"Would You Like to Grow Better Roses?"
by John Godwin
Ongoing Series: Rose Growing 101
From The Charleston Rose, June/July 1999

John Godwin recounts his own entry into exhibiting roses and presents the case for refining rose growing skills through exhibiting and interacting with people who exhibit roses.

Let's talk about exhibiting roses and in particular, supporting your Society's upcoming Rose Show. Even though I used the magic "E" word, don't pull the plug on me now and skip this article. Please allow me to ramble on for a bit more.

Let's start by asking some questions:

If you have answered "Yes" to any of the above questions, then you should consider exhibiting or taking an active part in your Society's Charleston Rose Show on October 16. You will come out of it more enriched with knowledge and new friends. This I can promise.

A rose show in a high traffic area such as a mail is a great forum for a society to promote rose culture and encourage new memberships.

These promotions are essential to the health and continuity of the local society. I spend a lot of time after entering my roses walking around and observing mall traffic as they pass by the exhibits. You would really be surprised by the interest that is generated!

Very few passersby fail to stop, sniff and comment on all those beautiful blooms. By moving around the tables and having some identification as an exhibitor, I field a lot of questions and hear a lot of comments. Everyone seems to admire the roses and a good number have roses or would like to try growing them. Some seem shocked that the roses are actually grown in a home garden and not in a greenhouse environment. The large variety of classes seems to give everyone something with which they can identify. The point that I am trying to make clear here is that rose show exhibiting is all about promoting rose culture and society membership. There are no losers--just winners all around.

Linda and I toured our first rose show in the fall of 1995 in Charleston--just four years ago.

We were very impressed with everything we saw and especially the friendly, helpful people from the Charleston Lowcountry Rose Society. We were growing only three or four roses at the time but were so impressed that we went home and started planning more rose beds. We also joined the rose society to learn something about rose culture.

We did not attend any meetings for almost a year (it's an hour's drive from where we live), but thoroughly enjoyed the informative articles in the Society newsletter.

At the October 1996 meeting, an in-house rose show and exhibiting clinic was on the agenda.

My garden had expanded to 24 plants of various varieties. We cut a few minis and hybrid teas, tossed them in a bucket, and went to our first meeting. I thought someone would look at our motley collection and tell us to try again next year.

We wandered in, carrying our bucket and introduced ourselves. The hospitality shown us made us immediately feel that we were part of the Society. A couple of rosarians worked closely with us, teaching us the techniques for exhibiting. Since this was the first time we had done this, we put our roses in the Novice Section.

Sheridan Denny, an ARS accredited judge from Savannah, attended the meeting to judge the roses. He explained good and bad points for each rose. A hybrid tea named, "Nightingale" was chosen as Best in Show. It was my rose from the Novice Section!

Since that time, we have won a number of trophies in rose shows, including Queens, but still cherish that experience as the best.

You will find friendly, helpful and hospitable folks at any rose show you choose to attend.

You would think that exhibitors are too busy to help or answer questions; the opposite is true. Assistance and great advice are readily available. These people are really there to promote rose culture and welcome novices and beginners. It doesn't matter whether you are exhibiting or not. You will feel welcome and learn a lot.

How do you get started exhibiting?

Do exactly what I did. When your Society holds its next in-house rose show, cut some blooms from your garden, put them in a pail of water, and come early to the meeting. There will be a number of rosarians there (including myself), to help you. Remember that all varieties of roses are exhibited at shows, not just hybrid teas.

Your Society really needs participation, so give it a try. There is a whole lot to gain and absolutely nothing to lose.