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THE GREAT AMERICAN ROSE TEST

It's sunny and warm, sky's fluffy with clouds, and we're walking the 10-acre field in Chester County known as "rose hell."

Really, that's what they call it, because this is where several thousand roses are set in the ground and left alone to see which ones can take the heat — and humidity, drought, wind, frost, snow, fungus, bugs, and all else. At the end of three or four years, minimum, whatever's still standing has a shot at becoming the next big star of the rose world.

They have to survive with no irrigation, no sprays for insects or disease, no protection from extreme temperatures and conditions, no fertilizer, no pruning. Nothing, because, believe it or not, these trials are meant to simulate conditions in the average American garden — and we're pretty awful to our plants.

"If it was possible to get written up for rose abuse, we would be. They have a nasty, brutish, and short life here," says Steve Hutton, president and CEO of the Conard-Pyle Co. in West Grove, where the trials are held.

The winners must do more than survive to be chosen for the marketplace. They must emerge robust and clean, with a profusion of perfectly formed, beautifully colored blooms. And one other thing helps, something traditionalists could've told you from the get-go: fragrance. Too often in the mid-20th century, it was lost, as breeders scrambled to produce the tight buds, glamorous colors, and stiff stems that now define the perfect Valentine's Day rose.

Want to know about the importance of fragrance? Watch Hutton and his longtime friend and collaborator Alain Meilland, of Meilland International rose breeders of France, as they amble down the rows here. Hutton's tall, Meilland's short, but both dip and sway as they inch along, cupping blossoms in their hands and diving right in there to inhale.

Roses can smell like anything, and this is part of the fun — peaches, lemons, cloves, lavender, musk, chocolate, aftershave, impossible-to-describe, or nothing at all.

Both men suddenly stop to admire ‘Francis Meilland,' which was bred by Meilland, commercialized by Conard-Pyle, and named for Alain's father on the centenary of his birth. Already the winner of several awards in Europe, it's a 2013 All-America Rose Selection, which — as a kind of Academy Award for roses in this country — is an honor rose breeders crave.

Francis Meilland

About AARS

All-America Rose Selections is a non-profit association dedicated to the introduction and promotion of exceptional roses. The AARS runs the world's most challenging horticultural testing program, and consistently recognizes roses that will be easy to grow and require minimal care by today's busy homeowner.

Since 1938, the AARS testing program has encouraged the rose industry to improve the disease resistance, ease of care, and beauty of roses. Today, the AARS program is one of the most successful and highly regarded of its kind, having brought to the forefront some of the most popular roses in history, such as Peace, Knock Out and Bonica. AARS Winning Roses are labelled with the AARS red rose seal of approval to distinguish them from other plants in the nursery.

Details of all our roses are available on our web site. Over 1000 varieties to choose from.

www.countrygardenroses.co.uk



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