Rose Cuttings – July, 2008

‘Seven Sisters’ is a rose with more than its share of problems, but it’s a sentimental favorite with Antique Rose Emporium customers. Photo courtesy of Mike Shoup.

The Measure of a Good Rose

A common adage in retail marketing is, “You can never predict the desires of the buying public.” In other words, it is hard to determine what to offer customers to entice sales. As a retail business owner, I’ve learned my preferences in roses are not necessarily what my customers want.

So what are the marketable qualities of roses?

People’s tastes in roses are as diverse as the shoes they wear. The ‘Seven Sisters’ rose continues to be a big seller for us, even though it blooms for a short two weeks in the spring, often gets mildew and is more prone to red spider infestations than any other rose we grow. But, because it was once grown, years ago, by everyone’s relative, its nostalgic value is great. Even though I don’t like or actively promote this rose, it still has value to my customers.

For me, fragrance in a rose is first and foremost. You would think that all the most fragrant roses would top the list of sales. Not necessarily so. Consider the case of ‘KnockOut’ or, for that matter, 90 percent of all the hybrid teas that are used for cut flowers. These roses have no fragrance at all, and yet the industry is basically fueled by the sale of these roses. ‘Marie Pavie’, ‘Old Blush’ and ‘Cramoisi Superieur’ are all fragrant, seemingly always in bloom, and very easy to care for, yet they fall a distant second to these newer roses that I personally judge as lacking.

Marketing, of course, has helped sell roses by branding a name and embellishing certain qualities in roses. Examples of such labeling are David Austin roses, for old-fashioned showiness; EarthKind, for durability and ease of care; and Griffith Buck roses, for cold hardiness. The truth of the matter is, with dozens of qualities to choose from, it all gets very intimidating to keep up with what’s what and who’s who in the mix. It’s ambitious to think that we as marketers can promote colorful roses that bloom all the time, smell good and never need water, pruning, spraying or fertilizer. Only a plastic rose in a bottle of perfume meets these criteria. Heaven forbid!

I have learned that a rose need be only as good as it seems to the person who adores it. Any one quality — fragrance, color, shape, size, name, history, disease resistance, longevity, etc. — is enough to create worthiness. Ironically, the overriding best quality of any rose is its immortality. The satisfaction of being involved in the nurturing and success of a rose living in your garden becomes its worth to you. It is infinite and personal, and that is what makes all the difference.

Happy Gardening!

About the author: Mike Shoup is the owner of the Antique Rose Emporium. Visit their Brenham and San Antonio display gardens for endless ideas on landscaping with roses. To order roses online, visit

Posted by Neil Sperry
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