October 2010
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The World's Most Popular Flower

Writer Jeannie Stevens Jones

The scent, the touch, the color and the variety are all characteristics that (unofficially) make a rose the most popular flower on the planet. Floral arrangements abound with selections from more than 100 species of the perennial favorite. The rose seems to be an ageless wonder, with fossils of roses dating deep into prehistoric times. In 551 B.C., Confucius references a Chinese rose garden, and certainly it can be said that Shakespeare crowned the rose to its elevation as the flower of love with the immortal words written in his Romeo and Juliet: "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." In 1986, President Ronald Reagan designated the rose as the National Floral Emblem of the United States. Indeed, in a place like the White House Rose Garden, one can experience the reflection written by John Keats: "A thing of beauty can be a joy forever." The growing and cultivating of roses provides enrichment through the seasons of the year and the seasons of life to both the gardener and the admirer.

Support for the creation and nurturing of a rose garden can be found through any local organization with an affiliation to the American Rose Society. The Memphis Rose Society (MRS) is one of these affiliates.  MRS vice president Peggy Bingham explains that the nonprofit organization, founded in 1946, serves "to encourage interest in and the cultivation of the rose; to beautify the community and this state by its use; to be affiliated with the American Rose Society; and to spread the knowledge and love of roses wherever and whenever possible."

Master gardener and MRS treasurer Don Ware explains that membership in the Memphis Rose Society provides answers to rose related topics, beginning with the simple, "Which roses do you like?" to the growing of disease-resistant roses. For basic rose knowledge, Ware recommends joining the MRS. However, he offers some simple mid-South rose gardening tips:

  • Select a garden plot (non-acidic soil) that enjoys approximately six hours of sunlight and with good drainage
  • In 90° or above summer heat, water the roses approximately three times per week
  • Fertilize the soil with a 13/13/13 ratio mixture of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, or use a time-released fertilizer once a month.
  • Before the onset of winter, provide mulch around the root stock of the roses and trim tall roses to about chest height.

To fulfill its mission and to promote the education of growing roses, the MRS began a local rose show. Through the years its format has evolved, and this year, the MRS, in partnership with the Dixie Rose Club, produced a tri-state (Tennessee-Arkansas-Kentucky District) rose show at the Hilton Memphis on September 24, 25 and 26. With approximately 300 groomed roses on display and the opportunity to attend onsite educational seminars, rose aficionados of all levels found many delightful points of interest.

The American Rose Society and the World Rose Federation classify roses into three main types: Species Roses, known as "wild roses," were literally the first type of rose on earth. Old Garden Roses (or Antique Roses) are popular for the ease of care and aromatic fragrance. Modern Roses include any rose created since 1867. For varieties that are prevalent and grow well in the mid-South, Ware makes note of the Veteran's Honor, Mr. Lincoln, Let Freedom Ring and Black Magic varieties, all in the red color palette, and A Touch of Class, a variety favoring an orange hue. These garden beauties are all hybrid teas, which may be the most recognized rose with its long stem and single bloom.

The Memphis Rose Society offers camaraderie and guidance for all things roses. But perhaps the personality and charm of the organization is best expressed by Peggy Bingham: "You meet the nicest people, you get the best advice, and if you love flowers, it's just fun!"

Rose Gardens around the United States

  • Chicago Botanic Gardens—Glencoe, Illinois
  • Elizabeth Park Rose Garden—Hartford, Connecticut
  • International Rose Test Garden Washington Park—Portland, Oregon
  • Lyndale Park Rose Garden—Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • McKinley Park Rose Garden—Sacramento, California
  • Mesa Community College Rose Garden—Mesa, Arizona
  • Rose Garden in Woodland Park Zoo—Seattle, Washington
  • San Jose Municipal Rose Garden—San Jose, California
  • The Centennial Rose Garden at Schmidt Mansion—Tumwater, Washington
  • The John E. Voight Trial Garden—Hales Corners, Wisconsin
  • Tyler Rose Garden—Tyler, Texas
  • Wrigley Gardens at Tournament House—Pasadena, California

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