The American Rose Society (ARS) is the nation’s largest organization of rose hobbyists, with nearly four hundred chapters across the United States. Membership is open to anyone, and attending its meetings and rose shows is an excellent way to learn more about the roses that grow best in your area.
At ARS-sponsored shows you will be able to observe the color and form of rose flowers at their best, and ask questions of the ARS members on hand. You can be sure that any rose you see at an ARS show has been rigorously identified and labeled, which is not always the case at garden club or state fair shows. By noting which varieties have been entered, you can quickly determine which roses grow best in your area. At many shows you can also pick up nursery catalogs, pamphlets on rose culture, and sometimes rose plants themselves.
Local newspapers and radio stations often publicize upcoming rose shows. If this information is not available, the American Rose Society can tell you the locations of rose shows near you.
When you join the ARS you receive a number of worthwhile publications, including a monthly magazine and several annual directories. Perhaps the most useful of these is the Handbook for Selecting Roses, which lists all rose varieties that are available commercially in the United States. It is sent free to ARS members; nonmembers can purchase it for $3 from their web site. The booklet lists the classification of each rose, its color, awards it has won, and its official ARS rating—the latter a numerical index of performance compiled from nationwide surveys of ARS members.
Another directory published by the ARS is Modern Roses, considered the bible for serious rose growers. Updated every few years, it lists all roses currently in cultivation, along with roses of historical or botanical importance (even if they are no longer grown), and all roses registered with the ARS through the publication deadline. The alphabetical entries in Modern Roses provide a wealth of information about the flowering and growth habits of each rose, its parentage, hybridizer, color classification, year of introduction, and registration status with the ARS. Although the casual rose gardener may not need this level of detail, the book is essential to any serious grower, hybridizer, or exhibitor.