Annual competition a chance to stop and smell the roses

Lauren Wanko, Correspondent | September 25, 2018 | Around NJ

After a season of hard work in the garden, it’s a chance to show-off homegrown roses. Every year the Jersey Shore Rose Society hosts their rose show.

“I can’t think of another flower that has a history with gardeners, and with artists and society like the rose does, so the rose is probably the most popular flower there is,” said Monmouth County Park System naturalist Ruth Carll. “Most home gardeners do it from a sense of passion. But then, you start growing something and it’s really looking great and then you have an opportunity to do something competitive with it. It really takes it to another level.”

Founded more than 45 years ago, the Jersey Shore Rose Society hosts its annual event at Deep Cut Gardens, which is home to more than 70 different varieties spread across a picturesque, formal rose garden.

“They’re not difficult, they’re not hard to grow, they’re very easy. They’ve been around for centuries. If you go to an old cemetery they have old garden roses that no one has taken care of, but yet they’re still there thriving,” said society president Mary Hahn.

What makes perfect growing conditions?

“We generally like in the range of 70 to about 82 degrees, full sun. When we say full sun, we generally mean a minimum of six hours a day, better if there is more sun. You want the soil to be moist, but not soaking wet and not bone dry,” said chair of judges Diana Wilkerson.

On this day, 200 rose exhibits are displayed. The society typically has even more, but the hot, humid summer wasn’t ideal for this year’s flowers. The public’s welcome to bring their roses, which are judged by members of the American Rose Society. There are 32 different classes, or categories, along with an entry for arrangements and photography.

Judges look for a variety of factors.

“Form, color, substance, stem and foliage is another thing. You want a nice stem to it, good, clean foliage,” said judge Bill Kozemchak.

Jersey Shore Rose Society Vice President Dr. Suni Bolar and her husband were awarded the “Queen of Show” for their Dublin rose.

“If you put an arrangement together, even if there is just one rose in it, it just calls out to you,” Bolar said.

What happens to the roses after the competition? Many are given to lucky friends. Exhibitors at the competition say they don’t mind because they can enjoy some of these blooms in their own gardens until November.