Inside the Rosarians Garden welcomes its second guest blogger, Clark Ross. Clark just recently began exhibiting roses with his partner, Tyler Roberts, this year. Clark has kindly agreed to give us some insight into the excitement of exhibiting in their first year. Both Clark and Tyler are young, new, and enthusiastic exhibitors. They reside in the Buckeye District.
Winning My First District Queen by Clark Ross
When Andrew asked me to write an article about our experience winning our first District Queen I didn’t hesitate to say, “Yes.” I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to shine some light on the rose exhibiting community for those who have never been to a show, and to maybe give a little encouragement to all the other young exhibitors out there. But before I talk about that, I want to give you a glimpse into some of the work that went into our achievements this year, including District Queen.
Much of the spring and summer was spent digging out new rose beds, two and a half feet deep, and a good five to six feet out from the house. We’d had our fill of rock and clay and decided to hell with amending, we were going to do this right. So using just our two shovels and our two wheelbarrows, we systematically dug out each bed around the perimeter of the house. Each day I would cut a rose and stick it in a vase beside the area we were currently digging. “For inspiration,” I said. We eventually finished digging and surprisingly still had a good portion of the summer left. Now it was time for the fun stuff, topsoil and amendments. I couldn’t wait for this part, as I had spent my nights surfing the Internet, reading and compiling a long list of organics and amendments to mix up my perfect loam. Shovel, mix, pour, repeat. Shovel, mix, pour, repeat…
Planting the roses in our brand new soil was a breeze. After years of fighting with clay it was pretty amazing to be able to plant my roses without picking up a shovel. I grinned, “A feeder root’s dream.” Out of the fifty or so Hybrid Teas we had last year we kept exactly three: ‘Veterans’ Honor’, ‘Pink Promise’, and ‘Let Freedom Ring’. Nothing else made the cut. I had seventy-five new exhibition roses and there just wasn’t room for many garden roses anymore. Furthermore, I wasn’t willing to take any of my extra attention away from my new prospective exhibition roses.
With all of the new roses planted and staked, we finally had a little time on our hands. A little, but not much though. By this time show season was in full swing. This was particularly exciting because neither of us had ever been to a show before. I’d been growing roses since my grandmother introduced Hybrid Teas to me when I was ten years old, but had never really gotten the chance to see a show until now. The idea of exhibiting roses had always appealed to me, but it wasn’t until that first show that I really saw the whole picture. I was prepared to see big, beautiful roses. But what really stood out were the people. Everyone was so enthusiastic to have us and eager to answer all our questions. Always introducing you to someone else and really making you feel like a part of their little family. Every single show we went to this summer was like this. No matter what Rose Society it was, the people genuinely wanted to see you grow better roses and to succeed, and would help you to do this any way they could. The warmth of the people and the pride they take in their roses is what really did it for me. I knew I was where I belonged.
As the summer continued, Tyler and I exhibited at every show we possibly could. We were hooked. In total, we exhibited at seven shows this season. Not bad when you take in to consideration that only three of our bushes are mature. We progressively did better and better as we watched others groom their roses and we started to learn what the judges were looking for. Clerking helped tremendously with this. So much so, that we scored our first Queen up in Cleveland with ‘Erin Elizabeth’ three weeks prior to the Tenarky District’s. This was really cool because it was the first recorded Queen in the nation for ‘Erin Elizabeth’. We also ended up winning King at that same show with ‘Pink Promise’. It felt great to have all our hard work start to pay off so quickly. But at the same time, it was a bit sad because we thought this was going to be our last show of the season. The roses clearly had other plans.
It’s now a week until the next show and it’s all the way in Louisville, Kentucky. But the roses were looking fantastic and the weather was great. The highs were in the mid 80’s and the lows were in the low 70’s, perfect weather for Ohio in early October. “We might just have to make the three and a half hour drive,” I told Ty. “What’s three and a half hours?” he replied. “Good point,” I said. We spent each night putting up the fence to keep the deer out, covering the blooms I felt had potential, and watering, watering, watering. By the time Wednesday rolled around I had my eyes on two ‘Veterans’ Honors’. One of them was ready to be cut. I waited until sundown to cut her, along with a few others I felt were ready. After Ty finished cleaning the foliage we stuck them in the refrigerator and hoped for the best. Ideally, she would have been ready to cut Thursday or Friday. But as you all know, our ideas of ideal rarely seem to come to fruition in this hobby.
After uncovering and Q-tipping all the excess condensation off the blooms Friday morning, it was time to cut the second ‘Veterans’ Honor’. Things were shaping up nicely. We had a refrigerator full of roses to take to the show; I just couldn’t figure out which ‘Veterans’ Honor’ to enter for court. They were both beautiful specimens, each having qualities the other lacked. What to do? “Let’s email Bob Martin,” I said. He will give us an honest opinion. Thankfully Bob got back with me quickly to confirm my gut feeling. “Go with the original ‘Veterans’ Honor’,” he said. He went on to explain why he’d come to this decision and wished us luck at the show tomorrow.
The next morning came early. I don’t think either of us slept much at all. We were just too excited. I felt better about the roses we were taking than I had all year. After getting the roses all packed up and ready to go, we were out the door by 3:30 A.M. That should give us plenty of time to get there and get the roses prepped and out on the tables…
Walking into the prep room was a little nerve wracking. Seeing all those roses in such close quarters, combined with the fact that there was but one table open for grooming, was a bit intimidating. Nonetheless, we laid everything out on the table and began working on the roses. Q-tipping and cotton balling the rosess that needed to open up, cutting off the side buds, checking the foliage, corking (wedging) the vases, and trimming the blemishes off the petals. I reluctantly had to remove a crucial petal from the ‘Veterans’ Honor’ I was entering for court that had been cut on Wednesday, because she was now out of proportion. The petal was just sort of hanging there. Had I been able to cut her later I probably would have been able to avoid this. Luckily, she held her pinpoint wonderfully though. As usual, we were down to the last ten minutes and still putting roses out on the floor. So much for having plenty of time. Maybe this is something that comes from experience. Though looking around would have me think otherwise. Everyone was scrambling. Somehow, we managed to get all our roses out on the floor, with no time to spare, but now we played the waiting game…
It seems that feeling good about the roses you’ve brought only makes you more nervous and that’s how I felt. Those three hours felt longer than the car trip down and back home again. Walking through the doors to see our ‘Veterans’ Honor’ smack in the center of the head table with the word “Queen” written across the entry tag was unbelievable. Also sitting on the table with her were two more of our roses! ‘Bugatti’ got us Princess and ‘Erin Elizabeth’ made court. I can’t begin to tell you how great this felt after all of that hard work we had done this summer. Moreover, ‘Veterans’ Honor’ is one of my favorite roses. After watching her throw off queenly blooms all summer, I finally got one timed right to exhibit. I think I was more excited to see my rosebush get the limelight she so deserved than I actually was for us winning. It was just fantastic to watch other people admire her the way I had so many times before. It truly is an amazing rose.
This summer was full of wonderful memories, people, and experiences. We couldn’t be happier to be a part of the rose exhibiting community with ALL of you. We are looking forward to meeting each and every one of you. The one thing we consistently heard at each of the shows we went to was that the shows get smaller and smaller each year, and that the young generation just doesn’t have an interest or seem to have time to exhibit roses. We want to show this new generation that now is the perfect time to start exhibiting roses. If they don’t take an interest, who will keep this amazing hobby alive?