Banquet Piece, Pieter Claez

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Rose Garden Before Time

The "Lost Rose Garden"

Our local historic nursery park has a hidden neglected rose garden with about twenty rose bushes.

We recently found out that this garden was an old AARS rose test garden, suspended in time from the 1970's when the nursery went out of business.

The neighbor, Bill, who lived behind the garden watered the roses for 48 years. He moved in 2017 and could no longer take care of it. We scrambled and with the help of volunteers and neighbors, the garden was watered that summer.

What roses are in this garden? There are no labels. What was the AARS rose selection program? Do we have roses that are now lost to the nursery trade? How do we find out?

Some of the roses are quite pretty and have a wonderful fragrance.

First some background

We can be forgiven for not knowing the difference for ARS and AARS. It was confusing in the beginning as well and had to be explained to readers of the American Rose Magazine that AARS is a commercial label for "novelty" roses. (What do they consider a "novelty" rose? I detect someone looking down their nose at me as they say "novelty".)

ARS is American Rose Society.

AARS is All-America Rose Selections. I have heard it pronounced as "Double-A R S" by two people who should know.

American Rose Magazine,Mar-Apr. 1944

The AARS program was discontinued recently and the American Garden Rose Selections program took its place.

A Horticultural Mystery!
Roses in an AARS test garden would have been numbered, rather than named. That way no one could show a preference for one grower or be persuaded by a beautiful name. There was quite a hefty premium for having your rose selected. So hence the secrecy.

Do we have the losers and winners for a certain year? What were they? Our AARS test roses have lost their numbers. Some roses have died. How many roses would have been in a rose trial? Where do you find the competitors? What year was this test garden created? Do we have some lost roses that were once considered good enough for the trial but are no longer grown? Weeks has a good by-the-year list of winners. Where do we look for the AARS test history with all the roses?
Weeks Roses Catalog 1945

AARS History
Jackson & Perkins has a page "What is the AARS?" and they say "In the summer of 1938, W. Ray Hastings, the prime organizer of "All-America Selections," contacted Charles Perkins, President of Jackson & Perkins Company, to create a testing program for roses. On January 8, 1939, a meeting of 17 of the largest and most respected rose firms was held in Chicago. This group approved a set of by-laws and rules & regulations that established the organized existence of All-America Rose Selections, Inc. The first trials began that year in AARS Test Gardens nationwide, and the first 4 AARS winners were introduced in 1940." The 'Peace' rose was the only AARS winner in 1946.

The American Association of Nurserymen annual meeting is where the AARS meetings were held. Apparently if you missed the AARS meeting, you were out of the trials. (BR) Their journals are not online yet, but are available in the library.

5 AARS Novelties from Weeks

Next steps

  1. Visit the library and look at the American Association of Nurserymen journals for 1960-1970.
  2. Look for official records. I spoke to someone recently who knows the person who might have the records for the 1960's-1970's.

Stay tuned.

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