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A Perfectly Groomed Rose

by Joan Goff, Master Rosarian

We have talked about pruning your roses to get a blue ribbon and last month we talked about fertilizing and pinching back. This month we are already up to Grooming. Yes, you do have to groom your roses. It is a rare sight indeed to find and pick a rose that needs no grooming before it hits the show table. Rarely is a rose free of debris, dust, bugs (yes); and washing off the leaves and polishing them makes a big difference.

Brushes, Pencils, Vases First, I would like to talk about tools and items that you can use for grooming. I have a plastic box with a lid that comes off for my grooming tools. I have taken a bunch of photos but will talk about the tools here. Scissors - you will need 3 or 4. I love the small ones with the very sharp blade. It is small enough to get deep inside the bloom to cut out things you don’t want. I use them also on the leaves, if I have to remove part of a leaf. I also use the hobby scissors on the leaf, sometimes you will have to cut off most of the leaf (usually because of blackspot or mildew) and using the hobby scissors with the serrated edge can almost duplicate a rose leaf. Practice some of these things now before the show.

I have cut rose petals, rose leaves, petaloids, and thorns. You are aiming to get your rose in perfect shape.

Grooming Things Next, I use cotton Q-tips. These can be used to open the bloom and then one can leave them in by placing them and pulling back on them to force the rose open. It is best to stick the cotton end in water before you use them. Some people use cotton balls (found in the makeup section) and also push these into the bloom to try to open it more. Just be sure to take all material out before placing your entry in the show. We judges have all seen a bloom with her Q-tips still in (or rubber bands or tags), which is an automatic disqualification.

I must say though that it is best if you can pick a rose that is already at 1/2 to 2/3 open. That is what you are aiming to get. I have struggled sometimes trying to open a rose so it is an art that I still need to practice.

Grooming Scissors There are a few good videos on U tube that you can watch. These are very good and they will show you what I am describing. Just Google “rose grooming for shows”.

Paper towels or an old nylon for polishing leaves. You will be amazed how much a leaf can change by washing and polishing it. I tried different materials but I now use paper towels. Don’t forget the underneath side, that’s where the bugs will go.

One time I was judging a spring show and there was a beautiful ‘Della Reese’ bloom on the Court. We were picking the Queen. I picked up the entry, turned it to the back and looked up at the bloom and there were a whole bunch of spiders…tiny, tiny but they were there. Needless to say, I did not vote this rose to be queen. But she got King I believe. Many judges said they did not see the spiders.

Other things to have in your grooming kit:

  • rubber bands
  • pencils
  • pencil sharpener
  • address labels or stamp
  • entry tags
  • brushes, many sizes (you can find them in cosmetics)
  • wedging material for holding the rose up and in place

    People use all kinds of wedging material and you can experiment to see what is comfortable for you. Go to a hobby store to get the hard Oasis. It comes in green and white. Some people like aluminum foil and others like saran wrap.

    I always use a pencil for the entry tags. They can always get wet and pencils won’t run. Have your show schedule with you.

    Brushes can be used to brush out the petals. Small and medium size, take your pick. I have two or three smaller brushes.

    What to do... When to do it…everyone is different. I like to do the major grooming on my roses in my own kitchen. I usually start picking two days before the show. Remember to make a paper tag to tell yourself the name of the rose. I recut under water as soon as I bring them indoors. I also wash off the leaves with the sprayer on my faucet but do not spray the bloom. They will soak for at least 8 hours and take up a lot of water so be sure to check 2 hours later to be sure that they still have enough water. I usually have them in small buckets. Then I slowly get them ready. Checking the show schedule, I decide which classes I can enter blooms. I start cleaning and checking everything on the entry. Before I leave my house on rose show day, I put the blooms into the vases. We have our own vases, but many rose societies have their vases available at the show.

    Things you can do before the show: have entry tags filled out with your address labels or stamp. This saves a lot of time. You can also put the rubber band on the tag. Experiment with different scissors and try them out on roses you are bringing into the house. Get to the rose show at least 1.5 - 2 hours before the entries have ended. It will always take longer than you think. Some people come with table and chairs and are there 3 hours ahead of time. Good luck to all and I hope you will have a beautiful rose this year on the Court!

    P.S. I have never won Queen of Show but maybe this year will be different!









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