The Frank Benardella National Trophy

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Frank Benardella (standing) at the 2007 All Miniature National Rose Show in Charlotte, NC. Ray Guillebeau (left) would win the Top Gun National Trophy and Peter Alonso would win the Harm Saville National Trophy. Photo by Bill Kozemchak.

During the business meeting at The Penn-Jersey District Mid-Winter Meeting a motion was unanimously passed by members in attendance to sponsor a proposal for the Frank Benardella National Trophy. The proposed Frank Benardella National Trophy would consist of seven (7) different varieties of miniature roses at exhibition stage (no side buds) in separate vases with their own entry tag. Upon approval of the Prizes and Awards Committee, this would be the third national challenge trophy at the ARS All Miniatures National Rose Show which are typically held in the summer. There is an urgency to create the Frank Benardella National Trophy prior to July’s All Miniature National Rose Show due to the fact it will be held in Frank’s home state of New Jersey (the show is in Mount Laurel).

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Frank and June at the Harrisburg All Miniature National Rose Show Banquet in 2009. Photo provided by Rafiq and Suni Bolar.

Frank Benardella was a prolific hybridizer of top-notch roses, which earned him both national and international acclaim. Many of his miniature and miniflora roses are among the top exhibition roses year-after-year, have received the Award of Excellence (AoE), and been named to Horizon Roses’ Honor Roll. Frank’s roses have found success in both the gardens and on the head tables of many rose shows around the world. He has served ARS in many capacities at all levels; most notable, he served as President of the American Rose Society (1977-1979). He has also served as Consultant and Director of Judging to the All American Rose Selections, as well as Vice President for North America for the World Federation of Rose Societies (1994-2000).

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‘Soroptimist International’  hybridized by Frank Benardella. Shown by Andrew Hearne. Photo by Andrew Hearne.

Frank was an accomplished exhibitor winning countless local, district, and national trophies. Frank won 14 National Challenge trophies: Earl of Warwick Urn 1967, 1969 and 1970, William H. Mavity Trophy 1971 and 1975, J. Horace McFarland Memorial Trophy 1967, 1968 and 1975, The Nicholson Perpetual Challenge Bowl 1970, The National Pacific Rose Society Challenge Trophy 1968, 1969 and 1979 and the Portland “City of Roses” Trophy 1976 and 1986.

“Challenge”

The national trophies (not to be confused with challenge classes at nationals) are the most coveted trophies at the three (3) National Rose Shows. They exceed the prestige of the Queen as it is more of a “challenge” to come up with multiple good specimens as opposed to a single specimen. Exhibitors will enter all their best roses in an attempt to win that particular national trophy.

The Spring National Rose Show has three (3) horticultural trophies dedicated to the miniatures and minifloras. The Jan Shivers National Miniature Trophy consists of a collection of seven (7) roses that have been awarded the AoE (Award of Excellence) each in separate containers. The J. Benjamin Williams Miniflora Rose National trophy consists of ten (10) miniflora roses in separate  containers (ten (10) different varieties or two (2) of each five (5) different varieties).  The Dee Bennett Memorial Trophy consists of twelve (12) miniature roses displayed in a single container.

The Fall National Rose Show also has three (3) horticultural trophies dedicated to the miniatures and minifloras. The Ralph S. Moore National Award consists of nine (9) miniature roses of any variety in separate containers. The Robert E. and Mildred C. Lawton Miniature National Trophy consists of twelve (12) miniature roses consisting of no more than two (2) of any one variety. J. Benjamin Williams Miniflora Rose National Trophy has the same specification as in the spring.

The Frank Benardella National Trophy would be the third national trophy to be awarded at the All Miniature National Rose Show which would bring it in line with the Spring and Fall Nationals. The Top Gun National Miniflora Trophy calls for nine (9) minifloras exhibited in separate containers. The F. Harmon Saville Memorial Challenge Bowl consists of eighteen (18) exhibition-type miniature roses, six or more varieties, displayed in a low bowl.

In my opinion seven (7) miniature roses in separate containers compliments the two current National Trophies at the All Miniature National Show and does not conflict with the specifications of either trophy. Additionally, it also gives exhibitors only their second opportunity to win a national trophy consisting of miniatures without restriction (the Jan Shivers entry all have to be AoE winners). All three (3) of the miniflora National Trophy collections are exhibited in separate vases without restriction.

“Seven”

A collection of seven different varieties of roses seemed to be the happy medium. It is less difficult than coming up with nine (9) different varieties needed to win the Ralph Moore and the Top Gun National Trophies. A collection of five (5) miniature varieties in separate containers at exhibition stage was a suggested alternate specification for the Frank Benardella National Trophy. However this seemed to be a bit too “easy” to be worthy of a national trophy. A national collection should not be easy to win. However seven (7) roses is obtainable to more exhibitors when compared to the specifications of the above eight (8) mentioned miniature/miniflora national trophies.

“Boring”

I have heard comments from several individuals that the proposed specification of the Frank Benardella collection is no different than many of the other national trophies and even “boring”. I would be hard pressed to completely disagree with those comments. Many different proposed specifications were discussed. One of the popular ideas was a collection consisting of all roses hybridized by Frank. Not a bad idea, however, 20 years from now how many of Frank’s roses will still be at the top of the exhibition world? Frank’s wife June agreed and stated Frank himself would not want a collection named in his honor to be restricted to only his creations. In theory, a collection without restriction would stand the test of time and be more obtainable to more exhibitors. One rose or one hundred roses not everyone will agree on the proposed specifications of the Benardella National Trophy.

Frank’s Influence

Frank was beloved by almost all who got to meet and know him. I didn’t know Frank as well as others, but I always enjoyed talking to him when I ran into him at the shows. One thing I did note was he would rarely criticize others’ roses but was a harsh critic of his own creations even those they made their way onto the market.

Suni and Rafiq Bolar of Hillsborough, NJ were kind enough to share their thoughts on Frank:

Very few people have inspired me and changed the course of my life like Frank Benardella has. My husband Rafiq and I got to know Frank and June Benardella well as we belonged to the same rose society – The Jersey Shore Rose Society (JSRS). When we first joined the rose society and started exhibiting roses in 2009, Frank gave us good advice and also several of his hybridized roses to help us get started. 

 The JSRS spring meeting was always the most exciting meeting for us as Frank would drive up with his pickup truck loaded with roses for rose society members. He was always generous in sharing both his knowledge and his beautiful roses. Often he would give us his unregistered seedlings to grow telling us that we would have an edge over other exhibitors by the time they were introduced in commerce. During prep time, I would run to him with my roses for advice and he was always generous with his time even under pressure. Frank taught us everything he knew about showing roses sharing his experience as one of the top rose exhibitors in America. We were fortunate to have him in our rose society.

 In 2009, a visit to Frank and June’s home changed our lives forever. Frank showed us the operation of his greenhouse and we were mesmerized by the beautiful roses he hybridized. That was when we both realized that hybridizing was something we both wanted to do. Sadly, Frank passed away in January 2010. June had to close the greenhouse and get rid of all of Frank’s roses. We had just bought a new home in Hillsborough, NJ. We were putting in a new rose garden. June gave us some 75+ roses from Frank’s greenhouse and so we have a large collection of Frank’s roses.

Even though Frank is no more with us, his legacy lives on in the beautiful roses he hybridized and left for us to enjoy. I remember Frank almost every day when I see his beautiful roses blooming in our garden. We miss him at rose society meetings and at rose shows. Though he was an icon in the rose world, he was humble and always shared his love of roses with anybody with a passion for roses. I will always miss his booming voice and cryptic sense of humor and cherish the memories I have of him.

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Suni with son Adam and daughter Rhea visit Frank and June in 2009. Photo by Rafiq Bolar.

Please feel free to contact us via email (itrg302[at]gmail[dot]com) if you want to make a contribution to the Frank Benardella National Trophy Fund and we will provide information on how to do so.  No one is more deserving of a national trophy than the late great Frank Benardella.

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Frank and June with Peter Alonso at the Charlotte, NC All Miniature National Rose Show in 2007.

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The beautiful miniature rose ‘Hilde’ in my garden hybridized by Frank Benardella. Photo by Andrew Hearne

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Frank in conversation with hybridizer David Clemons at the Penn Jersey District Convention. Photo by Bill Kozemchak.

7 thoughts on “The Frank Benardella National Trophy

  1. This trophy has been bounced around for a while. Frank was a great inspiration to us and we miss him. He was always wiling to share his love of roses and his knowledge. It should go forward.

  2. Not many people have had a bigger impact on the rose world than Frank Benardella and there were not many bigger personalities in it. The first time I met Frank was at a Penn-Jersey District Convention and sat up until about 3:00 in the morning talking roses. When I came back to our room, my wife wanted to know where I was. I told her at the hospitality room. She said “You don’t even know those people”. I replied, I kind of do now. This was largely because of Frank. Although he always had great stories to tell, he always included people around him in conversations and wanted to know them and about their interest in roses, whether they they grew 3 or a couple hundred roses. He always made new people feel included. The rose world lost a great ambassador when Frank passed and this award will be a great tribute to a great man. There is a big void at rose conventions with Frank’s passing and hopefully this honor will keep his memory talked about and passed on to future rose growing generations.

  3. Let’s get this national trophy passed quickly so we can award it in NJ (hopefully to a NJ exhibitor 😉 ) this summer!
    To those who do not agree with the selection of what the exhibit should be, just know this was well discussed. We leaned towards something an exhibitor with a northern garden or one who doesn’t have hundreds of roses could enter. I think it would honor Frank more to have this trophy have 10-20 entries enter than the typical top challenges with under 10. The challenge would still be there as the competition would make it tough to win.
    It is more important that we honor Frank than worry what the exhibit should be.
    Frank was important to me. He had faith in me as an exhibitor. He encouraged and taught me how to improve as an exhibitor. I was fortunate to be able to grow many of his roses from his sales at the Jersey Shore Rose Society meetings. Frank made sure he was the one to tell me that I had won when I won my first national miniature Queen. He introduced me to so many people, including my dear friend (and rose-nut) R.S. in Australia. I think he must have known almost every rosarian of renown!
    My eyes tear up when I see his roses in bloom in my garden. I miss him.

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