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  • Robert B. Martin Jr.

Steadfast in the Face of Virus

A letter from the ARS President...

'Tranquility', photo Bob Martin.

But watch thou in all things,

endure afflictions,

do the work of an evangelist,

make full proof of thy ministry.

~ 2 Timothy 4:5

The Apostle Paul, nearing the end of his ministry wrote to his beloved associate Timothy who he had left at Ephesus to administer the church, in order to encourage Timothy to be steadfast in the face of afflictions and to counsel him on his responsibilities an evangelist.

I was reminded of Paul’s epistle following my letter emailed to all members regarding our response to the COVID-19 pandemic. There I encouraged you to follow the guidelines of the CDC and other health officials in taking all precautionary steps to ensure your safety and the safety of those around you. I also encouraged local societies to reconsider scheduled meetings, rose shows, seminars and public demonstrations, and to err on the side of caution in cancelling events considering that a large percentage of our members are in the vulnerable population of age 65 and above. In short I encouraged our members to be steadfast in the face of this affliction and to soberly consider their responsibilities.

In thinking about virus, I have a distinct recollection of my advanced biology course at USC when I first learned about the subject. It impressed me that a virus is neither vegetable, nor animal, nor indeed does it fall within any other biological classification. In fact, there continues to be a difference of scientific opinion on whether a virus is a form of life or is simply an organic structure that interacts with living organisms. It is in short a tiny infectious particle that is distinctly weird, and yet capable of a great deal of damage, as witness this recent pandemic.

As rosarians, the COVID-19 virus is not the only virus of concern to our mission to promote the culture, preservation and appreciation of the Rose. I have had occasion to speak before of RRD, Rose Rosette Disease, a fatal disease of roses also caused by a virus. And, to help combat this existential threat to the rose gardens of our members and gardeners throughout the United States, the American Rose Society has pledged its support of the Specialty Crop Research Initiative proposal, “Combating Rose Rosette Disease”, and at my initiative has solicited our entire network of Consulting Rosarians to participate in the RRD Monitoring Network by monitoring the gardens in their area on a regular basis for symptoms of RRD. If you have not yet responded to this call I invite you to review the information at and to sign up for this activity.

But that’s not all. For years we as rosarians have also encountered other virus threats to our roses, including those that cause Apple mosaic virus and Prunus necrotic ring spot. To combat these threats the American Rose Society supports the National Clean Plant Network (NCPN) which, among other activities supports the foundation rose collection of virus indexed roses at the University of California at Davis.

The key to dealing with virus, whether it be one that afflicts humans or roses, is prevention. This requires watchfulness, being alert, and taking all precautionary steps to ensure our personal health and safety, as well as the health of our roses. It requires that we be steadfast in the face of virus.

During my years as our district Chair of Consulting Rosarians I routinely called upon our CRs to be rose evangelists. An evangelist I would explain is one that spreads the gospel, the gospel is the good news, and the good news is that everyone can grow roses. It is a theme that I returned to in my multiple campaigns for this office and one that I continue to emphasize in my messages as President. And, as a rose evangelist myself, I can state with confidence that the good news is that we can and will endure the afflictions of virus, those threatening our health as well as those that threaten the health of our roses.

Let us be watchful in these things. Do the work of the rose evangelist. Attend to your roses. Care for yourself and others. Find ways to support your local rose society and the American Rose Society. Renew your membership. Support the Annual Fund. Your roses will thank you and there will be tranquility in the rose garden again.

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