What Does the Future Hold?
By Sam Jones, TENARKY District Director
2013 – Beginning of the “teenage” years of this century, which has already seen its share of tumultuous growing pains, spring-time hopes, followed by dashed dreams and despair of the future.
The world of roses sometimes seems no less troubled. With roses, we face questions that are familiar to everyone: What does the future hold?
Steve Hutton, CEO of Conard-Pyle’s Star Roses, the company famous for introducing two revolutionary, groundbreaking roses ‘Peace’ and ‘Knock Out’, wrote in the 2012 American Rose Annual that during his 35-year nursery career he has seen the annual field-grown production of traditional roses decrease by 70 percent. However, sales are flourishing for non-traditional shrub-types, many grown in pots from beginning to end. The reasons are obvious: Growers are not inclined to keep spraying what they consider toxic chemicals and rather than build formal rose gardens, they often want to integrate roses into mixed plantings. Disease-resistant shrubs are favored, and roses grown on their own roots, which may climb to 90 percent of all varieties sold, have advantages of economy, versatility and ease of production by a wider community of smaller growers.
So what does the future hold? Hutton suggests there will be smaller producers growing specialized varieties that are more often sold over the internet and suited to particular regions of the country.
Yet, even with significant changes in the rose industry, he believes that “consumers want to grow roses and not just shrub roses. They want healthy, robust hybrid teas; they want fragrant roses; they want free-flowering climbers with winter-hardy canes; they want new colors; they want honest information on what varieties they will be successful with.” And, there is hope: Hutton believes that the developing new industry “will be able to give them what they want,” and we will again “be selling 80 million plants per year and everyone will be happy.”
Well, how do we in our Tenarky rose societies face such a future foreseen by a key player of the American rose producers?
Let me say that the wave of the future is already felt in the Tenarky District and has been for some time. Robbie Tucker and Whit Wells, along with David Clemons close-by, have been introducing miniatures, mini-floras and more disease tolerant shrub-types for more than a decade; many of which have been widely popular and have been significant players in the national miniature conferences, as well as in traditional rose shows across the nation.
Secondly, the keynote speaker at our Winter Workshop, ARS’s new Vice President, Pat Shanley, has already been paving the way for another significant wave of the future: Sustainability. Working with Steve Hutton in a series of discussions with influential rosarians and rose business people, she has helped forge an “enduring partnership” between the American Rose Society and the Rose Industry for launching a new program for delivering award-winning, easy-to care- for roses that are “disease tolerant and suitable for different regions of the country.” As a result, in September 2012, in Houston, TX, the American Garden Rose Selection (AGRS) was formed with
a focus on “Sustainability and Regionality.” Replacing the disbanded AARS (All-America Rose Selection) the group has identified regional trial garden sites, established strict testing standards and expects to accept entries for the 2013 season. Because of Steve Hutton and Pat Shanley’s combined efforts, Pat can say (as a final word as Guest Editor of the 2012 American Rose Annual and Co-Author of The Sustainable Rose Garden) that, “The future of the American Rose Society and the Rose Industry together is now one that we can look forward to with hope and enthusiasm.”
How should we face this hopeful future with enthusiasm in our rose societies?
Let me hear your thoughts. Also, let me hear of some of your desires and experiences with sustainable methods of rose growing. What roses are you growing that require less spraying? How are you using roses in your garden with mixed plantings? What are your favorite fragrant roses? What success have you had with beneficial predator insects? Have you tried container gardening, with more control over your feeding, watering, sunlight, soil composition, amendments, drainage and location? Does your society or community have the space and manpower to consider a trial garden for an American Garden Rose Selection site?
If world’s interest in roses is high, but preferences are changing, how can our societies be in the forefront of major innovations? What about our rose shows? Consider: What about a section for entries for the best collection of roses, any number of any variety, grown without chemicals and include a card describing the methods. How about a section for displays of garden designs and features, showing the “best creative use of roses”?
Here is another thought: Instead of a rose show, consider a “Festival of Roses” somewhat along the lines that Knoxville has tried in partnership with the University of Tennessee’s horticultural department.
Displays in the festival could be recipes and actual foods and drinks prepared with rose petals or hips; fragrances using roses; a display featuring sustainability; a display of roses that grow well in your region; a display showing container-grown roses; a display for outstanding uses of climbing roses; a photographic display; or perhaps video presentations of various rose gardens in the community or society.
Sounds different? Like a lot of work? Perhaps a festival could be combined with District rose shows, with each society in the District displaying one festival event, which would be in addition to the traditional competitive classes. We shouldn’t discard what works, but we can begin slowly, adding events that pique the interest of certain groups or individuals. The point is, we all love roses. The public loves roses. How can we stimulate theirs and our creativity and excitement about enjoying them more together?
What does the future hold? The watchwords are “Sustainability and Regionality.” The possibilities are endless for forging a stronger bond with roses and nature that is more rewarding for all of us.
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