A Peek Inside My Grooming Kit
For Preparing Roses for the Rose Show

By Kitty Belendez

Oh, how I wish that roses came off the bush ready to win Queen. But, that rarely happens. We need to primp and groom them, much like Miss America. So, what do exhibitors do to make their rose blooms the best they can be? They have a grooming kit chock full of handy tools. And therein lies the secret to winning a trophy at the rose show.


First, find a lightweight container to hold all the necessities for grooming your roses. A plastic fishing tackle box is perfect. Not only is it lightweight, but plastic will not rust. It should have a handle and a few drawers. The kind I like the best is open on the top so that we can have easy access to our rose grooming tools. Plus, we have a drawer on the bottom for keeping a backup supply of entry tags, extra Q-tips, rubber bands, etc.

I have also seen rose exhibitors use all types of containers for their grooming kits: plastic bags, canvas bags, shoeboxes, you name it, whatever works for you.


For trimming off damaged foliage or rose petals. You will need a pair of straight-edge scissors, and a small pair of cuticle scissors for getting into tiny spaces. But the ultimate in rose exhibitor's scissors is the deckle-edge scissors which are great for trimming damaged rose foliage. It leaves a random edge on the foliage, so the judges will hardly notice that you have trimmed it.


For coaxing blooms into perfect spirals. I keep several types and sizes in my grooming box. The big make-up application brushes come in handy for brushing the backsides of petals, which will encourage tight petals to roll downward and therefore appear more open than they really are.


For single-petalled roses, tweezers are useful in removing the tiny petaloids which may be distracting. Tweezers are also useful for removing unsightly guard petals.


For trimming unwanted side growth. Sometimes you need to get in real close to remove some of the side growth.


Try to get some entry tags in advance, but most rose societies should furnish some at their rose shows. For local rose shows, you usually do not need to fill in the bottom portion of the tag, only the top portion. But, read the show schedule because you never know what each show will require. Put your name and address on the entry tags the night before each rose show. This is a tremendous time saver. You could also attach the rubber bands to the entry tags ahead of time.


For attaching the entry tags to the vase of your rose specimen. Many shows will furnish rubber bands, but I have been to some shows, including one district convention where the show committee forgot to supply rubber bands. So come prepared.


Get the self-stick labels so you can quickly press them onto the entry tags. You could also just write your name and address on the entry tags, but that would be too time-consuming. If you will be entering many roses at several rose shows each year, a rubber stamp is even better, and will cost about $15.00 which is far more economical than labels in the long run. I've had my current rubber stamp more than 5 years and it has held up through thousands of entry tags.


For writing the names of roses on the entry tags. Use blue or black only, and do not use felt tips or rollerballs because the ink will smear if the tags get wet. Never use green, red, or other distracting colors of ink.


Always get a rose show schedule in advance for each show. The night before a show, I like to take a colored marker and highlight the classes which I plan to enter.


For stripping off rose thorns when a big stem won't fit into a vase. You won't need to use this tool on many of your roses, but some roses, such as Pristine, Marilyn Monroe, and Falling in Love, have such humongous thorns that it would be otherwise difficult to push the rose stem into the vase without first removing the thorns.


There are two types of wedges. The Q-Tip type of wedge is used for wedging open the rose blooms The foam type of wedge is used for propping up the stem of a rose. Wedges can help make a rose stem stand up straight in the vase. The ultimate wedging material which has become very popular is green styrofoam. I like to use the silk flower foam which is not quite as rigid as the regular styrofoam. It works great, and distracts very little from the bloom. You can use aluminum foil, plastic wrap, rose stems, or whatever is allowed in the show schedule. Aluminum foil can be distracting, and plastic wrap can sometimes restrict the rose from getting a water supply.


These are great for helping to prop open tight blooms. Also useful for cleaning spots off the blooms. Keep a ziplock bag full of Q-tips in your grooming kit.


Another type of prop or wedge to help open tight rose blooms. Simply push them in between the petals of a tight rose bloom and leave them there for awhile. Be sure to remove them before entering your rose in the show.


A dishtowel is perfect for this. Great for wiping rose foliage and cleaning up spills. We also like to bring along old pieces of terrycloth towel, and a dishcloth. Dry Bounty paper towels are excellent for cleaning rose foliage.


Bring a copy of the ARS Handbook for Selecting Roses ($3.00 or free with ARS membership) or the ARS Official List of Approved Exhibition Names (about $10.00). If you can afford it, also bring the Combined Rose List (about $20.00) as it lists more roses than the other two reference books, and is usually more accurate and up-to-date. These books are helpful in making sure that you are entering your roses under the official exhibition names. Also, in the pressure of exhibiting it's helpful to look up the correct spelling of some roses, or the introduction date and types of old garden roses.


Make a list of all your roses. I keep mine on my computer and update the list several times a year. Then I bring my rose list to every show, with the roses marked which I have brought. It helps to stay organized. This also helps me to plan in advance which roses I will enter into which class at the rose shows.

Reprinted with permission from Rose Ecstasy, bulletin of the Santa Clarita Valley Rose Society.


© Copyright Kitty Belendez. All rights reserved.

Photos © Copyright by Kitty Belendez

Santa Clarita Valley Rose Society
Updated June 11, 2023

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