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What a Day for a Daydream!

by Mary Jasch

The stars of the Rudolph W. van der Goot Rose Garden Festival were in full bloom on June 10 at Colonial Park, Somerset, NJ. Music was in the air as crowds came to see and smell the roses galore – old garden roses and modern hybrids, floribundas, polyanthas, musk and Knockout. Local artisans lined oak- and ash-shaded walks and rose experts answered visitors’ questions.

It was a day of sun and roses and in the warmth their fragrances perfumed the air. Visitors came to bask in their beauty and simply to celebrate the queen of flowers, the symbol of love and passion, and the flower of choice for the Kentucky Derby, a.k.a. The Run for the Roses.

Here in New Jersey, the Rudolph W. van der Goot Rose Garden began life in 1969 by Mr. van der Goot, the first horticulturist of the Somerset County Park Commission with an obsession for roses.

There always was Rose Day, an event with speakers and talks on roses and garden tours until three years ago when rose expert Shauna Moore came to town. She came to visit the garden when a friend told her about a job opening. “I wasn’t looking. I liked where I lived and I loved my job,” said Moore who worked at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.

When she saw the garden, she exclaimed, “’Oh, my god! They have no idea what they have here. It’s a gold mine for roses.’ So I moved. I took the job. Some people thought I needed to have my head examined, but the garden is super special.” She is now Rosarian and Horticulture Supervisor for the Somerset County Park Commission.

Since then, Ms. Moore has made it one of her professional goals to revamp Rose Day by earnestly celebrating the beauty of the day for the community when the roses are in peak bloom. “My goal is to make roses less stuffy and more approachable to everyone. I want everybody there.”

Once upon a time, the Rose Garden was an accredited All-American Rose Selection Garden but gave up the title five years ago. Today the Garden “test trials” only miniature roses grown in Tennessee. They are judged by a panel of six evaluaters for disease-resistance, bloom size and color among other qualities.

All the roses in the Rudeolph W. van der Goot Rose Garden thrive in Zones 5 and 6, with occasional Zone 7 hardy roses, some of which get winter damaged. But not to worry, Ms. Moore is from Minnesota and is quite used to “tipping” roses in seriously harsh winter weather. Tipping is the fine art of lifting roses by the roots, digging a trench and burying them loosely.

Every year Ms. Moore tries to bring in a nice mix of vigorous newer varieties that produce well and old garden roses – “old heritage roses, big and nasty and thorny and bloom just once a season and really big and beautiful.”

This month in the garden, staff is deadheading, weeding, scouting for rose rosette and fertilizing with fish emulsion until mid-September. Many roses in the garden get a second flush in mid-September at almost peak bloom.

Her advice to gardeners: “Don’t panic. Roses should be enjoyable. Trust your intuition. Roses are pretty accessible. They’re not as challenging as people think they are – they are sometimes, though.”

And she expects to see you at Rose Festival Day 2018!

Shauna Moore’s Note on Pruning Roses:
The roses get a really hard pruning in late March/early April. “They start to break bud and tell you they want to be pruned,” says Moore. It worries some visitors to see the hard-pruned roses but staff assures them that the roses will be singing come the second week of June.

Ms. Moore warns against pruning in fall. “If you prune in fall, there isn’t enough wood to die back and so the damage will occur on the crown.”

Rudolph W. van der Goot Rose Garden

** All photos by Mary Jasch

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