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Vickroy: Can the rose bloom for a new generation of gardeners?

during guest lecture by rose expert author Peter Schneider home Sauk Trail Rose Society president Frank DeVries.
Mary Beth Nolan~For Sun-Times

during a guest lecture by rose expert and author Peter Schneider at the home of Sauk Trail Rose Society president Frank DeVries. Mary Beth Nolan~For Sun-Times Media

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Rose color meanings

Red: love and romance

Yellow: friendship

White: purity, sympathy, remembrance

Deep pink: respect, gratitude

Purple: enchantment

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Updated: August 13, 2012 1:28PM



Would a rose by any other name catch the fancy of today’s youth?

It’s no secret that roses and the societies aimed at growing interest in them have fallen on hard times.

“A lot of people consider this to be an older person’s thing,” said Frank DeVries, president of the Sauk Trail Rose Society, an affiliate of the American Rose Society.

DeVries, who grows some 350 to 400 roses in his spacious Oak Forest back yard, is hoping to bring the rose back into bloom for younger people by letting flower fans in on a little secret: Roses are not hard to grow, contrary to popular belief.

DeVries recently hosted a lecture at his home by rose expert Peter Schneider, who began his talk by plucking that notion out at the root.

“People think the secret to growing roses is hard work,” said Schneider, author of the newly released “Right Rose, Right Place.”

“But the key to success is choosing a rose that’s going to do well for you in the first place,” he said.

Yes, it’s that simple.

Knowing ahead of time what you like, what grows well in your climate and soil conditions, and how much sun you get will help you make good choices when it comes to planting one of the thousands of rose varieties in bloom across the nation, Schneider said.

Some 60 rose lovers attended the event, including Mona Serpe, president of the Tinley Park Garden Club; and Joyce DeVries (no relation to the homeowner), who enjoys planting meaningful roses, such as Breast Cancer Awareness’ Pink Promise, and Veteran’s Honor, which is a bright red nod to our nation’s military.

Truth be told, all of the attendees appeared to be of a certain age. But maybe it takes a bit of maturity to appreciate such beauty.

Schneider, who also co-edits the annual Combined Rose List, which names every rose available in the United States and Canada, grows 1,200 different kinds of roses on his Ohio property. His favorite is the one named after his wife, Susan.

“It opens bright yellow with a thin red edge. Gradually, each day, the red expands and it ends up a pure red rose,” he said.

Schneider said he started growing roses 30 years ago.

“I liked them and was intrigued by the names, the history and the imports from Europe,” he said.

While he says rose gardening is not the difficult task many make it out to be, the hobby is not without its challenges.

Black spots, rose midge and inadequate sunlight all can deflower a rose plant.

Pruning can help control black spot, Schneider said, while the notorious midge must be battled with spray.

“The more petals a rose has, the more sunlight it requires,” he said.

After the hourlong lecture on rose varieties, growing pitfalls and simple tips, guests were invited to tour DeVries’ rose gardens.

“The heat has been horrendous on these flowers,” DeVries said, walking past roses named Over the Moon, Dream Come True and Dick Clark. “We’re already on our third bloom. Usually at this point in the summer we’re on our second.”

Most of DeVries’ roses are grown in raised beds, making them easier to tend to without compelling him to stamp on the soil around each bush. He also has a propagation greenhouse on his property where he grows rose bushes that will be sold to the public during Rose Society fundraisers.

The Sauk Trail Rose Society, formed in 1973, has 30 to 35 members. It’s the only such society in the south suburbs.

John Pais, whose parents started the society more than 30 years ago, said he remembers when hundreds of people would come out for rose shows at Lincoln Mall in Matteson.

“Now young people are more interested in electronics,” he said.

There may be little anyone can do to bolster the rose’s chances against the modern quest for instant gratification. For roses require sun and water and time to grow. But DeVries seems to think a little more emphasis on the beauty of the bloom and less on the thorns of the hobby would go a long way toward securing the rose in future generations.

He’s been reaching out to Scout groups, hoping to get them to incorporate rose growing into their gardening programs.

Perhaps if the youth of today realized the naming potential that roses afford — First Kiss, Betty Boop, Falling in Love, and of course, the potential for naming a creation after oneself — they’d put down those video games and pick up a pair of pruning shears.



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