By Bill Blok
Halleluiah! It is spring! For Michigan rosarians, spring arrives for real in April. Michigan rosarians also love June because it is the glorious culmination of the first bloom cycle of our new rose year. On the other hand, April is wonderful too because we see the first signs of growth for the coming season. It also is a season of new beginnings, as we prepare for and plant new varieties of roses in our gardens.
When it comes to planting roses, how do you decide which rose you will plant? Probably the worst system for selecting new roses is to buy them based on the pretty rose picture on the side of the package. It might be better to rely on the description of the rose in the seed or rose catalog, but not much better. After all, the people who put out the catalog are usually very anxious for you to buy their roses.
A better system is to buy roses at least in part based on the advice of people who have grown or observed the growing roses. This might be based on member surveys of rosarians, such as the “Roses in Review”, and the Triennial Survey of members by the ARS.
A similar opinion survey soliciting opinions on newly introduced roses is the “Horizon Rose List.” It emphasizes exhibition potential.
Another system of selecting roses is to preferentially buy roses that have competed successfully in test gardens, such as AARS, Award of Excellence, and RHA test garden winners.
I believe a better guide to buying good varieties of roses is the “Top Exhibition Rose Lists” published this year in the March-April issue of the ARS Magazine. These lists are probably more reliable than most of the others mentioned above because they are not based on some ones opinion, but on the actual number of awards won by the listed roses in our ARS rose shows.
This year Gemini edged out Moonstone for the top exhibition rose in the hybrid tea & grandiflora classes
Top floribunda exhibition roses in recent years have included mostly Playboy, Playgirl, Lavaglut, Nicole, Sexy Rexy, & Hannah Gordon. This year Playboy was tops. Actually, since Nicole and Hannah Gordon are both listed near the top, and since identical appearing plants have often been sold under both names, there is a good argument for combining those two varieties. If this was done, the new Nicole-Gordon would be the top Floribunda rose.
The top miniature exhibition rose is Bee’s Knees, and the top miniflora is Butter Cream.
Maybe you are thinking that, “since I don’t exhibit much, why would a high exhibition rating be important to me?” As a gardener, don’t you like lots of clean, long lasting blooms, and disease resistant foliage in your rose gardens? That is what exhibitors are finding in their gardens when they produce those prize winning blooms for the show. There are exceptions, but most prize winning roses are also good garden roses.
The biggest problem with using the Top Exhibition Rose List as your only source of information in selecting new rose bushes, is that the list does not account for differences in climatic conditions in the rose gardens in different parts of the U.S.. The winning roses in the list grow in warm climate states, as well as in our northern states. Tender roses such as St. Patrick, and Marilyn Monroe grow very well in mild climate states, but don’t winter that well in our northern climate. Playboy is tops, and Playgirl is also high in the Floribunda ratings, but most Michigan rosarians find they are too tender. At one time the ARS Magazine would list top exhibition rose winners by ARS District. I don’t see those lists anymore. A useful local reference would be the lists of “winners” published in our Newsletter after each of our rose shows.
By Bill Blok