Preparing to Show Old Garden Roses
By Frances G. Ballentine
(From The Charleston Rose, August/September 1999)

How do we prepare old garden roses for a rose show? Most advice centers on hybrid teas, floribundas, and miniatures. But several classes for OGRs appear in all standard schedules. The most prestigious is Dowager Queen, for roses introduced prior to 1867, and the Victorian Rose Award for roses introduced in or prior to 1867.

I sent an SOS to Truman and Florence Bowers, who have specialized in old garden roses over the years, and who grow several hundred varieties in their Leesville garden.

They advised, "We have always found it nearly impossible to have Old Garden Roses bloom on demand. So all we do is fertilize in August, water, and hope for the best in the fall.

"We've seen times that they would bloom out before a show and we would be left with nothing. So, about all we can suggest is take care of them by watering a lot and hope they will bloom at the right time.

"Of course, we deadhead, cut out seedpods, and lightly prune during the fall "cutback".

"We identify basal breaks and other canes capable of producing prime blooms and make sure they have plenty of room to develop good foliage and blooms.

"As is the case with many shrubs, some disbudding of the rose while still on the bush may be indicated on some varieties. The objective is to present a beautiful specimen with perfect foliage and stem.

"And, we cut OGRs at the last possible moment as the blooms shatter easily, and freshness counts a lot!"