As rosarians we all hope that every rose we plant grows like a weed and a new variety meets the hype and expectations we place upon them. However, living in the imperfect world that we do often this is not the case. In the rose world the term “shovel prune” is used quite often. What is shovel pruning? Simply put a term used for when a rosarian will discard a rose with a shovel. These roses are typically different from what we expected, didn’t grow, or were problematic (winter damage, disease, etc.). For exhibitors simply put– roses that do not win!
With a job that requires me to be on the road 5 days a week I needed something easier to grow with less maintenance than the hybrid teas I love and grow. There was a period of 5 years that I did not exhibit, but I still attended the various local and district shows plus 3 national shows. Miniatures and mini-floras seemed like a perfect fit given they–for the most part–met the criteria I was looking for while having similar form and bevy of wonderful colors like the hybrid teas.
I ordered ten exhibition quality miniatures and mini-floras– one being ‘Tiffany Lynn’ a gorgeous pink blend with stunning form. ‘Tiffany Lynn’ was re-classified from a miniature to mini-flora when the mini-flora class was created. Over the years I have seen many great ‘Tiffany Lynn’s win locally. Also I noticed this rose grew great in many rosarians’ gardens. This wasn’t one of the dreaded varieties that has queen blooms but grows on a pathetic bush and is tolerated as a substandard garden rose just because it wins.
Unfortunately, the Tiffany Lynn I received did not hardly grow at all. This was a major disappointment. I just chalked it up to receiving a “lemon” and ordered another ‘Tiffany Lynn’ for the following spring. The winter of that year when I planted ‘Tiffany Lynn’ was a bit harsher than usual and my poor plant died all the way to the ground.
I ordered 30 new miniatures and mini-floras and they were to be planted along the horseshoe-shaped driveway. Not surprising one spring chore was to shovel prune the dead ‘Tiffany Lynn’. As I was digging it up I noticed a new small stem growing from beneath the soil. I pondered whether to keep or discard the plant. For whatever reason I decided to put it in a pot to see if it would grow. The stem grew to about 6 inches becoming a blind shoot (not setting a bud). However I still kept it despite the disappointment of the lone stem. When I planted my new ‘Tiffany Lynn’ there was room for another rose. I thought what the heck and planted the about-to-be-shovel-pruned ‘Tiffany Lynn’ right next to my new one.
Whether it’s the relationship of man and nature or coincidence, rosarians will often tell you that the mere thought of shovel pruning a rose often tends to prompt a response from the bush and it starts growing. This was the case with ‘Tiffany Lynn’. Perhaps the blind shoot was a blessing in disguise and instead of the plants energy sent to a bloom it was instead sent to storing the energy for strong growth. The old bush immediately responded and began growing as well as the athletic growing new plant. What a pleasant surprise! Later that year I received a gift of three more ‘Tiffany Lynn’s from a friend.
The following year I won my first Mini-flora Queen at the Jersey Shore Rose Show with a tight but nice ‘Tiffany Lynn’ edging out a beautiful ‘Solar Flair’ shown by Frank Benardella. The ‘Tiffany Lynn’ Queen was from the bush that was almost a casualty to the shovel. The following spring I won Mini-flora Queen at the West Jersey Rose Show and then the following day at Philadelphia Rose Show with none other than ‘Tiffany Lynn’. The plant continued to grow very vigorously into the summer throwing strong canes.
I knew the Miniature National Rose Show was being held locally in Harrisburg, PA in the middle of July. I had no intentions of exhibiting in the dead of summer. I did notice a few varieties were going to be blooming around the time of the show. Many of theses stems did not have beetle damage on the foliage. Luckily, that week I was working locally and was home every night the week before nationals. I cut about 20-25 total roses that week and registered the day of the show. My decision to exhibit paid off as I won Mini-flora Queen and the collection of three with ‘Tiffany Lynn’. The Queen and winning collection of three ‘Tiffany Lynn’s all came off the one plant.
Of my five plants all 5 Mini-flora Queens had come off the ‘Tiffany Lynn’ bush that I almost said good-bye to and shovel pruned. The quality of blooms as a whole are consistently superior in size, form, and color to the other four bushes. I don’t know if the plant is rewarding me with high quality blooms and a strong growth because I didn’t throw it out or I am the one who is lucky because I am rewarded with its abundance of well-formed roses every year. Perhaps its a little bit of both. Today I am a bit cautious before shovel pruning a rose bush and if I do it usually finds its way into another person’s yard. More often than not the roses that rosarians discard out of their garden thrives in others’ gardens . Moral of the story maybe, “Sometimes good-bye is a second chance”.