Bill Kozemchak, aka "Bill K" in the rose world, is a master rosarian who grows 1,050 roses (700 different varieties) on his quarter-acre property in Levittown. I've been hearing about this guy for awhile and finally got up there. Unfortunaterly, it was the hottest, most humid day of the year to date. Miserable! And it'd been raining heavily for a couple of hours when I arrived. But the rain stopped, and we ambled around the garden.
Bill has an astounding collection of just about every type of rose there is, everything from the common Knock Out series to the rare and weird-looking Green Rose, which Bill says flower-arrangers love but his wife, Kathy, hates. "It's a conversation piece," he says.
The roses are marked, and Bill hosts many visitors. Later on the day of my visit, he was expecting a busload of gardeners from Uruguay. We both mingled with them this past Sunday at Morris Arboretum, where the Philadelphia Rose Society was holding a show.
Have you ever been to a rose show? it was wonderful. Every specimen was meticulous. I especially enjoyed the old garden roses - the fragrance! - and the hybrid teas. I know the HTs aren't as popular as they once were, and I've had just as many problems with them (black spot, beetles) as everyone else, but there is just nothing like these old favorites. The stems in the show are about 21 inches, the buds are huge and flawless, and when you see them you fall in love with HTs again.
The good news: Breeders are coming up with hybrid teas with greater disease-resistance and that old-fashioned bloom. This is Bill in his front yard. Yes, he's an Eagles fan!