Sep 16, 2015
If Florida Southern is known for anything other than its great academics and vibrant student-life culture, then it’s the beauty of its campus. FSC’s magnificent gardens extend all throughout campus, two of which contain roses propagated by Dr. Malcolm Manners, the John and Ruth Tyndall professor of citrus science.
Since 1981, Manners has been teaching citrus and horticultural science at Florida Southern, specializing in fruit production, roses and plant propagation.
In 2013, Manners was honored as the “Great Rosarian of the World” after extensive and renowned work with roses. He worked to found a program, which involved a heating process curing roses of a virus complex called rose mosaic disease. Eventually, this led to a specialization in antique or “heritage” rose varieties.
Manners began his work with roses after attending a rose show, where he happened upon a group of roses whose smell immediately reminded him of his childhood.
They had scents from his grandmothers' gardens. That nostalgic moment served as a catalyst, which prompted him to learn more about roses to preserve their singular, unique properties.
“I thought, ‘I need to grow that,’ and so I bought some antique roses. I had them at my house and soon realized they were all infected with a disease called rose mosaic.”
Thanks to the availability of a high-temperature growth chamber in the Polk Science Building, Manners used a process of heat-treating meant to defeat the mosaic virus in antique roses (varieties dating before 1867).
This led to the beginning of a program in 1984 that focused on this procedure, enabling the college to equip many countries, including Colombia, South Africa, and Bermuda with healthy plants.
“We’re still the main providers of virus-free rose materials to the global nursery industry for older varieties,” Manners said.
In the mid-eighties Dr. Manners contributed to the development of a rose garden on the site where the Jane Jenkins Rose Garden now stands, and this garden soon grew to several alluring gardens throughout the campus, which now feature plants from all over the world and from different time periods.
Today, “Ruth’s Rose Garden” is used as a hands-on learning opportunity for “Plants and Society” and “Introduction to Horticultural Science” classes. Pruning, transplanting, mulching, fertilizing, and propagating are skills taught by utilizing the school’s vast supply of roses.
The rose gardens are also utilized within chemistry and botany classes for research, and DNA analysis led by Dr. Nancy Morvillo and Dr. Brittany Gaspar and undergraduate students in the biology department.
“Their DNA work was among the very best of that sort of collaboration on the campus,” said Manners.
The Florida Southern gardens boast over 350 plants from 250 varieties. With another 100 varieties housed in the college greenhouses, the campus is considered one of the largest, most diverse collections of roses in the southeastern United States.
One famous rose featured within the gardens is the musk rose, which has been in Great Britain since at least the early 1500s, famously alluded to in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. Another is the Autumn Damask, mentioned by poet Virgil in 14 BC.
“One of the nice things about roses is they don’t die necessarily of old age. You keep cutting from them and propagating new plants, and you have the exact variety that was grown perhaps thousands of years ago. It’s the same.”
For a long time, Manners has been recognized by several elite organizations for his rose-related work.
In addition to being named “Great Rosarian,” Manners has also received the President’s Volunteer Service Award on behalf of the President of the United States.
This three-time award reflects Manners’ volunteer consulting about edible crops (mainly citrus and tropical fruit) in African countries and Bangladesh. Manners also received a certificate of merit from the American Rose Society. His work is often referred to in multiple books and publications.