Grow Award-Winning Roses at Home
Breeders from around the world invest countless hours on a quest to build a better rose. Established in 2007, The Biltmore International Rose Trials brings competitors together in Asheville, North Carolina to be judged in categories such as most fragrant, best climber, best floribunda and the coveted George & Edith Vanderbilt Award for Most Outstanding Rose. Entries are assessed quarterly for two years by permanent judges before a rotating panel of fifteen breeders, journalists, growers and artists from around the world who convene to judge over 90 roses in final competition. One of this year’s judges, rose grower, blogger and “rose chat” podcaster Chris VanCleave (aka the Redneck Rosarian) of Birmingham, Alabama knows what it takes to grow a winning rose.
“Breeders spend years developing their roses before specimens are sent to Biltmore,” VanCleave says, explaining the process. “Roses are grown for competition at Biltmore under the control of chief rosarian Lucas Jack. They’re all grown in the same manner with the same amount of water and receive the same organic fertilizers. It’s a healthy environment and the rose trials translate into very healthy, disease-free roses.”
The results of these trials don’t just benefit the competitors, as most of the award winners will become commercially available. VanCleave is encouraged by the growing interest in the Biltmore rose trials, one of only two trails in the United States.
“I wish all roses could come through these trials before they come to market,” says VanCleave. “These wonderful, winning breeds will be available to the average backyard gardener to buy to plant in the garden and be able to have some assurance that it has passed rigorous trials. The chances of these roses doing well in the home garden are greatly increased.” VanCleave offers tips for growing these award-winning roses in your own backyard.
- Start with nutrient-rich soil. “It all starts with good soil,” explains VanCleave. “Any agricultural extension office should be able to provide you a soil test to let you know your soil is in good shape Try to strike a pH balance of 6.5.”
- Water judiciously. “Roses are thirsty, but they don’t like standing in water. About an inch of water a week is all they need, then you can kind of sit back and watch them bloom.”
- Fertilize. “You can add fertilizer every six weeks or so,” says VanCleave. “They don’t need too much. Beyond that you can let them go.”
- Maintenance. Modern breeds may require less attention than you think, according to VanCleave. “A lot of the varieties that have come out are more self-cleaning. I might do heavy pruning in the spring and in the fall you can cut back to about waist high,” explains Van Cleave. “You have newer breeds like ‘Sweet Drift’, which won the award for best ground cover at this year’s trials. It’s a prolific bloomer, but you almost never have to deadhead. It’s pretty much self-cleaning. Other than that, just keep your beds clean. You might trim and shape through the year, depending on how you want it to look in the garden.”
Well-tended rose bushes may last twenty to thirty years in the garden. Starting with healthy breeds like those found in the winner’s circle at the Biltmore rose trials help make it easy for home gardeners to grow champion roses. Although rose trials have a long tradition in Europe, the Biltmore rose trials have brought a renewed interest in growing beautiful and healthy roses to the United States.
“I think (Biltmore creator) Mr. Vanderbilt would be proud,” declares VanCleave. “These trials draw a lot of visitors, but maybe the best part is that it leads to the availability of healthy, disease-free varieties for the home grower.”