Start early to think about getting your roses ready for presentation. Some exhibitors prune parts of each bush 40-45 days before a show. For hybrid teas, prune to an outside bud-eye, and a new stem will grow from the bud and in time produce a bloom. If you don’t want to do this pruning--and it is more feasible for a summer or fall show--just start watching your bushes about three weeks before the show to see what buds will form.
If you want to exhibit a hybrid tea, there should be only one bloom to a stem. If you have a center bud and a side bud or shoots, nip off (“finger prune”) the side buds and/or shoots, including any leaf parts. Do this while the buds are very small (about ¼ to ½ inch). For a floribunda or grandiflora spray, however, the center bud of the group of florets should be nipped off; otherwise, it will open well before the other buds and will be spent when the other blooms are coming into their prime. This pruning should be done also when the buds are very small, so that scars will heal and other buds will tend to fill the space.
The most important ingredient for healthy roses is water, and as we are constantly reminded, give the roses at least one inch per week--2 to 5 inches are better. You will have fertilized in the spring after pruning, but exhibitors like to use some fish emulsion and/or 20-20- 20 systemic (Peters or equivalent) fertilizer two weeks and then one week before the show. Follow the directions on the material’s label.
Plan ahead which classes you wish to enter; read over the program for the show, You can enter the roses singly (alphabetically), or in groups of two, three or five hybrid tea roses of different varieties.
If you have facilities for refrigeration, some roses may be picked or cut as far ahead as a week before the show. A number of exhibitors prefer to cut their roses for exhibition two days before and the day before they will exhibit them. Look over your roses every day to see how they are coming along. You will want to cut them while still in bud form, but the sepals must be down or the bud will not open properly. Also select a good long stem, preferably straight. When exhibiting, the stem should be 18 to 20 inches for the best proportion. You will see stems on exhibition roses even longer. Some larger blooms, like Uncle Joe, justify an even longer stem. The key is that the length of a stem should be in proportion to the size of the bloom. A small bloom on a 24 inch stem is not in balance.
Cut your roses early in the morning or in the evening, putting each one immediately into a bucket of warm water. Some rosarians prefer late afternoon cutting because the “sap is high,” and thus freshness is preserved. A good habit to get into when cutting roses for a show is to identify them before cutting or just after. An unidentified bucket of roses may present a real challenge at a later time, and an incorrectly identified rose will be reason for disqualification by rose show judges
When the roses are brought inside they should be “conditioned,” that is, made ready for the show. They should be inspected individually and cleaned and groomed as required. Any spray residue or other loose leaf-surface imperfections should be removed with a damp cloth, old stocking or paper towel. If a petal has a ragged edge or a leaf has a hole chewed out, trim carefully with small scissors to approximate the original (but smaller) shape. To “condition” the roses, cut the stems again under water, about ½ inch above the first cut. Immerse in very warm water, up to the bloom (if possible), for fifteen minutes, then place in very cold water. Ice cubes may be added to the water to reduce the temperature even further. To protect leaves from the thorns of other stem, you may wrap each stem and bloom in freezer paper. The roses then should be placed in a cool dark area until they are transported to the show.
When you take your hybrid tea or single stem grandiflora roses to the show, only a few petals should be coming down, because the bloom will open more before it is judged. The ideal phase for exhibiting a hybrid tea or single stem grandiflora bloom is 2/3 to 3/4 open. It the bloom is not sufficiently open, the petals can be encouraged to open further by using wedges between sets of petals of cotton balls or Q-tips. You may also see exhibitors blowing their warm breath on the bloom or placing the exhibit in a sunny spot to encourage it to open further. Judges often speak of a bloom which has not opened enough as being “too tight,” and one that has opened too much as “blown.” Remember less than the ideal hybrid tea or single stem grandiflora bloom still may be worthy of recognition and a ribbon.
Maryland Rose Society Newsletter
October 6, 2004
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