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Roses by many names: Show brings out the best and the brightest

Ruth Rutkowski is the Queen of Roses.

On Saturday, Rutkowski’s rose, a lavender flower of the variety Twice in a Blue Moon, was awarded “Queen” status at the Gateway Rose Society’s annual rose show and competition held at the Kenosha Public Museum.

At the show were 140 colorful contestants from the society’s members, who hail from southeast Wisconsin and northern Illinois. There were large roses, two-toned roses, tiny roses and roses in artistic arrangements.

The overall winner of the annual competition was Chris Franco of Union Grove, past-president of the club and a rose grower for some 25 years.

Franco took “best in show” with his “English Box” presentation of a deep scarlet rose tinged with orange of the variety Screaming Neon. His English Box consisted of a raised box displaying the vivid flower blooms against black velvet with the stems hidden by the box.

Franco explained that rose competitions are judged “like dog shows” in that they include classes, best of classes and best in show.

Additionally, some classes have a “royal court” consisting of Queen, King and Princess awards.

Rutkowski’s Twice in a Blue Moon was selected as Queen of Show for the class of hybrid tea rose.

When it comes to rose competition, this is far from Rutkowski’s first rodeo.

Rutkowski, who is 93, has been growing roses for some 60 years and belongs to several regional and national rose growing societies.

“She lives for the roses and worked in a greenhouse until she was 91,” said her daughter, Diane Rutkowski.

“We have a small city lot with a lot of borders and roses in pots,” Diane said. “It’s become quite a family project to dig and care for them.”

At this year’s show, Ruth also took several other awards, including the Aiello Challenge, in which she showed a Sugar Moon rose in three stages of bloom, as well as the Delores Woodworth Challenge with three hybrid tea roses and other commendations.

“I really had luck here today,” remarked Rutkowski. “It’s really an honor to win here because the competition is so tough.”

“Judges look for bloom, foliage and how the blooms and foliage work together,” Franco said. Points are also given for straightness of stem and brightness of the bloom. “All these things work together,” he said.

Founded in 1978, the Gateway Rose Society is a member of the American Rose Society. Its literature states that it is “dedicated to our nation’s flower.”

Franco noted that this year’s cold and wet conditions caused blooms to be delayed by about two weeks. “We’re a few blooms (entries) short this year,” he said.

Some rose growers use pots; others grow them in beds. In her “small city plot,” Rutkowski grows 250 rose plants, mostly in five-gallon pots, with 50 rose plants in the ground.

Although there are automatic watering systems, Diane Rutkowski says her mother prefers watering her roses by hand. “She likes to know how much water she puts in each pot.”

“The only requirement is that an exhibitor has to grow his or her entry — they can’t be bought from a store,” Franco said.

For some attendees of the flower show, the roses brought back memories of their own gardens or those of family members.

“I love roses and used to grow them on a trellis in Illinois,” said show goer Barbara Carver of Kenosha.

“My mom had a rose garden 30 or 40 years ago,” recalled rose show attendee and museum aide Pam DuVeyst of Kenosha. “She took red and blue ribbons and I helped her out. The show reminds me of mom.”

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