I’m often asked how I got interested in growing roses and the truth is, it happened by accident.
I was strolling through a mall in Newport News, Va., a number of years ago and passed several tables filled with all kinds of beautiful roses.
There were big ones and little ones in just about every color. Some had huge blooms; others were as tiny as a pencil eraser. There were elegant hybrid teas with their high spiraling centers and old-fashioned sprays that reminded me of bushes my grandmother had on her Michigan farm.
I’d stumbled upon a rose show!
I wandered over to the head table where all the winning roses were on display. There standing proudly over the rest of the court was the Queen of the Show, a gorgeous red and cream hybrid tea called Double Delight.
That rose, and in fact all the blooms on the awards table, had also been given prizes for their owners to take home. There were silver cups, crystal vases, and all manner of rose related goodies.
It suddenly occurred to me that rose growing itself could be a double delight – you nurture beautiful blooms and win neat stuff, too!
So I joined the Tidewater Rose Society and learned that hybrid tea roses are judged on a scoring system that takes attributes such as form, color, substance, and foliage into consideration.
The following spring I entered the Novice Show and one of my flowers won a second place ribbon! Some of the old timers who really knew their stuff explained what I’d done wrong (stem was too short) and shared some of their secrets for properly grooming a rose for exhibition. I was hooked.
Three years later my dad came up from Tampa, Fla., to visit and help me prepare my roses for the very same show I had discovered that May afternoon. We worked most of the night and early the next morning entered 21 blooms in a variety of categories.
Late that afternoon, we arrived at the show to shouts of delight from my fellow society members. “You won Queen!” “You won Queen!” We rushed over and sure enough, there was my Peace rose towering over the rest of the court. My dad was so excited he had to take a heart tablet.
I’ve never won Queen since then, but it doesn’t matter. Having Dad there to share the work and the moment of glory could never be topped.
I don’t exhibit anymore. I’ve been a judge for 11 years now, but I still love seeing all the wonderful blooms and helping newbies learn what they can do to win blue ribbons.
Almost every community in the country sponsors rose shows. Some are in the spring, others in the fall. They all have categories for Novice exhibitors. And they all have people there who would love to help you learn more about growing roses.
So ask your local society about an upcoming show. You might win a ribbon, or a crystal vase. Better yet, you might make special memories that will last a lifetime.
PSSST: If you catch the rose show bug, find a few categories where you won’t have to compete with the really serious exhibitors. Most shows have classes for Most Fragrant, Fully Open Bloom, or Single Bloom (four to eight petals.) Enter a pretty polyantha spray in that category and you’ll have a great chance of walking away with a trophy.
Lynn Hunt, the Rose Whisperer, is an accredited horticultural judge and a Consulting Rosarian Emeritus for the American Rose Society. She has won dozens of awards for her writing in newspapers, magazines, and television. She grows roses and other plants in her garden on the Eastern Shore of Maryland
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