Montreal is one of our favorite cities and we’ve made many rose friends over the years. For this reason we visit frequently and were finally, after years of scheduling conflicts, able to make the trip on the weekend of the Quebec Rose Society’s (SRQRS) annual Rose Show at the Montreal Botanical Garden (MBG).
This year the Montreal show was on June 30. That’s late in the first bloom cycle for us – our garden peaks around June 17 each year – but we decided to go anyway, bringing whatever roses we had. It had been over 10 years since we last attended a SRQRS Rose Show and the first time since they changed the venue to the Montreal Botanical Garden.
We had made the decision at the last minute. I made hotel reservations and Mike contacted our friend Claire Laberge at the MBG to tell her we’d be bringing roses for the show. We then heard from Diane Vigneault, President of SRQRS who invited Mike, an accredited ARS horticultural rose judge, to join the judging team. The splendid hospitality began immediately with arrangements made for us to store our roses overnight in a refrigerator at the Botanical Garden. Diane also made us honorary SRQRS members and even provided a parking pass.
Mike got up early Friday morning, the day before the show, and cut several long stems of Marijke Koopman, a nice stem of Dublin, a gorgeous spray of Hannah Gordon, and a late blooming spray of Graham Thomas that had opened over night. We packed the roses in three large galvanized florist containers with plenty of water and nestled them in a dark corner in the back of the SUV and hoped they’d make the trip without blooming out. Mike had already checked with Canadian customs who had no prohibition against bringing cut flowers across the border. (Interestingly, while Canada freely allows cut flowers across the border, the United States does not without an import permit. We left all our stems in Montreal.)
We arrived in Montreal around 4:30 Friday afternoon and found the sprays had opened up quite a bit after the 7 hour drive. We found Claire setting up the show and she helped us carry our roses to the huge walk-in refrigerator at the MBG with a temperature of 2° Celsius — only 2 degrees above freezing. The outside temp was 88°F and we thought the roses would be better off in the refrigerator than in the car overnight.
The following morning, we retrieved our roses and saw immediately that poor Graham Thomas hadn’t enjoyed his night in the fridge at all. His blooms were closed and puckered, his leaves were shivering and he looked totally miserable. But Mike found a warm, sunny spot in a greenhouse and left him there while grooming the rest of the entries. Later he teased Graham’s blooms open with a Q-tip and warm fingers and when Mike wasn’t looking, I blew gently on the blooms, hoping to coax them open a little more.
We chose our best Marijke Koopman, and then used Q-tips to nudge her petals into the best hybrid tea form. Then Mike groomed our large Hannah Gordon spray that had 18-20 snow white blooms with lipstick-red around the petal edges surrounded by dark green foliage – snipping, shaping, and smoothing the inflorescence into what we hoped would be winning form.
When entries closed, Mike went off to the judges’ meeting and I went into the fabulous Roseraie, the 10,000 bush rose garden, to take photos. After judging and lunch we went to see the results. Much to our delight, our re-invigorated Graham Thomas won a red ribbon – 1st place in Canadian Rose Shows – as did our Hannah Gordon and Marijke Koopman. Not bad for roses that traveled 350 miles in the back of our SUV on a hot summer’s day and then spent the night in an almost freezing refrigerator! The Awards Table hadn’t been set up yet, so we enjoyed the show for the afternoon and when it was time to leave, we thanked our hosts and said good bye. They asked us if we wanted to take our certificate and ribbon with us. I asked, “Certificate for what?” That’s when we found out that Marijke Koopman had won Prince of Show!
On our drive back to RI, Mike and I talked about our weekend – the rose show, the rose garden, the great hospitality of the SRQRS, the vibrant city of Montreal with its great restaurants, the al fresco dining (reminded us a bit of Paris). We also started thinking of how much fun it would be to return next June when SRQRS will host the Canadian National Rose Show at the MBG.