Jos Roozen, 70; horticulturist dispensed gardening advice via nationwide radio show

Wednesday , February 14, 2018 - 3:25 PM

Adrian Higgins

(c) 2018, The Washington Post.

WASHINGTON - Many immigrants to the United States come in search of greener pastures. Dutch-born horticulturist Jos Roozen was determined to create them, one yard at a time.

He dispensed advice on lawn care and other garden needs to listeners and callers for almost two decades on his nationally syndicated radio show, “Garden Sense.” He died Feb. 8, five days after his last broadcast, at his home in suburban Fort Washington, Maryland. He was 70.

His death is thought to be related to a heart condition, but the family does not yet know the exact cause, said his brother, Eric Roozen.

Roozen came to the United States from the Netherlands in 1971 to gain what he expected to be temporary experience in an American retail nursery. Seeing the economic vitality of the retail nursery trade, he decided to stay even though he came from a family with deep roots in the Dutch flower bulb industry. He established Roozen Nursery in 1975 in Fort Washington, with Eric Roozen joining him soon after as a partner.

Jos Roozen decided to launch the show, which was also a vehicle for product sales, after the dominant voice on the radio in Washington, WTOP-AM’s Jack Eden, ended his long-running program. After its 1999 debut on WMAL AM 630, “Garden Sense” developed a broad fan base of listeners who tuned in to hear Roozen’s advice on everything from vegetable varieties for wet soil to the importance of selecting the correct springtime crabgrass preventer if a lawn reseeding was in your future.

The hour-long show aired at 8 a.m. every Saturday. Roozen’s tone was always firm but never hectoring and delivered with an attribute other garden show gurus lacked, a smooth Dutch accent that was authoritative and reassuring. “That was part of the magic,” said Rick Fowler, who in 2005 joined the program as co-host.

Listeners would travel from as far as Alabama and New York to visit Roozen at his nursery, though he never considered himself a media personality, said Nicholas Roozen, a son. He once took a group of listeners on a spring tour of the bulb fields of Holland, his brother said, where much of the world’s bulbs and cut flowers are raised in broad, flat landscapes of striking spring color. It was a terrain that defined his childhood.

Johannes Geradus Nicolaas Roozen was born March 21, 1947, in Egmond, Holland, into a family of bulb farmers that went back 10 generations. His life in horticulture seemed preordained. He and his brothers grew up in fields of hyacinths and tulips and as youngsters were put to work weeding and harvesting in an age before the mechanization of bulb production.

“At 10 years old, we were entrepreneurial already,” Eric Roozen said. “We built a little stand by the side of the road selling flowers that we had taken from our father’s field.”

In the United States, Roozen discovered a populace with lawns of a size unknown in the small towns of the Netherlands - and a dire need to keep them green and thriving. Roozen advocated prescribed seasonal turf care that relied on types of fertilizers that were more efficient, gentler and less likely to pollute waterways, his brother said.

On the show, Fowler brought the listener’s perspective to their dialogue with the partner he called “Mr. Jos” (pronounced “Yass”). When callers posed their questions, he added, Roozen “didn’t need to bring notes to the studio or go online. He just knew it from experience.”

In addition to plants, Roozen developed an interest in ornamental saltwater fish, and for several years sold the fish and the equipment needed to house them. More recently he kept exotic birds for himself and built an aviary between his nursery business and adjoining home.

Mostly he was absorbed by running his nursery and cultivating the radio program. Although the show would be rebroadcast later during the weekend in other markets, Roozen would man his phone back at the nursery so he could personally answer the questions of listeners in cities as far away as Aberdeen, Washington.

“We were on for an hour” live, Fowler said. “For most talk shows it would be over. For Jos, it was the beginning of the weekend.”

Roozen is survived by his wife of 43 years, Brenda Osborne Roozen of Fort Washington; four children, Eric Roozen of Washington, Robert Roozen of Fort Washington, Nicholas Roozen of Alexandria, Virginia, and Kimberly Ramos of Haymarket, Virginia; two brothers; a sister; and five grandchildren.

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