Saturday, May 31, 2003

For doctor, roses are just as good as golf

From the ground up

By Beth Burwinkel
Enquirer contributor

[IMAGE] Dr. George Lesinski shows off some of the 185 rose bushes in the gardens of his home in Anderson Township.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
| ZOOM |
Like many homeowners, Dr. George Lesinski unwinds after a busy day by spending a little time in his Anderson Township yard.

That's where he enjoys his newest hobby - tending to more than 180 rose bushes.

"I didn't know anything about gardening when I started four years ago," Lesinski says. "I got into this because I was recovering from surgery and didn't think I'd be able to play golf again and was looking for a hobby."

Lesinski, an ear surgeon, read about roses. He attended a lecture by popular local rosarian Dr. John Pottschmidt, who inspired him to join the Greater Cincinnati Rose Association.

"With the help of a lot of the members of the Greater Cincinnati Rose Association, I could go from complete ignorance to gardens like this," Lesinski says, gesturing to colorful rose bushes climbing trellises and walls.

Lesinski will be among rose association members ready to answer questions during the Greater Cincinnati Rose Association's 50th annual rose show 1-4 p.m. next Saturday at Eastgate Mall.

What: Greater Cincinnati Rose Association's 50th annual rose show.
When: 1-4 p.m. next Saturday.
Where: Eastgate Mall, center court.
Miscellaneous: Experienced gardeners will answer questions. The association's book, Growing Greater Roses, will be available for $15. The public may enter roses in the competition from 7-10 a.m. Competition information: Rita Molina, 831-0052.
• Dr. George Lesinski sprays the roses every two weeks with a combination of fungicide, insecticide and a growth hormone. It takes about 11/2 hours each time he sprays.
• Drip hoses connected to water lines water the roses at their roots. He also attaches liquid fertilizer called Mills Easy Feed to the drip line.
• At the beginning of the season and after the first bloom, he feeds the bushes a dry mix of an organic fertilizer, alfalfa meal and Epsom salts. He stops fertilizing his roses by mid October.
• He recommends a book published by the Greater Cincinnati Rose Association, Growing Greater Roses. He also turns to Rosemania (Web site or 888-600-9665) for products and advice.
More rose-growing tips:
• Buy disease-resistant roses.
• Select a sunny location with good drainage.
• Amend clay soil with organic matter, topsoil and sand.
• Spray regularly to prevent disease.
• Provide plenty of water.

"If you really are into it - and he is - some people get bitten rather hard by the rose bug," says Dr. James Englert, a friend who helped Lesinski with his garden.

Englert, of Montgomery, who has been growing roses since the early 1950s, recommends that beginners start with five to 10 rose bushes so that they are motivated to properly amend the soil and create a garden.

Stick with the best

To choose his roses, Lesinski turned to a handbook published by the American Rose Society (ARS) that rates the bushes on disease resistance and other factors.

In the front of his home, Lesinski grows Romantica roses, a new French hybrid created for fragrance and repeated flowering.

His climbing roses include a favorite, "America," with coral blossoms.

Lesinski also likes a miniature climber called "Rainbow's End," a yellow rose that blends to red tones. Miniature roses are generally less expensive and are a good way for beginners to get started growing roses, he says.

Shrub roses have sprawling branches and clusters of flowers. One of Lesinski's favorite shrub roses is "Knock Out," a disease-resistant plant with florescent red blossoms that repeat throughout the season.

Near the back of his garden, Lesinski planted hybrid tea roses, which grow a single large flower at the end of a long stem. Also in the garden are floribunda roses that provide clusters of flowers that offer color throughout the season. They include the pink "Columbus," yellow "Sunsprite" and "Honey Bouquet," white "Nicole" and orange "Livin' Easy."

An entry of "Honey Bouquet" was a rose show winner for Lesinski.

"I had not planned on showing roses, but by the third year, I guess, my competitive instinct convinced me," he says.

Gardening his psychotherapy

Lesinski and his wife, Madeleine, a psychotherapist, enjoy their time at home. He spends about six hours a week taking care of his garden in the evenings and on weekends.

"I love digging in the ground and getting dirty," he says. "It has helped give me more balance to my life. It's my psychotherapy."

Oscar McIntosh, a friend and 82-year-old farmer from Clermont County, helps in the Lesinski gardens one day a week.

"If I can do this with two hip replacements - and I'm an 82-year-old man - there's not a lot of heavy work to do," McIntosh says.

While gardening fills much of his spare time, Lesinski also finds time for golf.

"I don't know what I love better now - gardening or golfing," he says. "And golfing was my passion."

Contact the American Rose Society at (318) 938-5402; e-mail or Web site.

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