In Harold White’s garden, everything is coming up roses. White has perfected the art of rose gardening, and he has a slew of blue ribbons to prove it.
The Durham gardener, 84, began growing roses as a child and has entered his prize-winning flowers for the past 15 years at the N.C. State Fair.
Despite his lifelong experience, winning at the fair hasn’t always been easy.
“The first time I exhibited, I won precisely nothing. I had no idea what I was doing,” he said.
Bringing home a ribbon takes more than just luck, especially with roses. The rose can be a tricky flower to grow, which is why gardeners have to seek help and do research.
“See how other people are growing their flowers and what they’re doing,” White advises. “Everyone at the fair is happy to talk to visitors about their roses and how they’re getting them show-ready.”
Talking to exhibitors at the fair is an easy way to get insiders’ tips about growing beautiful roses with the tight, symmetrical centers that the judges love. He also suggests getting help from the Raleigh Garden Club and Raleigh Rose Society, where he is an active member.
In regards to this season’s competition, White is paying close attention to his roses. His chances of winning at the fair in October are unaffected by the summer’s heavy rains.
“Everything depends on September. I’ll prune my bushes then for the new blooms.”
The blooms that will grow after pruning in September are the ones White will enter in State Fair competitions. In the meantime, he’s spending time in his garden, protecting his eight rose bushes and other plants from fungus.
In the fall, White will be focused on protecting the fresh blooms from bugs and raindrops, which can damage the physical appearance of the blooms. He uses whatever he can to cover the blooms, sometimes Ziploc bags or plant covers.
White’s tips may seem basic, but with roses, it all comes down to attention. The flowers are extremely sensitive to detailed care, and knowing how to work with them is something that comes with time and practice.
Luckily for White, he’s perfected his technique for growing roses and is hopeful his efforts will produce more prize winners.