See a sea of blooms this weekend at Tacoma Rose Show

Tacoma Rose Society dives into the ocean for its annual Rose Show with water-themed displays

Staff writerJuly 9, 2014 

What do roses and coral reefs have in common? You’ll find out if you go to the Tacoma Rose Society’s annual Rose Show this Saturday at Jackson Hall on Martin Luther King Jr Way – and the answer goes way beyond beauty and color. “Oceans of Roses, Waves of Color” is the theme for this year’s display competition, which headlines the event of rose arrangements, horticultural competitions, a photo contest and plenty of rose-lovers on hand to give advice.

“We enjoy having large displays of arrangements,” explains society secretary and rosarian Margaret Leisner, on the theme for this year. “We were tossing around ideas, and we thought of the Great Barrier Reef, King Neptune’s Garden and so on. There are water colors in roses, even roses named things like “Ebbtide” and “Neptune.” I think this year we came up with something quite unique.”

Every year the society’s show serves many functions: introducing different varieties to rose growers, showing off cultivation skills and celebrating the creativity of arranging flowers. The horticultural competition, which forms the core of the show, has three divisions: a challenge and competition class, where specific rose types are shown with precise parameters (such as a rose and a bowl in proportion, or three buds in various stages of opening); an open class for rose varieties (including a novice section); and the arrangement division. Within this year’s arrangement division a whopping 19 classes prescribe various ocean-based themes: “Jewel Anemones,” “Sea Kelp,” “The Great Barrier Reef,” “Salmon Bake” and more. Non-rose accessories are permitted, and here’s where rose-lovers really go to town.

“We have one lady who’s done it for years, and she now gives lessons at our meetings,” says Leisner. “It’s become one of the major parts of the show.”

The other highly popular element to the rose show is the photo contest, which began three years ago and which now takes up the entire entry area, with Leisner and her crew having to buy several more frame holders for this year’s entries. It’s purely for amateur photographers.

Finally, the rose show offers a chance for less-experienced growers to check out different types of roses and get advice from consulting rosarians like Leisner. Roses sometimes get a bad reputation in the Northwest, where cool, moist weather and soil combine to encourage diseases and pests. If you’re a reluctant rose grower, says Leisner, avoid hybrid teas – they’re the fussiest, attracting mildew, blackspot and bugs. Instead, choose shrub roses, which are less maintenance, such as “Home Run” or “Knockout.”

“They make a wonderful hedge and bloom all summer long,” Leisner says.

The other alternative is to pick an old-fashioned garden rose, but while they too are disease-resistant they’ll only bloom once per summer, she points out.

And what about all that pruning, feeding and other maintenance that puts off potential growers?

“I save myself some time and start pruning in the fall,” says Leisner, who mostly grows hybrid teas herself. “In November I stop feeding, cut them down one-third and remove the leaves, to discourage growth and disease. I also take out the dead canes. Then at the beginning of March I do a bit more for reshaping, but half my work is done already.”

Rosemary Ponnekanti: 253-597-8568


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