By Kitty Belendez, Master Rosarian
Santa Clarita, California

I’ve been growing roses for 30 years. For the first five years I only grew hybrid teas. Then for the next couple of years I expanded into miniatures. Next the floribundas attracted me with their huge clusters of sprays. At rose shows, I was particularly enticed by the amazing collections of floribunda sprays that were exhibited by Bill and Connie Wilke of Long Beach, CA. So, in December 1988 I purchased my first floribunda: it was Playgirl from Sequoia Nursery on its own roots. This was quickly followed by Sexy Rexy, Europeana, and Playboy. 

Of course I bought Iceberg too, which I grew for a few years. Although it’s an awesome landscape bush, the judges seem to ignore it at the rose shows. It just doesn’t produce a tight, upright cluster of blooms on a long stem that the Guidelines for Judging Roses specify. But for the garden, Iceberg is an awesome carefree rose that blooms continuously throughout the year.

In the early 1990’s I imported a few floribundas from Canada. I ordered such hard-to-get varieties as Nicole (the REAL thing), Kanegem, Golden Holstein, Dicky (Anisley Dickson) and other floribundas that were flooding into Canada from Kordes of Germany, and Dickson of England.

As a novice rose exhibitor I soon found out that it was extremely difficult to win Queen of Show with hybrid teas because of the many talented rose exhibitors and intense competition at that time. And when I saw the Wilke’s winning floribunda collections at the district rose shows, in particular the Pacific Rose Society (PRS) Challenge Class, I drooled over the thought of ever winning such a challenge. 

Back then the Pacific Rose Society Challenge required five different floribunda sprays, each a different color class. It was extremely difficult to even have enough floribundas to enter this class. I tried and tried for several years, but Bill and Connie always won. 

It wasn’t until 2000 that the specifications were changed to where the PRS Floribunda collection didn’t have to be five different colors, only five different varieties. That made it somewhat easier, but it was still tough to come up with five different floribunda sprays each of a different variety, and all blooming at the same time.

I mistakenly thought that I could win the Pacific Challenge if I only had five different floribunda bushes. That got me nowhere, and so I began my journey of adding more floribundas to my collection. At that time, I grew all my floribundas in black 15-gallon containers along my driveway. Most of my roses were grown in containers as Bob resisted my wanting to dig up lawn to make space to grow more roses. But the floribundas did not do their best in a small black pot placed on a hot cement driveway, especially when Santa Clarita summer temperatures often hit over 100 degrees during the summer.

Then after seeing how the Wilke’s grew many of their floribundas in the parkway along their front sidewalk, we decided to do the same. We started out by moving the floribundas to 30-gallon oak whiskey barrels because the parkway had a big pine tree smack in the middle of it with lots of roots, which was not conducive to growing roses. But these barrels were so huge that only a dozen could fit in the parkway. After a few years we removed the parkway tree and planted all the floribundas directly into the ground.

This worked out so well, that we eventually filled up the entire parkway with 40 floribundas planted in the ground. The floribundas loved being in the ground, and so they flourished and we started winning prizes with them. 

We won a collection of three floribunda sprays with Playgirl at the 1991 District Rose Show hosted by Pacific Rose Society at Monrovia. By 1993 we had won our first District floribunda challenge. It was the Phoenix Challenge Class, which we won at the district rose show held in Las Vegas that year, with a collection of three Playboy floribunda sprays in separate vases. But, I still had my eyes on the coveted Pacific Rose Society challenge class requiring five different floribunda sprays. So I began to collect and grow even more floribundas.

What I learned during my journey of growing more and more floribundas is that they are very floriferous (producing many blooms) particularly in the spring (late April through mid-May), and most are very disease-resistant too. One drawback is many floribundas, except the single-petalled varieties, rarely produce clusters in the fall. This explains why there were no entries in the PRS District Floribunda Challenge at Palm Springs in November 2009.

Playboy, Playgirl, Puanani (a light pink sport of Playgirl), International Herald Tribune, and Miss Ada produce sprays in the fall as well as in the spring. Most heavy-petalled floribundas only produce one bloom per stem during the fall. I can forgive that idiosyncrasy because the spring bloom is so intensely productive that the floribundas have used up much of their energy by the time fall rolls around. 

Some floribunda varieties produce smaller hybrid tea type blooms, usually one bloom per stem instead of large clusters, such as French Lace, Pinnacle, Johnny Becnel, Summer Fashion, Pasadena Star, and Sheila’s Perfume. But I personally prefer a floribunda that produces the large clusters.

I still grow hybrid teas as well as all kinds of other roses. But I have to chuckle when I look at my list of 350 roses and see that I now grow 64 floribunda bushes, and only 72 hybrid teas (plus many of the other classes of roses). I managed to squeeze in more floribundas into my garden by planting floribunda tree roses (standards) in between the floribunda bushes. We have also put floribundas again in pots along the driveway, but this time the containers are 20-gallon size, they are white to deflect heat, and we add water-absorbing crystals to the soil. 

Floribundas need to be fertilized on a regular schedule, at least monthly, but I feed them weekly during peak bloom season, and they love to be mulched too. Floribundas particularly like organics, and they respond well to applications of alfalfa pellets, Epsom salts, and chicken manure. I also use Dr. Earth, Kellogg Gromulch, and Mills Magic. We prune our floribundas like the Wilke’s do, and cut them quite hard the first week in January, down to a foot or two depending on their maximum height by year end. Most floribundas reach maximum heights of between 2 and 3 feet, some a bit taller.

The Pacific Rose Society District Challenge Class still isn’t an easy collection to win. It took 15 years of trying, but Bob and I finally won this class in 2002 at the District Convention held at Irvine. Our winning floribundas were Europeana, Fabulous!, Sexy Rexy, Showbiz, and Trumpeter. We won it again in 2004 at the National Convention held at San Diego with the floribundas Europeana, Fabulous!, Lavaglut, Peppermint Twist, and Sexy Rexy.

I still grow some of the older floribundas such as Europeana (1964), Playboy (1976), and Trumpeter (1976). I grow multiple bushes of my most favorite award-winning floribundas such as Fabulous, Sexy Rexy, and Lavaglut. Other floribundas I grow are Francois Rabelais, By Appointment, Brass Band, Hannah Gordon, Marmalade Skies, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Pink Gruss an Aachen, Cristina Lynne, Bill Wariner, Peppermint Twist, Ladybug, and Honey Perfume.

I grow some of the newer floribundas too. Julia Child, Ebb Tide, Moondance, Hot Cocoa, Light My Fire, and Cinco de Mayo are in my current floribunda collection. Just recently I obtained the new floribundas Monkey Business and White Licorice at the Pacific Rose Society auction and eagerly look forward to seeing their first blooms.

Floribundas have become so much more popular than when I first started growing them in 1988, so the ARS has now added Floribunda Queen, King, and Princess Certificates for rose shows. I’m happy to see that floribundas have a chance to be the star of the rose show. We have won Floribunda Queen with Europeana, Fabulous!, and Hot Cocoa; Floribunda King with Fabulous!, International Herald Tribune, Marmalade Skies, and Playgirl; and Floribunda Princess with Brass Band, Pink Gruss An Aachen (formerly known as Irene Watts), and Puanani (twice). In 2009 we won Best of Show at the South Coast rose show with three sprays of Puanani.

Besides being disease resistant, floriferous, and easy to grow, I like that floribundas are available in many unusual colors for us to enjoy, not just the standard red, white, and pink. The purple and white striped ‘Purple Tiger’ is a flashy standout in any garden, and it’s fragrant too. With so many beautiful floribundas to choose from, it’s easy to get addicted.

© Copyright Kitty Belendez. All rights reserved. 

For questions about Pacific Rose Society, contact: 
 Chris Greenwood


Updated January 3, 2016