Southern California Mentor Rose Exhibitors
Teaching Novices How to Exhibit at Rose Shows

By Kitty Belendez
Master Rosarian & Rose Show Exhibitor

Working for an elementary school district, the term "mentor" originally meant "teachers helping other teachers." In particular, experienced teachers assisted new teachers until they learned the ropes. We called them Mentor Teachers, and it was quite an honor and a big responsibility. Only a few Mentor Teachers were selected each year at our school district, and they were paid a small stipend in addition to their regular salary. Sometimes the Mentor Teacher worked with new teachers on a one-on-one basis. The State of California recently eliminated the "Mentor Teacher" position and now we have what is called "Peer Assistance Review (PAR) Consultant."

A Mentor Rose Exhibitor is similar to a Mentor Teacher, but the Mentor Rose Exhibitor does not get paid to do it. This is not an official title. Mentoring is strictly a volunteer effort  something most exhibitors enjoy doing. A very good Mentor Rose Exhibitor might help to create another excellent rose exhibitor who could eventually become a strong competitor and perhaps even a mentor to future novice rose exhibitors.

During the 15 years that I've been exhibiting roses, I never really had a one-on-one mentor, but there certainly were many exhibitors who mentored me by sharing their knowledge. In Southern California, most rose exhibitors are willing to mentor the new exhibitors on many different levels. All you have to do is ask.

Most of the top rose show exhibitors in Southern California have given talks at local rose society meetings on how to grow and exhibit prize-winning roses. Some have held personalized half-day rose grooming seminars for small groups of up-and-coming exhibitors. In Santa Clarita we have hosted hands-on rose exhibiting workshops at our rose society meetings where several Mentor Exhibitors teach the members how to exhibit. Others have gone a step further and have taken a novice exhibitor under their wings and molded them into excellent exhibitors.

I vividly remember one of the first rose shows at which I exhibited (I was still a novice then and not yet part of the exhibiting group). After entering our roses, my husband and I went to eat breakfast. Waiting to be seated at the restaurant, I noticed a large group of top exhibitors in the lobby, also waiting to be seated. I boldly said to Jeff Stage, who I barely knew at the time, "I hear that you are one of the best exhibitors; tell me all you know." A wide grin immediately spread across Jeff's face, and he invited us to eat breakfast with the group that morning. I mercilessly picked Jeff's brains, and he was very generous and gracious in sharing his knowledge with me. Ever since then I've been going to breakfast with our group of Southern California exhibitors, and they all continue to share their vast knowledge of exhibiting with me and others.

These breakfasts are not only for the elite group of top rose exhibitors. All levels of exhibitors are welcome to attend. Many novices are continually brought into the fold. Get yourself invited. Pick their brains. You must be proactive in this regard. You have to show an interest.

Mentor Rose Exhibitors are very generous with sharing their time and expertise with you, but please don't violate their "Sacred Hour." This is the last hour of prep time at a rose show. Things get extremely hectic during that last hour when the exhibitors are rushing around, trying to prep and enter all their own roses in the rose show. At a national or district rose show, where there are many challenge classes to enter, this last hour is even more stressful and important for the exhibitor. Respect the Mentor Rose Exhibitor by not bombarding them with a million questions during prep time, and especially during the last hour. Reserve most of your questions for the exhibitor breakfast or other forms of communication before or after show day.

Virtually all of the Mentor Rose Exhibitors in Southern California have opened their private gardens to rose garden tours or personalized one-on-one visits. They love showing off their beautiful roses and letting people see how they are grown. They willingly answer hundreds of questions about what kind of fertilizer, mulches, and spray materials they use. All their plants are clearly labeled so that visitors will get to know the top exhibition roses.

If you're going to ask questions of a Mentor Rose Exhibitor, be prepared for brutal honesty. I don't know how many times I was told, "Get rid of those dogs!" before I dutifully dumped King's Ransom, Tiffany, Queen Elizabeth and many others. Instead, I planted "exhibition" roses as I was advised. As a novice, I had a pretty bloom of Keepsake on a very long 3-foot stem that towered over me as I walked it to the entry table. Another rose exhibitor grabbed the vase from me and shoved the rose stem down into the vase, saying it was "way too tall." I went back to my prep table and cut the stem much shorter. My Keepsake won a blue ribbon that day, and even got on the Court of Honor. Listen to what Mentor Rose Exhibitors have to say. Sometimes take it with a grain of salt. But, don't take it as a personal insult. Mentor Exhibitors just want to help you.

Mentor Rose Exhibitors set good examples. Most are also Consulting Rosarians. Some write articles, some speak at rose society meetings, most open their gardens to you, and others will talk to you one-on-one. The majority of top exhibitors in Southern California are Mentor Exhibitors who love to share their knowledge. Get to know the Mentor Exhibitors in your area!

© Copyright Kitty Belendez. All rights reserved.

This article was originally published in "Rose Exhibitors' Forum,' Kitty Belendez, Editor.

Photos © Copyright by Kitty Belendez

For questions about Santa Clarita Valley Rose Society, contact:
Kitty Belendez


Updated January 3, 2016

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