It’s All About The Roses This Year

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It has been a very busy winter for me! This is the fourth year our little committee from the Connecticut Rose Society has put together a landscape display for the Connecticut Flower and Garden Show, the only flower show in our state. Our set up began on February 16th and the show was from February 21-24.

Past Shows

During the last three years, we hired a fellow a few miles away to make our roses dormant and force them into bloom for the show. The first year, we had a few blooming roses by the end of the show. The second year, he put them in the greenhouse too early and we were mostly bloomed out before the show began. Last year, we were really hoping he would get it right, but he put them in the hot house much too late and we had no blooms at all. We set ourselves in Bavaria last year, rented a beautiful backdrop to build our display from, but when push came to shove, we had no blooming roses. For a flower show. Ultimately, it’s all about the roses.

Meeting Laura

While feeling very discouraged at last year’s show, I ran into a friend of ours, Mike Grogan. He used to work at Suffield High School in the Regional Agriscience Department, and he introduced me to a woman he used to work with there named Laura LaFlamme. Laura is the Director of Agriscience at Suffield High and was at the show with her FFA (Future Farmers of America) students. After she heard my plight about not having any blooms at this flower show, she said, ‘I have nothing in my greenhouse at that time of year. Come grow your roses in with me!’ I asked, ‘How will I ever repay you?’ She said, ‘Teach us about roses.’

Autumn Prep

Fall rolled around, and my friend, Jerry Amoroso, brought me a bunch of roses from Weeks, a rose wholesaler. Jerry is a wonderful guy and donates roses every year for this event and others. Another friend, Adam Wells, who was from Prides Corner Farm at the time, also donated roses for our flower show display. I got busy with these plants, cutting them back, stripping off all the leaves, and transplanting those that needed it. I tucked them into part of our dark, cold barn in the end of October for six weeks of dormancy. Thanksgiving came and went, preparation for Christmas began, and on December 16, Bob and I loaded up our trailer with all the sleeping beauties and brought them over to Laura’s beautiful, state-of-the-art greenhouse. She helped us bring them in and we put them onto the benches with water sticks from her irrigation system to keep them hydrated. The next week was Christmas, and then the school vacation began. I wouldn’t see my roses again until January.

The Excitement Begins!!

The first week in January, when the school reopened after the holidays, Bob and I headed over to see how things were coming along. All the roses were growing well and looking great! Laura assigned a young lady named Moo Ket to me, and we worked together 2-3 days a week after school, caring for the roses. I taught her about pruning, the importance of water, and we also talked about anything else she was interested in. The FFA kids have to earn so many points every year, so Moo Ket’s credits began to stack up. One day, Laura asked me to come and teach her Horticulture Class which began at 7:15 the next day. I had fun with the kids. Bob came with me as my tech support, so when we were finished with the presentation and went to the greenhouse to see the difference between different types of roses, he lingered behind to close up the projector and computer. When Laura, the kids, and I got into the greenhouse, I asked her about some huge lights up at the ceiling level. This was a dark, dreary winter day, and she asked me if I’d like to see what it was like when the lights came on. Of course, I said yes! It took several seconds for them to come up to speed, but when they did it was just like standing in my garden on a sunny June day! Bob looked up from the classroom and thought the sun had come out! After that, if the day was dreary, Laura always had those lights, the heat, and the fans going. Moo Ket, Bob, and I fed the plants first with Osmocote and then with Miracle Gro for Roses every other week. We watered with warm water every day. One of Connecticut’s Master Gardener Coordinators, Sarah Bailey, came every Friday to spray the roses with fungicide so the foliage would remain healthy.

And Then, There Were Blooms!

The first blossoms opened two weeks before the show, and the first rose to bloom was a dark, fragrant purple which delighted Moo Ket! When it was time to transport our beautiful, blooming roses to the Convention Center in Hartford, Laura offered to deliver them in her school bus, so we had a blumenwagen full of roses arrive on Tuesday, February 18. We off-loaded, set up our display, and were amazed at how beautiful it was!
Thursday morning, the judges juried all the landscape displays. Ours received ‘Appreciation for Exhibiting,’ ‘Best Expression of Show Theme,’ ‘Best Forced Plants,’ and ‘Most Romantic Garden Display.’ I am so grateful to Laura and Moo Ket and the Suffield Agriscience Department for helping to make this happen. Laura has invited me back in the Fall to start all over again, which I am looking forward to. Hopefully, now every year, Connecticut Rose Society can have another outstanding display, because it’s all about the roses!

Meet Marci Martin

Marci Martin fell in love with roses when she was a little girl, and the love affair goes on. She has been growing roses for…

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