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Jottings

Now that the going has started to get tough, it's time for the tough to get showing!

It's almost hard to believe that a society born out of a love to show off the nation's favourite flower is now struggling to find enough exhibitors to sustain our national shows.Like all specialist plants societies, the RNRS has suffered from falling membership in recent years and this has obviously affected exhibitor numbers but I’m sure that the problem is deeper than that. Our shows and the way they are organised have been very much rooted in the past and maybe this has put off any would-be exhibitors. Maybe it is also partly the fault of the National Shows Committee or indeed the current group of exhibitors; do we actively encourage new exhibitors to have a go?That has to change and change quickly. The national shows need the current membership to have a go at showing their roses to the public because that is the only way that the public get to see how good roses can look and what the Society is all about. Our job as your National Shows Committee is to make the shows reflect the way roses have changed in recent years and how they are grown. The Spring Show at Malvern is our first show of the season. This is without doubt our most exhibitor-friendly show. The parking is easy, the pace is relaxed and the exhibitors are only too pleased to help each other stage their exhibits in order to put on a good display for the public. Just a few miniature roses grown in 10 litre pots and grown in a cold greenhouse should provide enough blooms to enter some classes in our friendliest of shows. Another incentive to enter a few roses is that all exhibitors receive passes to the show and use of the free exhibitor’s car park. Fact sheets giving tips on growing roses in pots and on how to grow roses for Malvern can be downloaded from the Exhibitor’s Information section on the Member's Page of Society website.If you've thought about growing for Malvern in the past then now is the time to actually do it, we’d love to see you there.  OK that's the sales pitch over, to have a look at the 2013 winners click here

 

My Rose Heroes –  Number 1 -  Frank Benardella    

 

The ARS Yankee District website describes Frank Benardella as “an icon in the World of Roses”. There is no doubt that Frank is an icon amongst the world-wide exhibiting fraternity but I wonder how many thousands of lives have been touched by Frank’s roses without ever knowing of the man himself.

Let’s go back fifty years, Frank’s first real contact with roses came when, together with wife June, he built a rose garden for June’s recently widowed mother. He must have liked what he saw because he then set about building the first rose garden for himself. After two years of rose growing Frank joined the ARS and embarked on a path that would lead to him taking up the position of President in 1977.

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June and Frank Benardella

By now Frank was a keen exhibitor and by his own modest admission, has won most of the prestigious National Trophies; the one which gave him particular pride was the Nicholson Bowl, a class that calls for nine matched HTs. Yes, HTs, at this time Frank’s main interest was in regular sized roses; his interest in miniatures was to come much later. Due to the size of the USA and the fact that the National rose shows are moved around the country, exhibiting at all the major shows meant that many miles were notched up in the process of winning trophies. Rose shows were however, a family affair. June and the kids would accompany Frank and the days after the show were spent exploring the area, what a great way to educate your children about their country

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Frank was soon welcomed into the ranks of the ARS judges where he assisted in the writing of the Judges manual. Next step was to become a Consulting Rosarian and in 1964 won the ARS Outstanding Consulting Award. Frank is from New Jersey and has a wonderful, rich New Jersey tone in his voice; he joined his local Penn-Jersey District Rose Society and it wasn’t long before he was elected District Director. During his Directorship, the Penn-Jersey District made great strides; Frank instigated the first Mid-Winter Conventions and although these were run outside of the regular rose season, he managed to encourage enough members to grow roses under artificial lighting in their basements and managed to stage rose shows at these conventions. Penn-Jersey hosted a special event celebrating 100 years of McCredy’s Roses which attracted visitors from all over the world. It was clear that Frank’s enthusiasm and infectious demeanour would project him to even greater heights and he was soon made Regional Director which was to be the platform for his ARS Presidency. Frank served as ARS President from 1977 to 1979 and amongst his many achievements is credited with helping to develop the Palette class, instigating the ARS slide contest, developing the English box and printing the first miniature entry tags.




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Like many successful exhibitors Frank’s attention was distracted away from the varieties that were available to him and began to experiment with breeding his own roses. HTs remained the centre of Frank’s focus but initially his crosses produced little that really impressed him. By chance he used a rose that was growing well in a corner of his greenhouse; Rise’n’Shine, the yellow Ralph Moore variety was soon to become the starting point for much of Frank’s future successes. In 1985 the first Benardella rose hit the market but it almost didn’t. The rose was growing in Frank’s greenhouse when Sean McCann, a regular visitor to the Benardella household, spotted it and insisted that Frank should introduce it. The variety, Black Jade, is still probably the most popular miniature rose in its colour class today. More wonderful creations followed; Jennifer, Old Glory and Figurine to name but a few. In 1993 the rose world was introduced to BENmagic. As with many of his roses, this one would be tested in a variety of venues in a variety of countries before being introduced. The proposed commercial name for this new little rose was to be Pure Wet but the ARS turned this down as an unsuitable name. Frank thought briefly about this setback and promptly chose to name his new rose after his granddaughter; Kristin was born. Proudly Frank will always cite Kristin as his favourite rose. He extols its virtue as a pollen parent and as a great garden rose. The flowers hold so well on the bush that it appears to always be in flower. While Kristin is a superb rose, the rose that has done so much to put Frank at the forefront of his chosen hobby is a different rose altogether. Many of Frank’s roses are bred from crosses with his own seedlings and many of these seedlings owe their existence to crosses that Frank made with a collection of florist roses that he imported from Kordes in Germany. In 1995 he introduced a rose which would change everything for Frank and June. He had crossed the floribunda Picasso with one of his own, unnamed, seedlings and the resulting plant would be a striped red blend HT. This was officially the first ‘bred’ striped HT, there are other striped HTs but they are sports; the floristry trade saw this new rose and loved it! Zebra was set to be Frank’s most successful rose. Over 1 million blooms were sold in the first year and royalties on the rose meant that the Benardella family would now move to Englishtown, New Jersey and Frank would be able to build for himself a state-of-the-art breeding house and more roses would soon be coming off the production line.

When Frank retired from a career in industry, he was Senior Vice President of Newell Rubbermaid, a company which co-incidentally makes the brand of cool box that many US rose exhibitors use to transport their miniature roses to shows. At that time he was already an accomplished rose exhibitor and the first roses of his breeding were in commerce but even an always optimistic Frank could never have imagined the effect that his creations would have on the rose world.

No matter how many awards are bestowed on Frank and his roses for Frank it’s people that count. When I spoke to him recently he had just returned from judging the rose trials at Rosehills, I imagined that he would be keen to tell me all about the roses, particularly his own ones that are growing there; but what seemed to have pleased him most was meeting up with fellow rosarians particularly those from overseas like our own Keith and Rachael Jones and Chris Warner.

The flow of roses from Frank’s greenhouse shows no sign of drying up; recent introductions; Caliente, Solar Flair and Leading Lady have already been amongst the top prizes both in the USA and here in the UK. Next year will see the introduction of yet more miniatures and mini-floras; Bonfire, Power Point and Showstopper, all looking like winners, judging by the photographs in the last ARS Rose magazine and Frank says that Greenheart  are also set to introduce a series of six new mini-floras next year.

Frank’s roses continue to give pleasure all around the world; I’ve been lucky enough to spend some time in Frank’s company and I can honestly say that time never passed more quickly or pleasurably. Frank has a wealth of knowledge that he willing passes on to all who will listen. Growing, showing, breeding, educating; Frank does it all. Is that perhaps the description of a rose icon?

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Some reflections on a trip to the desert . . . .

 

I have to admit that until I met Cliff Orent aka Cliffofthedesert, I knew very little about Palm Springs; where it was or anything about the many rosarians who live there.

I first ‘met’ Cliff on the internet web forum Rosarian’s Corner. At the time Cliff was a fairly new rosarian however in the ensuing years he has become quite an authority on all things rosey, growing as he does, over 5000 bushes at his Morongo Valley home. On our first visit to the desert, Cliff almost insisted that we should return in 2006 and visit the Desert Rose Society’s Fall show in Palm Desert, about eight miles south of Palm Springs. We had already made several friends on our first desert visit and the chance to see them all again and at a rose show? Well it was just too much to resist.

An eventful flight behind us, I don’t have time or space to mention in this article the bird in the aircraft engine or my wallet ‘problem’ but suffice to say that Pauline, who was the one of us to arrive at Palm Springs airport with a driving licence, was the one doing the driving and we were soon taking in the warm desert sun, poolside. Not too much time for sunbathing however as we were due to meet up with the LA Rose Society on their trip to some desert rose gardens the day after our delayed arrival. We met up with them at the Empire Polo Club. Locals proudly tell visitors that Prince Charles has played polo on the manicured polo fields but we were there to see their collection of over three thousand roses. We had a wonderful ‘rosey’ lunch at the club before moving off with the LA rosarians to visit Cliff’s place up at Morongo. In just a few short months Cliff has moved all of his roses up to Morongo from his two homes in Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage and the construction of his new rose garden was well under way. The new garden is on a much grander scale than his first two. In fact, to get around the place he has two golf carts that enable him and his assistants to tend to the roses

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A four day break from roses followed as we headed north to visit Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon before returning to Palm Desert for the Saturday rose show.

At seven thirty, as we drove into the car park, the first thing that we noticed were the exhibitors. This may not sound like something we should be surprised about as this was after all, a rose show but these particular exhibitors (and there were plenty of them) were all staging their roses IN the car park OUTSIDE in the open air! Now I know that this was Palm Springs and the chance of rain was slim but the chance of rose-wilting hot sunshine was extremely high but this lot did not seem worried. In fact it was clear that some had been here long before the sun had risen as they were staging (prepping as it’s called over there) their exhibits under a variety of gazebos and structures with flashlights and camping lights.

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The show management felt that the large number of exhibitors was due to the fact that this show was being used by a number of National Exhibitors as a trial in readiness for the Fall National Convention that will be held in Palm Springs in 2009. Whatever the reason for their attendance, they were all made very welcome by these friendly desert folk, as indeed were we. Tommy Cairns and Luis Desamero are no strangers to UK rose exhibitors and this was to be their only show outing of 2006. “We had a few blooms at the right stage so we just decided to come down”  Luis told us in the car park!   Needless to say, they had a good show!

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Unlike our shows, the exhibitors are not allowed to place their exhibits on the show tables, except in the Challenge Classes which usually are the classes for multiple blooms or vases of blooms. In fact it’s true to say that the majority of the classes are single vase classes, usually taking the form of Court classes; typically for HTs, floribundas, minifloras, miniatures and Victorian or dowager roses. In the UK we are continually given the impression that all things in the USA are bigger than we have here at home. Whilst this is true of many things, it’s not the case in all private American homes. Some of course do have gardens or ‘yards’ as they tend to call them, of quite generous proportions (I still have not fully come to terms as to what exactly constitutes a yard and what constitutes a garden) but I was quite surprised by how many of the exhibitors produce their blooms from quite modest sized gardens.

At the Desert Rose Show all exhibitors compete against one another in an ‘Open’ show. When I mentioned that we divide our exhibitors into divisions dependant upon how many roses we grow there was genuine surprise. Over there, the exhibitors all strive to be ‘the best’ – period. The thought of being ‘the best of the rest’ was something that they couldn’t quite grasp. That said of course, in the court type classes, there are winners in all alphabetical sections and winning a blue ribbon (first prize) in one of these classes is regarded, quite rightly, as meritorious. Winning Queen, King or Princess (first, second and third) of course is the Holy Grail and attracts more credit than our Bloom of Merit classes do at the moment. At the Desert Rose Show, the winner of HT Queen was a seasoned exhibitor called Ron Gregory with a wonderful bloom of Cajun Sunrise.

 

Back in October, last year, Ron made the trip to the Carlsbad Rose Show with the main intention of meeting up with a few friends and ‘just for the hell of it’ took one rose with him. His choice of Cajun Moon proved to be a wise one when he picked up the top trophy – Queen of Show! This should be an example for us all as we seek to encourage new exhibitors to enter our shows, it’s not so much about how many roses you grow or about how many that you take to a show; it’s more about how well you grow the number of roses that you do grow and exhibit. Additionally and perhaps surprisingly several commercial rose growers and hybridisers are also exhibitors. They are allowed (and encouraged) to enter roses from their private gardens and personally I see no problem with this but of course our own rose nurserymen are prevented from exhibiting as they are not amateurs. Are we missing an opportunity here? I would love to see Keith Jones, Gareth Fryer et al bringing their own blooms and pitting their wits against us die hard ‘amateurs’. Am I kidding myself? Probably!

There are many differences in the way that the ARS and the RNRS arrange their shows; some would transfer, others clearly would not. Classes in the US are, in general, more exhibitor-friendly in that they have plenty of single stem classes. This tends to attract more exhibitors, particularly those who grow fewer roses. All the ARS National shows are run as part of a Convention; based at a hotel, the rose show is just part of a week-end of attractions with lectures, forums and garden visits completing the Convention package. Maybe this is something that we should consider in future, particularly as it seems that we are able, once again, to stage shows at St Albans. Rose shows in the US generally have well supported photograph classes. This is an excellent way of encouraging interest, even from those who don’t actually have or grow roses themselves. All ARS National (and most District Shows) have Arrangement Classes (floral decoration). This was a feature of many of our shows in the past but for a variety of reasons is something that we don’t have at many of our shows nowadays. At Squires the Floral Decoration classes still attracts a good deal of public interest and compliments the amateur exhibits in the other half of the marquee. More food for thought here maybe?

With the Desert Rose show over we were left with a week to soak up some autumn sun and enjoy some of the delights of Palm Springs. On Tuesday Cliff invited us to the DRS monthly meeting where Jeri and Clay Jennings were guest speakers; as an afterthought, he had a few buckets of rose blooms dropped off at our hotel on Tuesday afternoon and asked Pauline if she could produce a ‘basket of roses’ to decorate the table at the meeting – just like being at home!

 

Leaving Palm Springs and many new friends behind us, we were soon back in rainy Gatwick; we’d had a good ‘rose fix’ to see us through the winter and were now thinking ahead to this year’s rose shows. We’ll definitely be returning to Palm Springs in the future because it’s a great place for a holiday as well as being a great place to see roses. We have a definite date in our diary for 2009 when the Desert Rose Society are hosting the ARS Fall Convention; maybe we’ll see you there?

Ready or not, here they come . . . . . . . .   

In spite of some opposition from established rose thinking, it would appear that rose-growers in the UK can finally own up to growing miniflora roses,The purists will, and do, argue that we have always had a class of rose into which the US term mini-flora fits; patio roses. I wonder how the term ‘Patio rose’ ever came into being because all of the other rose types refer to the  rose itself; how it grows (climber) or what it is (Old Garden Rose); not where the rose is intended to be grown! Can you, for example, think of many rose types that could not actually be grown on a patio? True, some roses would need an awfully big patio!The story of how the miniflora came to be accepted in the USA was recanted recently by Brian Schofield in the White Rose News and it true to say that the mini-flora is now integral to all rose shows in the USA, both District and National. In 2003 I asked, at a RNRS Judges’ seminar in Harrogate, if we could possibly consider including some mini-flora classes in our future shows; the suggestion was roundly dismissed because ‘we have no such classification as min-flora and do not therefore need classes for them’. In the interim it has become quite clear, as more varieties of this type of rose filter into the UK rose scene, that they do in fact exist and it is time that the RNRS accepted the fact. Whether we adopt the term mini-flora or create our own, the classification certainly needs to be recognised and defined. Last year, at our National shows, we had token classes for minifloras which were supported by exhibitors who have managed to get hold of some of the available varieties. The RNRS description for the class stated that the blooms should be larger than a miniature but smaller than a large flowered, clearly there is a large degree of latitude in this description. It is unwise and probably unworkable for us to use the ARS classification as a yardstick. Under their rules, a rose of whatever classification, may only be exhibited in the class in which it is registered and only if it has an Approved Exhibition Name (AEN). Many of the miniatures that have already been introduced here in the UK present the exhibitor with problems; Soroptomist International, Glowing Amber and Sunset Strip are all registered in the USA as miniature and when grown in a hot, Californian climate, this classification is perfectly acceptable. However, when grown in our cooler climate and grown moderately well, they will all produce blooms that will struggle to fit into a miniature box without incurring the wrath of a keen-eyed judge who, quite rightly, will down-point the exhibit for every overlapping petal! The new minifloras that are beginning to appear will, of course, have no chance of ever being squeezed into a standard miniature box.

Varieties that have already appeared at our shows include Solar Flair, Liberty Bell, Leading Lady (Benuno), Dr John Dickman, Butter Cream and Memphis Magic, New varieties such as Class of 73, Luscious Lucy and Lady Eowyn, all from Robbie Tucker, Peter Cottontail from Robert Martin, Rocky Top from Witt Wells and Andie McDowell from Michael Williams will soon be gracing our show tables.

Peter Cottontail

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Lucsious Lucy

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These are all HT form blooms and will be much sought after. Unfortunately, with few dedicated classes for them, there will be little opportunity for them to be exhibited. Surely the time has arrived for us to consider accepting their existence and to make more provision for them in our schedules.

Step up to the plate Rhondda Rose Society! This year, for the first time in the UK, the R.R.S. will have a class for minifloras in BOXES. This class will compliment the classes for minifloras already in the show schedule. Rhondda member and RNRS stalwart, Mike Thompson, is a long-time advocator of classes for this new rose type. In fact in spite of what may be perceived of a fairly conservative exterior, Mike is quite the innovator as far as rose classes are concerned and the Rhondda schedule benefits from his forward thinking. Mike has championed John Sheridan’s minifloras for some while now and has even named one for his granddaughter Ffion.  Personally I am firmly of the opinion that if a rose type is being grown then there ought to be a way of showing it!

The popularity of miniature roses and in particular the varieties that we regard as ‘show varieties’, has never really attracted widespread appeal.  The commercial growers have never picked up and run with varieties such as Irresistible, Chelsea Belle or Amber Star. These three, in my opinion all make good garden rose bushes and are, in the main, fairly healthy. It would be true to say however that some do not. Glowing Amber is a martyr to black spot even when sprayed and Behold can hardly be described as ‘vigorous’. Diehard exhibitors will grow a variety in spite of its failings but I suspect that the general public will not. This is probably where their commercial stock is faltering. Enter the minifloras. In general the bushes are more robust, achieving a minimum of two feet in height and so far, many of the varieties that I have tried, are healthy.  There remains the problem that the US imports are bred and grow in a warmer climate and will obviously perform differently in the UK climate but I’m sure that they will prove popular providing the public get chance to see them.

New Jersey rose breeder; Frank Benardella has many new varieties of minifloras on offer this year and more in the pipeline for next. Robbie Tucker also has a seemingly never-ending production line working overtime, I’m still waiting to get my hands on Ready, Willing and Able; three introductions from last year! There should therefore be no shortage of varieties to tempt the public with in the very near future. Will they ever officially be called minifloras here in the UK? Probably not but I know one thing for certain, there will be plenty of them growing on our patio.