"Why Am I Growing Roses?"
by Mike Denson
From The Charleston Rose, June/July 1999

Mike Denson has not only caught rose fever in the one year he has been growing roses, but has also developed an advanced case of exhibitor's syndrome. He explains his addictions and offers advice to other novices.

All the information that gets thrown around at rose meetings can be overwhelming to the beginner. You hear about the different types of fertilizers and application times, organic vs. chemical fertilizers, sprays and spray types- never mind the thousands of rose varieties available from which to choose! Everybody seems to have an opinion on the right way to grow roses!

After a year of listening to the experts and asking hundreds of questions, I have discovered that you must first answer the most basic question about growing roses. The question is, "Why am I growing roses?"

Ask yourself that question right now. "I grow roses to ... have a beautiful garden, cut flowers for the house, learn about plants, exhibit and compete." Maybe the answer is a combination of these reasons or others that are right for you.

I have learned in the last year that almost everyone has a different reason for growing roses--and this dictates the way they buy roses and the way they care for their roses.

A friend of mine recently commented that anyone who grows 3 or 4 roses of the same variety must be kooky. His main interest is a diverse and colorful garden where he can sit and enjoy his roses. He feels no need to have more than one of a kind.

But someone interested in exhibiting roses feels it is necessary to have 3 to 5 of the same variety. Still other folks prefer lower maintenance gardens and choose roses that ramble, climb, and "naturalize" into a garden setting, requiring little or no spraying and fertilizing. Each one of these rosarians has a different goal and therefore a different strategy.

I have answered the basic question myself. I grow roses for exhibition and for garden enjoyment. My garden is high maintenance!

This year I am experimenting with disbuding or removing every single bud that grows on my new bushes! I am interested in building a larger bush this year for great long-stemmed exhibition roses next year.

My secondary desire is to have a pretty garden. I spray almost every week, I fertilize with huge quantities (truck loads) of organics. I apply fish emulsion and alfalfa pellets as well as chemical fertilizer. I water a lot. I have chosen roses which require coddling and some that don't produce many blooms. I love the challenge. That's why I grow roses!

My garden practices may not apply to everyone because not everyone wants to grow show roses. When you hear a speaker at a rose meeting or read an article, you must ask yourself if the speaker's/author's techniques or ideas would apply to your garden or your own reason for growing roses.

I have learned to ask questions, watch, and listen to knowledgeable rosarians. I make careful observations, I study, and I adopt many suggestions. I've been trained as a scientist, and I don't mind experimenting to find the best way to grow roses in my garden.

Gardens vary because of soil, microclimate, and other variables. You must pick and choose what applies to your situation.

First and foremost, the information must fit into the reason you grow roses! The latest hot "queen machine" rose may not be what the average rosarian needs, no more than a turn of the century old garden rose is what I would choose to grow.

Society meetings and rose events offer such wonderful opportunities to learn and connect with people who grow roses for the same reasons that you do. These people can be the best sources of information on what might work for you in your garden. Society meetings are social, educational experiences and that is where you can find out how to grow great roses in your garden.