Exhibiting Winning Roses: What Does It Take? by John Hefner

For rose exhibitors, the ultimate goal is to grow, prune, cut quality roses plus travel and exhibit at a national show.  Of course, your desire and plans are always determined by the show location and time of year that will allow you to present quality roses in your exhibit. The time your roses must endure traveling in a cooler plus overnight storage in your hotel room the night before the show must always be taken into your final equation.

On October 4, 2019 during our road travel to the national conference and rose show held in Franklin, Tennessee, the one-hour traffic delay on Interstate 65 which detoured us through the construction laden downtown at Louisville, Kentucky was not in our original plan and I wondered how this delay would eventually effect our roses.  Plus, for this rose show, a new and never tested method of providing water and packing roses would be used.  How far can a rose exhibitor push their comfort boundaries in order to exhibit roses on the national level?

GOALS!

Our first goal was to present an entry in the F. Harmon Saville Memorial Challenge Bowl –

  • An entry of eighteen (18) exhibition type miniature roses, six (6) or more varieties, displayed in a low bowl.
  • Container to be provided by the exhibitor and should not exceed four (4) inches in diameter.
  • Floral foam is permitted.
  • Width of entry allow: 18 inches.

The requirements in itself are indeed a “challenge” but isn’t that what challenge classes are supposed to be?  The combined effort to grow, prune, cut, condition and travel with exhibition roses requires knowledge, experience and sometime a little luck.

Varieties we used in our Seville entry were Arcanum, Ayden Renee, Daddy Frank, Memphis King, Renegade, Soroptimist International, and Swirly Pop. 

Since exhibiting roses is not an exact science, I suggest that you always have a Plan B.  Our second desire and goal was to have an entry in the Dee Bennett Memorial Trophy, an entry of twelve (12) miniature roses, at exhibition stage, without side buds.  One variety or any combination of varieties, displayed in a clear container provided by the exhibitor.  The exhibitor may use floral foam for support.

Varieties used in the Bennett were Bees Knees, Chessie’s Favorite, Daddy Frank, Erin Alonson, Hugs n’ Kisses, Renegade, Soroptimist International. We were proud that Hugs n’ Kisses a rose we introduced and named for our grandchildren was also included in our exhibit.

GATHERING SUPPLIES…

With our tape measure in hand, Donna and I made several shopping excursions to local stores on numerous days to find, select and purchase the required show containers that had the proper dimensions. This task soon had us wondering if we would indeed find the correct style to compliment our potential roses.  In the end, we did purchase five various containers in which we felt comfortable and ones that would not dominate over the roses.

As the days before the show date approached, the hope is always for your roses to repeat from the planned pruning schedule, however, weather cooperation and your experience allows you to cut blooms at the required degree of openness.

HERE WE GO…

And with my first pruning cut made 55 days before the October 5, 2019 rose show date, our challenge began.

The September 2019 weather conditions for mid-state Indiana was extreme heat with temperatures reaching 90 degrees plus each day.  This was not ideal fall growing weather for roses to develop tight centers plus lack of rain meant roses would require water. Mother Nature eventually cooperated, even though it was abnormally hot, the plants and developing stems responded for our required specimens.

Changes in strategy is required due to the opening characteristics of each bloom, color combinations required, similar size and degree of openness.

On arrival at the show site, the hope is always that the blooms have traveled well and are ready for competition.  Since staging is always a factor in challenge classes, many thoughts come to mind as how to stage an entry with multiple blooms, using bloom colors to highlight the entry.  We practiced during the month of August but did not always experience the desired overall arrangement we were trying to obtain.  We researched photos that had been published in various rose publications. 

GAME DAY…

On the morning of the rose show, we woke at 2:00 am and began our journey through the hotel’s quiet hallways and empty elevators with three extra-large coolers full of roses, buckets, grooming kit, bowls etc. only to arrive at the prep room and found no vases available – all had been reserved by other exhibitors. We had one hundred miniature and miniflora roses – no vases.  Would this be the day when we look for Plan C?  However, most of our potential roses would be placed in classes requiring multiple blooms or one container. With due diligence from the rose show chairman and 2 hours later, additional vases were transported to the prep area for eager exhibitors to use.

During the time we prepped our roses, the chosen specimens were segregated for consideration for the two desired national challenge classes. These roses which had traveled in plastic water vials with pointed anchor picks were strategically placed in flat Styrofoam.  This gave us an advantage to move the roses without disturbing the blooms.  With the educational instructional assistance from our successful exhibiting friend, Satish Prabhu, South Carolina, the Seville and Bennett entries were carefully staged and our “attention getting” colored blooms that Donna and I had chosen made the entries come to life.

Satish’s verbal instructions always included careful attention to detail which became a learning experience for these two seasoned exhibitors.  It was an outstanding one-on-one educational learning experience for us from a very talented rosarian and exhibitor.

After these two national entries were completed, we selected roses to be entered in the J. Benjamin Williams Miniflora Rose Trophy (10 Minifloras), American Box (9 Minifloras), Artist Palette (5 Miniatures), Miniature Spray & Single Bloom of the Same Variety, Rose Bowl, and single blooms classes.  We truly were blessed to have additional exhibits displayed on the awards table.

FARM KIDS…

As Indiana “farm kids” Donna and I are both 10 year 4-H members.  We both exhibited livestock and various other categories that were available in the 1950s-1960s era. We grew up competing against our neighbors and close friends.

We first began exhibiting roses on the national level in 1979 at the national convention hosted by the Milwaukee Rose Society where we were awarded King of Show. We were new, unexperienced but eager to learn. I knew the accomplished exhibitors and continuously discussed roses and ask questions, then more questions.  I have learned over the years that accomplished exhibitors are always eager to help others learn about all aspects to growing and showing roses.

There really are no “tricks to the trade,” it is work – diligently working your garden and getting to know your plants.  You need to learn everything about the roses you grow and enjoy, when to cut, how they react to shading or refrigeration, how they will travel, plus in Indiana, how to get your roses to survive the brutal winter temperatures and wind. Winter snow is welcomed as it will help insulate your plants.

WHAT IT TAKES…

Exhibiting is work! Success does not come easily!  It is hard work, detailed work, diligent work.

It is spending unlimited, long hours in the garden you LOVE.

It is setting goals and doing anything and everything to obtain that goal.

It is a continual learning experience in your own garden as no two gardens are alike.

It is hours of walking the rose garden, protecting blooms, cutting at the appropriate time, and carefully conditioning and grooming.

This work plus pre-exhibiting details resulted in us successfully entering two winning National Challenge Class trophies.

MAKING MEMORIES…

After the national rose show, our two winning national rose entries spent two additional days in our hotel room then were carefully transported in buckets back to our Indiana home and all blooms were dried to make a potpourri for us to forever hold their memories near and dear to our hearts. 

These are memories that will indeed last forever!

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