed hands after the passing of Mr. Deering, the design of this and other gardens at Vizcaya changed. More recently, the museum has dedicated the last decade to renovating the formal gardens to better reflect the historically accurate design. This was done under the guidance of public horticulture specialists following extensive archival materials and a Cultural Landscape Report.

Recent projects have included the restoration of the parterres, scheduled trimmings of the oak trees and, of course, the return of roses to the Fountain Garden.

Growing Roses | Testing out Beds

Vizcaya first began testing new rose plantings in 2019 under Horticulture Manager David Hardy and Vizcaya’s rose specialist, Horticulturist Marco Perez-Alvarez.

The team initially worked hand-in-hand with the Tropical Rose Society, who donated the first 15 rose bushes planted in the gardens. They selected varieties that could thrive in Miami’s challenging climate. For more on this process, watch the video below.


Expanding the Rose Garden

After more than a year of success, the horticulture team decided to add more roses to the garden in March 2021 with the support of the Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust.

By early April of 2021, a total of eight new rose beds and 85 bushes were added around the Sutri Fountain. These included a wide selection of old garden rose varieties such as Chinas, Teas, and Damasks as well as newer disease resistant hybrids. Also, fragrance and a mixed color palette were considered in the selection.

Some of the varieties that were recently planted include: Beaute Inconstante, Quietness, Soul Sister, Chrysler Imperial, Pink Grootendorst, Perle d’Or, Marchessa Boccella, along with many others.

When horticulture staff received the plants, they had been cut back for shipping. Though some plants have produced a few flowers, they require about a month to reach full bloom.

Looking for tips to start your own rose garden in South Florida? Watch the video below to learn that steps the team took to prepare the soil for new plants.

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