FLAG April/May 2016 Extension-A Look Inside Nelson Florida Roses

“There’s something special about a rose,” remarks Mark Nelson, owner of Nelson’s Florida Roses in Apopka. “People love roses.”

Nelson stands among 18 plus acres of fragrant and colorful roses. He tends to Dolly Parton, Julia Childs, Elizabeth Taylor and Cary Grant—all names of some of the 2,000 varieties of roses that Nelson has grown over the years.  “I don’t give them their names, the rose hybridizers do that,” chuckles Nelson.

Nelson can look at just about any rose and name it by appearance or fragrance.  Ever since he was a young boy running around the fragrant fields, he knew he wanted to work with roses.  After college and time in the service, Nelson came back home to learn all he could to carry on his grandfather’s rose grafting legacy.

Every rose that Nelson produces is grafted on Fortuniana, making them thrive in Florida’s sandy soil and resilient under hot temperatures. Nelson’s father and uncle pioneered the Fortuniana grafting process on a large scale back in the 1950s with University of Florida jorticulture professor Dr. S.C. McFadden.

The nursery is one of the leading rose nurseries in the state. Nelson roses are in such tourist landmarks as Walt Disney World, Cypress Gardens and the International Flower & Garden Festival in Epcot.

Nelson hopes the younger generation will appreciate plants like the older generation has. “For some reason people aren’t buying plants like they used to. It’s a fast–paced world now,” he said.

Over the years the business has weathered hurricanes, droughts, hail and freezes.  “We’ve overcome it,” said Nelson. “You just have to be stubborn about it and want to really do it. It’s the story of agriculture. I wouldn’t want to do anything else.”