Dedicated to America’s favorite flower: the Rose!

We Are Holding A Rose Show!

By Jim Small, Master Rosarian (jsmalljr[at]cfl.rr[dot]com)

The Central Florida Rose Society will hold its annual rose show and exhibition on November 8, 2014, at the Orange County Extension Education Center. I realize that many of you have never attended a rose show, know little about its structure or purpose, and have little information on how roses are entered or judged. My purpose in writing this article is to try to answer those questions as well as to give some practical advice on how to successfully prepare and enter your roses. Our show and exhibition will also offer you the opportunity to display your roses in non-judged categories. It will be fun to participate — you will see all kinds of roses, will help out the society and will meet lots of interesting people. You will definitely enjoy this event.

The first question that I will address is “Why are we holding a rose show?”.  There are several reasons for holding such a rose show and exhibition. The most important reason is to educate the general public about rose growing in Central Florida and to debunk the myth that “you can’t grow good roses here.” The show also provides our society a forum for public outreach, acting as our most important public event of the year. Finally, the rose show will provide an opportunity for friendly competition among rose growers. This competition will hopefully encourage the continued refinement of horticultural practices among growers that will produce even better quality roses than they have previously grown. I know that the quality of my roses has greatly improved since I began competing in rose shows.

The Rose Show Schedule, a booklet that describes the different categories into which roses may be entered, governs the structure of the judged portion of our rose show and exhibition. The Show Schedule follows the rules and guidelines set forth by the American Rose Society. The CFRS rose show schedule describes 31 classes for entries.


There are separate classes for one bloom per stem hybrid tea roses (and grandifloras), floribundas, minifloras, miniatures, old garden roses, shrubs and climbers. There are classes for sprays of hybrid teas, floribundas and miniature or miniflora roses as well as collections of different types of roses. There are also special classes for novices and those with small rose gardens. First place winning entries are given blue ribbons. There are also ribbons for second (red) and third place (yellow) entries. All blue ribbon winners among the single bloom hybrid teas and grandifloras, miniatures and minifloras are then judged for Queen of show within each rose category. Judges also select the second place (King) and third place winners (Princess). In our show, the next three runner-up hybrid teas or grandifloras are designated as the royal court. We do not have a royal court for miniature or miniflora roses.

Let us now examine some of the rose show classes and discuss how entries are prepared, entered and judged. We will start with the one bloom per stem hybrid tea or grandiflora class. Your bloom should be displayed in one of the supplied vases on a relatively long stem, the appropriate length being determined by the size of the bloom. A smaller bloom may have about a 12-inch stem but a larger bloom may require a 20- inch stem. It is all about balance and proportion, a factor that counts 10 percent on the judge’s scorecard. Examine the Royal Court, shown above, from our 2011 rose show. The Queen, ‘Marilyn Wellan’, is at the far left. You will note that it does not have the longest stem among members of the royal court but the stem length is in proportion to the bloom size.

Untitled1Roses are also judged on bloom form (25 pecent on judges scorecard), color (20 percent), substance (15 percent), the quality of stem and foliage (10 percent) and the relative size (10 percent) in proportion to roses of that particular variety. In terms of form, notice that the Queen, ‘Marilyn Wellan’, close up shown at right, has a high pointed center and the petals unfurl symmetrically, factors appreciated by the judges. The outermost petals are in a flat plane. The color is bright with proper hue and chroma (purity of color) for the variety. The substance, a term referring to how turgid the bloom and foliage appears, is excellent and the size is typical of the best specimens of this variety. As seen in these photographs, the foliage is deep green and unblemished. There are no missing leaves. The judges decided, based on the judging criteria, this ‘Marilyn Wellan’ was the best entry among the hybrid tea/grandiflora blue ribbon winners.

Hybrid tea and grandiflora roses are initially judged against other specimens of the same variety and blue ribbons are awarded to the best entries for each variety. All the blue ribbon winners are then judged against one another for the hybrid tea/grandiflora Queen, King, Princess and members of the royal court.

Untitled2There are separate classes for one bloom per stem floribunda, miniature and miniflora roses. Miniature and miniflora roses are entered in miniature vases. Judging of these one bloom per stem classes is similar to that of hybrid tea and grandiflora roses. Stem length for miniature and Miniflora roses is typically in the 4- to 6-inch range; the same balance and proportion criteria hold but on a miniature scale. Miniflora roses may be best shown on slightly longer stems due to their larger size. The photo at left shows the miniflora court at our 2007 rose show. The miniflora Queen, ‘Whirlaway’, is in the center.

One bloom per stem hybrid teas and grandifloras as well as minifloras and miniatures each have special classes for the entry of fully open blooms. These are for blooms that are, well, “fully open”, and show their stamens and carpels. The best entries have fresh stamens and petals that are still turgid and show good color. Exhibitors often remove tiny petaloids from the center but must be careful, as a rose that looks plucked is unlikely to be judged favorably. The entry to the far left in the photo looks plucked. In this case, two rows of petals seem to have been removed from around the center or “disk” of the rose. I would have removed only the two inner petaloids that overlapped the disk. This class will allow you to enter those roses with a “blown center”.


Sprays, rose specimens with two or more blooms on a single stem, are entered in several classes depending on the type of rose. There are spray classes for hybrid tea/grandifloras, floribundas and miniature or miniflora roses.

Untitled4In our show, the floribunda spray winner is designated the “Prince of Show”. When judging sprays, two important factors considered are the shape and configuration of the spray and the form of the individual florets. Your entry should be pleasing to the eye and symmetrical in form. There should be no gaps or irregular spaces between the florets. Beyond the form of the individual florets, the other five elements of judging mentioned above (color, substance, stem and foliage, balance and proportion, and size) are also evaluated. The winner of the “Prince of Show” at our 2011 show, ‘Hannah Gordon’, shown at the left, demonstrates all the characteristics of a winning entry.

There are several classes for entering old garden roses and shrubs. When entering old garden roses (OGRs), you will need to know the date it was first introduced. Roses known before 1867, like Souvenir de la Malmaison (1843), are entered into the “Dowager Queen” competition whereas those introduced after that date, like Paul Neyron (1869), are entered into the “Victorian class”.


Shrub roses, like the David Austin roses, are entered in the “Modern Shrub” class. Older shrubs, like ‘Dortmund’, are entered in the “Classic Shrub” class, a class designated for roses classified as hybrid kordesii, hybrid moyesii, hybrid musk or hybrid rugosas. Entries in Dowager Queen, Victorian, Modern Shrub and Classic Shrub classes can have one or more blooms on a single stem, may include buds, and may have a single stem on stem (discussed below). In contrast, all other roses having a stem on stem are disqualified.

Untitled6Two of my favorite classes that utilize old garden and shrub roses are the “Old Fashioned Bouquet” and the class known as “Roses On Water”. The old fashioned bouquet is a collection of at least three varieties of old garden and/or shrub roses that are exhibited in a vase or container provided by the exhibitor. Only roses may be used, no other plant or decorative materials is allowed. Oasis may be used if you so choose. One strives for variety and a pleasing blend of colors.


The roses should be fresh and undamaged. The “Roses On Water” exhibit uses five to seven blooms that float in a large bowl.


(Bowls provided by CFRS.) Here we want fresh blooms that complement one another in color and make a pleasing arrangement.  I was particularly struck by the beauty of this entry pictured on the right from the 2014 Tampa Rose Show.

Untitled8There are two cycles of bloom awards, one for the hybrid tea/grandiflora roses and one for miniature/miniflora roses. This class requires three specimens of the same variety, one a bud with sepals down, one open to exhibition stage (1/2 to 2/3 open), and one fully open with stamens showing. The roses are exhibited in separate containers. The idea is to demonstrate how a rose variety changes as it opens. The picture at left is the winning entry (‘Ty’) in the miniature/ miniflora cycle of bloom class at our 2011 rose show.

The hybrid tea or grandiflora and matching miniature or miniflora award is another interesting class. A hybrid tea (or grandiflora) rose and a miniature or miniflora rose that matches it in color and form are entered as a pair, each in separate vases. Judges will evaluate each bloom by the judging criteria described previously and the overall impression of the two in combination. The photo on the right is the winning entry of this class at our 2011 rose show. The roses are ‘Marlon’s Day’ and ‘Foolish Pleasure’.


Untitled10If you have good roses with short stems or damaged leaves, the blooms alone can be entered in several classes. There is an English Box for both the hybrid tea/grandifloras and for the miniature/miniflora roses. Although the class description allows any six roses, winning entries typically have pairs of three varieties with the darker roses placed at the bottom, an intermediate colored pair in the center, and a lighter variety pair at the top. The photo shown at left was the winner at our 2007 show.If you have a nice single bloom, enter it into either the hybrid tea/grandiflora bowl or miniature/miniflora bowl classes, depending on type. In these classes, the bloom floats in a bowl of water. Try to get your rose to float level and fill the bowl. The entry shown at right was the winner of the hybrid tea/grandiflora bowl at our 2012 rose show.Floribunda roses can be shown in an artist’s palettes. Floribunda palettes normally have 5 roses arranged on a wooden surface. A variety of pleasing coordinating colors is preferred, generally arranged from lighter colors to dark. The palette shown in the photo below on the left does not quite fit this model but was a winner at the 2012 Jacksonville Rose Show. There is also a palette for miniature/miniflora roses requiring seven blooms. The example shown below on the right was a winner at our 2012 rose show. This entry shows the preferred pattern of lighter to darker roses blending one to another.Untitled12Untitled11Untitled13There are also classes for an entry of three roses of the same or different varieties in both the hybrid tea/grandiflora and miniature/miniflora sections. These three specimens are exhibited in the same container. Collections are judged 80 percent on the horticultural criteria noted earlier and 20% on overall appearance. The winning entry at our 2007 rose show is shown below.Untitled14There is also a class for large flowered climbing roses. One needs to be careful in making entries in this class because climbing roses with a bush counterpart cannot be entered here but must be exhibited with their bush counterparts. If you are unsure where to enter a climbing rose, check the ARS Handbook for Selecting Roses (sent to American Rose Society members and available at the show). Roses with the symbols LCl, Cl HT, HG, or H Wich are eligible for entry in this class.

There are several reasons that a rose might be disqualified. All are easy to avoid but some might occur when one is scrambling to get their roses submitted by the deadline for entries. Obviously roses that are entered with an incorrect name are disqualified. I try to avoid that by attaching a paper label around the stem of the roses when I cut them unless there is nothing similar to it in my garden. Roses must also be entered under the official ARS (American Rose Society) name. Occasionally, rose suppliers will apply a trade name to their product. Nelson’s Roses, for example, has marketed a rose with the official ARS name Rosarium Uetersen as

‘Seminole Wind’. An entry using the latter name would be disqualified. If you enter a miniflora rose in the miniature class then you have “misclassed” the rose and are subject to disqualification. This is an easy mistake to avoid by checking various sources to determine the class of your rose. If you are unsure of the name of your rose(s), reference materials, and/or fellow CFRS members will be available at the rose show to provide assistance.

Untitled15Any unlabeled rose or mislabeled rose would be disqualified. In addition, roses with any kind of foreign substance on them are disqualified. The rose shown at left was entered in the 2010 Atlanta National Rose Show. The exhibitor used Q-tips to open up this nice specimen but failed to remove them before submitting the entry. The judges considered the Q-tips a “foreign substance” and disqualified the entry.

The specimen pictured below on the left demonstrates a “stem-on-stem” because it has a portion of a previous stem attached. With the exception of old garden roses and shrub roses, roses having a stem-on- stem are disqualified. But even old garden roses and shrubs cannot have more than one stem on stem.

Specimens like the one shown below at right would also be disqualified because it was not disbudded, i.e. growth (in this case a bud) coming from a leaf axil below the bloom was not removed. You will need to remove such growth or be disqualified. There are a few classes in which side growth is allowed. In those cases you may remove it or not. As a general rule, I only remove side growth that is distracting to the eye in those classes.



The final topic to be discussed in this article is preparing for a rose show. I am going to assume you are already providing your roses with adequate water and fertilizer and are protecting them from Black Spot and other maladies through your spray program. In preparing for the rose show your first goal is to get the roses to bloom near the day of the show. Each variety has an average number of days from when you cut it back until it blooms. For example, I usually find that the rose ‘Moonstone’ takes about 42 ± three days from cut back to bloom in the fall, depending on the weather. I would probably cut my entire ‘Moonstone’ bush back about 46 days before the show date and then cut about half of the bush again about a week later. I can’t guarantee it, but this plan is likely to produce several nice blooms on rose show day. Cutting back your roses to prepare for a show is not the same as Fall or Spring pruning. In this case, you want to cut canes of at least pencil diameter wood just above an outer facing bud. Those buds will mature and produce a new cane and bloom. If the rose cane that you are cutting to pencil sized wood has no foliage, I would expect it to take about an extra five days to bloom over the normal cycle. Hence, I would cut those canes a few days earlier than those bearing leaves. ‘Moonstone’ timing is fairly typical for many varieties but roses like ‘Uncle Joe’ will take about 55 days to bloom while others, like ‘Brides Dream’, will take only 36. Typically roses with more petals take longer to rebloom than those with fewer petals. If you don’t know bloom times for your roses, I would suggest cutting back all your roses about 48-50 days ahead of the show and then cut half the bush again a week later. If you take this approach, I am willing to bet you will have some roses to show.

The second thing you are going to need to do to be competitive at a rose show is to keep insects like thrips from ruining your blooms. To prevent thrips damage, I usually start misting the buds with a trigger spray bottle containing insecticide when the sepals begin to crack open on the bud. Depending on the situation, you may need to mist the opening buds every evening starting about two weeks before the show to have really clean blooms.

Cut your blooms on as long a stem as possible and don.t remove the leaves. Cut your blooms fairly tight, as they will open somewhat during storage and transport. If you have access to refrigeration, you can probably preserve cut blooms up to a week. When I cut rose stems from the bush, I recut the stems under water and place them in a deep bucket with water that goes up to just below the bloom. This procedure hydrates my roses, giving them “substance”.  From that point, I would take them to the show or put them in a cooler until show day.

On the show day, bring your roses to the venue during the designated preparation time. Secure a table and obtain all the vases and other materials you need from the supply table (e.g. English box, palettes, etc.). All vases, bowls, boxes, palettes, wedging material, and entry tags are supplied by the society. Fill the official ARS entry tags out with the name of the rose you are entering, the class number and your name and address. Many exhibitors use address labels for their address. Place your entries in the proper-sized vase or other entry vehicle, secure them with wedging material that does not extend above the lip of the vase (green Styrofoam wedging materials will be available for your use), check the entry over for foreign substance (like the paper label you put on your rose when you cut it), and finally place it on the entry table. If you need help, CFRS members will gladly supply it. From that point, you will have to wait to see what the judges end up saying about your entry.

Any type of rose can be displayed in the Non-Judged Display portion of the show and exhibition. Just bring your roses, obtain the vases you need to display them from the supply table, and place your rose on the non-judges roses table. Fill out the available tags located at those tables with the name of your rose. Although these tags will have a spot for your name, you are not required to supply it.

You now know much about a rose show, how it is set up, the various classes for entry of your roses, and how to prepare your roses for the big day. I have done my part in preparing you. It is now time for you to consult your calendars, count back from the show date to when you need to cut your roses, and then begin your preparations for the rose show.

If you need help when you get to the show with your roses, I am sure other CFRS members will give you a hand. Don.t be afraid, just go on and do it. It really is a lot of fun and you will be helping our society in this important outreach endeavor.


James W. Small (jsmalljr[at]cfl.rr[dot]com), ‘Planting Roses – Then and Now’, October 2014. Wind Chimes. Elaine Pawlikowski (pawlrose[at]cfl.rr[dot]com), ed. Central Florida Rose Society.

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