In 1980 I planted nine rose bushes in front of our house. Over the next few years, seven of them died. Occasionally I would go to the local garden center and buy replacements. Some of them lived and some of them died. In 1987 I discovered that you could send away for “bare root” roses and I did. And in 1988 I discovered that roses were actually “rated” by the American Rose Society. So I joined that society and received my booklet, which rated all the roses. I quickly ascertained that I had a few winners --- and a lot more losers. The ratings ran from 1 to 10 --- the higher the better. It was recommended that you should buy roses rated an 8 or higher. Roses rated under 7 were considered to be of such poor quality that they were not worth purchasing and planting. I then began to take rose growing more seriously. Not that seriously --- but more seriously than before. I constructed four separate rose sections on three sides of the house and by 1991 I had 40 rose bushes.
I’d replace a rose bush that died and I would replace a rose bush if I didn’t like the flowers it produced or if it didn’t produce enough flowers. I learned that roses needed to be “fed” and accordingly I fed them with Rosetone. I leaned that rose bushes had to be protected against insects and fungus, so I began to spray them every two weeks with Isotox and Funginex. Finally, I learned that rose beds needed to be weeded but if you sprinkled Preen all over the beds after you weeded, no more weeds would grow for about four months. That product virtually eliminated weeding. .
One day in 1990 when my wife and I were shopping at the local mall we observed that they were having a rose show sponsored by the Atlantic County Rose Society, which was a chapter of the American Rose Society. We looked over the various entries and observed that with a few exceptions our roses were just as good-looking as the ones in this show. Applications to join the local society were available so we picked one up. It only cost five dollars a year to join --- but you had to be a member in order to participate in a rose show. So we joined. We never went to any meetings, which were held on a weekday afternoon because we were both at work and because we really had no interest in chatting about roses with a bunch of retirees. No, we joined solely because we wanted to enter some of our roses in the rose shows. .
The following year the Atlantic County Rose Society’s Rose Show was held at the same mall in June. We had been sent the rules and a list of the various categories in which a member could enter a rose. One of the many rules was that you couldn’t coat the rose or the leaves with any substance --- other than water. In other words, you couldn’t put shellac or something similar on the leaves to make them shiny. If you did, you would be disqualified. Another rule was that you couldn’t use your own vases or put any other decorations in with your roses. No, you had to just place your roses in the generic vases that were provided and you couldn’t stick in pussy willows or anything else. Just roses, thank-you. There were numerous categories you could enter for each different color or type of rose (e.g. best yellow, best red, best Hybrid Tea, best Miniature, etc,). I was growing all Hybrid Teas and Jane was growing Miniatures.
The afternoon before the show Jane and I selected our best looking roses and cut them long-stemmed. We than placed them in vases full of water and placed them in the refrigerator. (I had read about that somewhere.) That prevented them from fully opening too quickly. That night we drank our wine and laughed. Early the next morning (rose shows are always held early in the morning because rosarians are primarily old people who can’t sleep very late) we loaded our vases into boxes and placed them in the back of the car with Jane sitting in the back to hold them steady. Then we drove to the mall, giggling all the way.
When we arrived we discovered that the other participants were taking this rose show very, very seriously! Roses were being transported into the mall in specially designed carts, whereas ours were simply being carried in cardboard booze boxes. Inside, members were using eyedroppers to drop beads of water over the leaves. Godamn eyedroppers --- why didn’t we think of that? People were treating their roses like friggin’ pets! People were also filling out little cards, which had to be placed in front of each vase. The card contained the name of your rose, the category into which you were entering the rose and your name and address. Luckily, we had remembered to bring our address labels, which made filling out the little cards much easier.
As I recall, I entered about six or seven flowers into the show and Jane entered about the same number with her Miniatures. While we were placing our flowers into the generic vases we each dropped several of the roses on the mall floor and we both started laughing and giggling. An older gentleman near us just glared at us like we had killed a baby or something. This was supposed to be a serious event. There was simply nothing funny about it! Except to us. How could people get so serious about some damn flowers? But serious they were --- because each one was out to win!
There were many long tables with the various categories clearly spelled out. The generic vases were placed on the white tablecloth covering the table with the little card in front of each vase. I had an orange rose named “Folklore”, which was fairly highly rated at an 8.3 and I entered it in the category for Orange Hybrid teas. I had another orange rose called “Voodoo” and I entered it in the “Novice” category, which was for people who had never won a ribbon or a prize in an official rose show before. I had another Voodoo that was fully open and I entered into the “Fully Opened” category. Voodoo was not a highly rated rose --- being rated only a 6.9, which was borderline quality. Voodoo did not have a great form --- but it had great colors. It went from orange to salmon to almost pink. At any given time you could see orange, yellow, salmon and pink in it. I entered roses in a few other categories as well. Jane had some nice red Miniatures and entered into various Miniature categories. Some categories had nine or ten entries, while others only had one or two. I figured that if you were the only entry in a category --- you had to win First Prize! Thus, I encouraged Jane to enter some of her roses in categories that no one else had entered. We would find out later that a category with a bunch of roses in it could have no winner --- or maybe the best rose in that group would only rate a Third Place or an “Honorable Mention”. Such were the rules coupled with the whims of the judges.
It was getting close to Judgment Time and people were still pissing around with their roses and leaves and still screwing around with their eyedroppers. They were too much! Jane and I were still giggling and wondering if we would be fined or something for trying to impersonate a real rose. We observed two women looking at the roses entered in the “Novice” category. One of them commented on my Voodoo by saying, “That’s a pretty rose --- what is it?” But upon closer inspection they discovered its identity. Exclaimed one woman, “Oh, --- it’s only Voodoo!” I had just been insulted. We went outside so I could have a cigarette. Shortly after that, the judging was performed and ribbons were placed on a number of the roses.
When the judging had been completed Jane and I had won seven ribbons and two vases! “Only Voodoo” had one First Prize in the Novice category. My Folklore had won Second Prize in the Orange Hybrid Tea category. Another of my Voodoos had won Third Prize in the “Fully Opened” category and still another of my Voodoos had won an “Honorable Mention” ribbon. Three of Jane’s Miniatures had won Third Place ribbons in various categories and each of us had won a fancy vase. Mine was for winning the Novice category but I can’t recall what the other one was for. Between us it appeared that we had won more ribbons and vases than anyone else. And we were just “messing around”!
The show roses were left in place for the remainder of the day so shoppers could see them. After dinner we returned to the mall to pick up our ribbons and vases. The year was 1991. For some reason the Atlantic County Rose Society has not held a Rose Show since then.
It is now many years later and I still grow roses. I have fifty bushes out there, which produce between 2,000 and 3,000 roses per year. I added a fifth rose bed and the rose beds now have a drip irrigation system. Jane no longer grows her miniatures although a few of those little bushes are still alive. I’m still waiting for the next Rose Show --- and if it happens, Jane and I will be there --- without our eyedroppers and still giggling.
--= Easy Ed's Tall Tales © , 2005 by Edward R. Doughty All rights reserved. =--