Exhibiting Roses


Watch some of the old hands at the game. Assimilate first the cool, methodical way they go about their work. Their first consideration is to unpack their roses and get them into water. Then they find their classes; perhaps in so doing casting an eye over the blooms being staged by competitors, but undaunted by anything they see, they quietly get to work. From the study of the schedule before setting out, they know more or less to which class each bloom is allocated, and to facilitate the arranging, each is labelled. Possibly, too, they have drawn up a list for reference of the names of the roses for the respective classes. How gently and lovingly they handle their blooms, and how careful they are not to leave any out of water. One of the greatest mistakes made by the novice is to paw over the blooms, leaving them to dry out on the staging while examining others until, by the time the blooms are eventually staged, they have lost most of their freshness.


Watch, too, how the old hand dresses a bloom. First he will trim away with a pair of scissors any damaged guard petals, and then with the forefinger and thumb gently bend over the outer petals so that the more intense inner colouring of the bloom is revealed. This dressing, however, is an art only to be acquired from practice, as the tendency is to overdo it, thus altering the character of the bloom, rendering it, for this reason, liable to disqualification.

Arranging the Finished Exhibit

caring-for-roses Finally, note the perfection of their completed exhibits. In a box class, the colours will be arranged harmoniously with the largest blooms in the top row and the smallest in the right-hand corner and, in a vase each bloom will stand out, making as much of itself as possible. They will not all have been rammed down into the vase so that one bloom partially conceals another. These are a few of the pointers to be picked up quickly by exhibiting one’s own roses, provided a little study and observation accompany the effort.

Preparations Before the Show

The first essential of successful exhibiting is the production of good blooms, which demands good cultivation. The next important point is to grow the right type of bloom for whatever object is in view. The best results are obtained from growing a number of trees of a few varieties, rather than spreading the quantity over a greater number of varieties. If one has a dozen plants of, say, Ena Harkness, it is more possible on a given date to cut half a dozen good blooms from them than it would be if one had a dozen different varieties, as all the trees of Ena Harkness would be in bloom about the same time, whereas the flowering period of the dozen different varieties might be spread over several weeks. Where large quantities are grown this point loses some of its force, but where space is limited it is important.

Pruning for Exhibition

There is no need to prune roses harder for exhibition than for general cultivation, but it is important to go over the trees, rubbing out unwanted shoots, leaving one stem only from each eye. These stems should be disbudded later to two buds if the object is a large specimen bloom from each. It is advisable to leave two buds in case of accident or damage to one of them. Should the plants be decorative varieties of the Hybrid Tea type reduce the number judiciously. It is not possible to lay down a hard-and-fast rule on this point, as the number of buds varies according to the variety.


As soon as the buds are formed start liquid feeding. A suitable mixture is made by steeping a bag of manure in a tub of water. The liquid should be diluted to a pale straw colour at the time of application and given weekly at the rate of 1 gallon per tree. Feeding should not be continued after the end of July, as it produces soft wood which will not winter well unless given the opportunity of hardening off. In early September apply to the beds a dressing of sulphate of potash at the rate of 2 ounces to the square yard to assist this process.

Retarding Blooms

Nothing can be done to hasten blooming, but blooms can be retarded by using shades. These are cones made from calico stretched over wire. The value of shading is three-fold: it permits the bloom to develop at a slower rate, shields it from the bleaching effects of the sun and provides protection from the rain. Shading, in conjunction with tying the centre of the bloom with a strand of thick wool for a couple of days prior to the show, increases the size of the petals, and for this reason is a practice adopted by exhibitors. The tying, however, is not an unmixed blessing, as when the ties are removed at the show the blooms are apt to blow quickly. It is far easier to gauge the lasting qualities of a bloom that has been grown naturally.

Classification of Roses

How often the remark is passed, ‘I do like tea roses’, and when the speaker is pressed as to why the reference to ‘tea’ roses, it is found that he or she has a hazy notion that all yellow roses are tea roses. Another believes the term applies to pink roses, whereas in point of fact they are a distinct class embracing all colours, reds, pinks, yellows, apricots, blush, etc., etc. Very few ‘teas’, however, are now grown, as the class has been almost completely swallowed up by the Hybrid Tea roses, which were evolved by the crossing of this class with the Hybrid Perpetual roses some fifty years or so ago. The Hybrid Teas are usually listed as H.Ts., which together with (T.) for Tea and (H.P.) for Hybrid Perpetual are examples of the various symbols seen in catalogues and books of roses. These symbols are a mystery to newcomers to rose growing, although, without going too deeply into the subject, it is possible to explain them broadly.

The logical beginning is with the native wild roses of the different countries, the species roses. The self seedlings from these are sub-species, and the cultivated crossings of the different species, hybrids of the species. All the foregoing bear a botanical name, which is generally indicative of the country of origin, such as R. chinensis, R. Virginia, R. gallica, or descriptive of the plant, heps or blooms, e.g. R. spinosissima, R. pomifera and R. multiflora. Species discovered during the last century or so, together with a few others the result of hybridization, often bear a derivation of the name of the discoverer or the hybridist, e.g. R. Banksiae, R. Baked, R. Brunonii. In each instance the prefix R. for rosa is given to indicate the genus.

The following symbols, although not a complete list, are those in common usage: Ayr (Ayrshire) A group of hardy climbing roses derived from R. arvensis, a native species of this country.

B. (Bourbon) A group which originally came from the Isle of Bourbon, believed to be a cross between R. chinensis and R. gallica.

C. (China) Varieties derived from the species R. indica (the Chinese rose) and the pioneer of the autumn-flowering roses.

D. (Damask) As the name indicates, this is a native of Syria. Remarkable for its delicious scent.

H.B. (Hybrid Bourbon) A descendant from the French and Provence roses.

H.N. (Hybrid Noisette) So named after the raiser, an American, M. Philippe Noisette, and obtained by the fertilization of R. moschata, the Musk Rose, with the Common Blush China, R. indica. Crossed with the Tea Rose and later merged into that group, ie. the Teas. H.P. (Hybrid Perpetual) The result obtained by crossing the Damask Perpetual with the Bourbon and Chinese rose, R. indica. Although so named, many varieties of this group were summer flowering only. Hy. Poly. (Hybrid Polyantha) A new class derived from crossing the dwarf polyantha roses with the hybrid tea roses. First introduced by the Danish hybridist D. T. Poulsen in 1924 as a result of crossing the Orleans Rose (Poly.) and Red Star (H.T.) to which he gave the name Else Poulsen. Others bearing the Poulsen name came in quick succession, Kirsten Poulsen, Karen Poulsen, Poulsen’s Pink, Poulsen’s Yellow, etc., which became generally known as the Poulsen roses. Their particular charm is that they are easy to grow and bear large clusters of flowers from early June until late in the autumn, and for these reasons have achieved great popularity. During the last few years other hybridists working on the class have introduced other blood into the type, such as the Sweet Brier and Musk strains, so much so that few now have any polyantha blood in them, and despite the comparative newness of the classification (Hy. Poly.) the National Rose Society has provisionally given them the omnibus term Floribunda, although still classifying the Hybrid Polyanthas under this heading, where such parentage is known.

H.S.B. (Hybrid Sweet Brier)

A class of roses raised by the late Lord Penzance at the end of the nineteenth century. They are believed to be the result of crossing R. rubiginosa (sweet brier) with the Hybrid Perpetuals. The perfume of the foliage which is a characteristic of the original species persists in its hybrids.

Rosa 'Mme. Caroline Testout', Híbridos de te, ...

Image via Wikipedia

H.T. (Hybrid Tea)

This group is now the main one; in it have been merged the Hybrid Perpetuals, Teas and Pernetianas. The fullness of bloom of the Hybrid Perpetual, the delicacy and shapeliness of the Teas, and the wide range of colouring introduced by the Pernetianas are all blended in the lovely garden specimens of the present day.

Pern. (Pernetiana)

A class of perpetual flowering roses raised by and named after M. Pernet Ducher of Lyons. The first of this class, Soleil d’Or, made its appearance in 1900. Their merit was in the distinctive shade of yellow that pervaded all the varieties, due to their origin in part to JR. lutea (the Austrian brier). As previously stated, this class is now merged in the Hybrid Teas.

Poly. (Polyantha)

This class is related to the species R. multiflora, but has a dwarf habit of growth. The original varieties are thought to be a cross between the species and a tea-scented variety. Two of the earliest, Perle d’Or and Cecile Brunner, are still in existence. Their distinctive feature is the perfection of the very miniature blooms which are produced in sprays. Since the advent of the more vigorous Hybrid Polyanthas, the class is gradually becoming extinct.

Prov. (Provence)

This group is a native of the South of France and named after the province. The original species is Rosa centifolia, the parent of the cabbage roses.

Rug. (rugosa)

The rose of Japan, the parent of a distinct class of hybrids. The most striking features of the original species are that its stems are densely covered with sharp, straight-pointed prickles; and the bush in the autumn carries fruits which for a rose are of immense size. Used considerably both as a stem for standard roses and as an understock for dwarf roses. T. (Tea) This class was so named because its perfume was reminiscent of tea. The original parents, pink and yellow varieties of the family R. indica odorata, came from China. The two varieties were married by a Frenchman, whom it is thought also infused the blood of the Bourbon rose into the subsequent crossings. The class as a whole was rather tender, although there are one or two exceptions, such as Gloire de Dijon, which for this reason is still in cultivation. With the advent of the Hybrid Teas, of which it was one of the parents, the class has now become almost extinct.

Wich. Climb.; Wich. Ramb. (Wicharaiana climbers and Wichuraiana ramblers)

These have been obtained by crossing the wild rose, R. Wichuraiana, of China and Japan with the Hybrid Tea, and the resultant offspring with other roses, producing variable results. As the habit of growth of some is different from that of others, it is necessary to group them separately.

The foregoing by no means covers all the various groups of roses, but is possibly sufficient to give the new- comer an insight into the progress made with roses over the centuries, and will, it is hoped, enable him to study a rose catalogue with more understanding.

Before concluding this section on rose classification, one further explanation may be helpful in respect of the term ‘sport’.

A ‘sport’ can either be a variation in the colour of the bloom from that of the original, or a climbing sport, when the habit of growth changes from the dwarf to that of the climbing form. With the first it is not always easy to tell, as a change of colour can be a reversion to one of the parents of the original plant. ‘Sporting’, however, does take place, and two modern roses which are very prone to this habit are McGredy’s Sunset, from which quite a number of sports have been obtained, notably Beryl Formby and Flaming Sunset, and Better Times, from which arose Red Better Times, which again sported to produce Modern Times, the striped rose resembling a tulip, which caused quite a sensation at a show in 1952.

The climbing Hybrid Teas come into the category of climbing sports—all are counterparts of their bush varieties, excepting for their climbing habit. What happens is that a bush variety will suddenly throw out a climbing shoot. If after budding from this shoot the climbing habit continues, it is what is termed ‘fixed’ and another climbing hybrid tea variety is added to the list. It is a natural phenomena and cannot be artificially produced, and this explains why there are not climbing forms of all the hybrid tea bush roses.

03. May 2017 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Propagating Roses, Pruning Roses, Rose Care, Roses | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on Exhibiting Roses


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