Inside the Rosarians Garden – Questions for the Candidates

Inside the Rosarians Garden Blog, April 26 2015

By Robert B. Martin Jr.

Introduction: The following questions were asked by the writers of the Bolg, Inside the Rosarians Garden, and posted on their site on April 26, 2015 I personally prepared and submitted the answers below. If you have any questions or comments on the answers, please feel free to email me.

About the person.

1. How did you and your wife meet? What was her first impression of you?

Dona and I met through our mutual love of roses. Dona and a friend from Arizona visited the Los Angeles Rose Society show in October 1994, were we were introduced. In 1995, we had both become regulars in the AOL Sunday night chat room, “RoseyLou” where we began to communicate by Instant Message about showing roses. Later, in 2000 I asked her to become a member of the ARS National Horticultural Exhibitors’ Committee, of which I was chairman. Dona remembers me as “That Bob Martin guy” who knew roses.

2. Do you have any pets?

No. Dona had a Shi Tsu, “Sammy” when we were first married, and I had a succession of dogs and cats prior to our marriage, including my faithful Sheltie, “Sherlock”, who lived more than 15 years, and my cat, “Sterling” aka “The Verminator” who was with me for too short a time. We now live in an area populated by coyotes, which is not pet friendly and we have grandchildren that are allergic to cats.

3. How did you get into roses?

During high school, I had a weekend job selling flowers on the street corner, and occasionally we had roses to sell. My favorite flower was the rose and I showed an early aptitude for making the bouquets that we sold. Later, in 1971, I bought a new house in Irvine, California that came with no landscaping. While meeting with the landscaper, my then wife said, “I’ve always wanted a rose garden.” I said I liked roses and used to sell them on a street corner, so the landscaper drew in a rose garden and planted it. Later in 1972, a company I served on the board acquired a rose growing business. That exposed me to the industry side of roses, which lead to membership in the ARS that same year and with bushes in the garden that needed my attention, my interest in roses began to grow.

4. What’s your favorite rose?

‘Dona Martin’ – of course.

5. Who do you consider your biggest influence(s) in the rose world?

Jeff Stage, the San Diego exhibitor and 2004 ARS Hedrick Award winner, an award I was pleased to receive myself in 2007. In 1989, when the time had come when I decided I wanted to be a serious exhibitor, I had the good fortune to find myself at dinner with a group of exhibitors at our district convention. Seated next to me was Jeff Stage. That evening I nearly overwhelmed him with questions, each of which he patiently answered. There he told me: “Bob – you know how to grow roses but in order to be an exhibitor you have to do the things you know regularly and faithfully.” Another time, he told me “Roses are like cats – you have to get to know their personalities in order to get them to do what you want.” I recount portions of his further advice and assistance in my book, “Showing Good Roses.” Years later I dedicated my parody of the Kenny Rogers song, “The Gambler” in his honor – titled ‘The Groomer”, it is on both of my websites.

6. What other activities do you enjoy?

Dona and I are active in the Mormon Church, and I have recently concluded a two-year calling as the Ward Mission Leader. Previously, I served for several years as a Sunday School instructor, which I enjoyed. I also continue to enjoy the practice of tax law, now in my 45th year, helping people plan their estates and protect what they have earned. In my quiet times, I enjoy working puzzles such as acrostics, or playing solitaire or cribbage on my iPad. I also enjoy reading, including legal and mystery fiction, such as the Michael Connolly books and the Chet and Bernie Mystery Series by Spencer Quinn.

7. What are you good at? What are you not good at?

I am good at growing roses, the practice of law, solving puzzles and in getting important things done. I am not good at keeping my shoes shined – my father was always disappointed in that.

About the ARS Vice President Candidate

8. Why are you running for ARS vice president?

I am running for ARS vice president to continue to be of service to the Rose. I know roses. I have been growing roses for 43 years. To learn more about roses, and to share what I had learned, I joined the American Rose Society. For the last 34 years, I have devoted my attention to the service of the American Rose Society at the national, district and local levels. My record of service to the rose is substantial. I believe the American Rose Society needs an effective communicator and thoughtful leader as Vice President in order to continue to carry out its mission to promote the culture and appreciation of the rose. I am the best-qualified person to do that and therefore feel I am called to undertake that service.

9. For some time now, ARS membership has declined, what would you attribute to this decline in members?

I do not subscribe to the view that members have been deserting the ARS because of dissatisfaction with its policies. The truth is that we have long had an exceptional retention rate for members. But, what is happening – as we can see at nearly any local rose society meeting – is that we are losing members to the three “Ds”, which in our case are death, divorce and downsizing. And, we have not been replacing those members with new members.

In many respects, we are dealing with a problem that is not of our making and that affects non-profit volunteer community service organizations all across America. These problems were documented in Robert Putnam’s 2000 book, “Bowling Alone” where he presented evidence that Americans today belong to fewer organizations that meet, know our neighbors less, meet with friends less frequently, and even socialize with our families less often. Americans are not only bowling alone, we are also rose gardening alone. 

Rose gardening also been affected by the decline in home ownership, the rise of two income families with no time to garden, the trend to smaller homes with less space to garden, and the rise of other activities that compete for time, especially that of our young, including the internet, social media, cell phones and serial texting.

Still, there are reasons for optimism. Putnam’s most recent research shows a reversal in the trend and population demographics show an expected large increase in the percentage of older people as the baby boomers have begun to retire. The ARS continues to have a substantial and enviable base of loyal Consulting Rosarians, judges and other committed members who consistently renew. Gardening is the most popular hobby in America, people are staying at home more and the Rose continues to be the most beautiful and popular flower on the planet. I believe we should seek to take advantage of these encouraging trends rather than worry about why ARS membership has declined.

10. There are some members disenfranchised with ARS for various reason. For some it could probably be summed up in a paraphrase of JFK’s quote: “Ask not what ARS can do for you, ask what you can do for ARS.” How do you invigorate those current members?

We can invigorate members by seeking them out and letting them know we welcome their participation. We need to remove artificial impediments to service such as bylaw provisions that restrict leadership, or nominating practices that recycle the same leadership year after year. We need to emphasize that we are not a closed society and the Rose is a gift that has been generously given to every one of us. I believe firmly that it is not in the “getting” that we receive but in the giving. By giving to roses, we generously receive from them. So also with rose societies – we need to share our experience that the more we put into our local rose societies, and the American Rose Society, the more we will receive in return, in knowledge, joy and, most of all, in the friendship of the many people whose bond is a shared interest in the Rose.

11. How do you plan to increase membership?

To address this subject, I have proposed what I call a “Four by Four Platform” that I have posted at my campaign website, www.bobmartinarsp.com. There I suggest that we should try a little harder to do a little better to carry out our educational mission. Specifically I have proposed that we: (1) improve our delivery of educational content; (2) increase our support of local societies; (3) improve our consulting rosarian program; and (4) support our local rose shows. In each case, I present four specific ideas.

As an example of those ideas, I have proposed that ARS implement an initiative to “Make Every Member a Member.” I believe we should make all members of affiliated local rose societies affiliate members of the American Rose Society at no additional charge. An affiliate member would receive monthly electronic delivery of ARS & You, access to the MR 12 database, and access to the Members Only Section of the website, including the quarterly publications. They would also receive a printable card with reciprocal garden privileges and periodic emails promoting regular membership in the ARS. This will enable local rose societies to attract new members and give the ARS an email database to recruit such members into regular members.

12. How important is social media to ARS and reaching the younger generation about roses?

Social media such as Facebook and Twitter is fleeting. The news feed is fast moving, every one is talking, few are listening and a post or tweet goes off the bottom of the page in minutes. To be important in reaching any prospective member, social media must be linked to an effective website. The ARS website needs to be overhauled. It has had the same four boxes on the front page since June 2013. It is also exceptionally difficult to navigate. For example, I challenge a user to even find the calendar of events (and if you do to actually use the information there). At the same time, clicking on the largest box at the top center of the front page produces nothing. I served on the first ARS Online committee for six years (1995-2000) and have maintained my own website at www.roseshow.com for 14 years. I personally constructed and maintain my campaign website, www.bobmartinarsvp.com. I also have an active Facebook account both personally and for Rose Exhibitors’ Forum. On Twitter I am @RoseshowBob. I know how social media works and believe there is a wealth of volunteer talent within the ARS that could be tapped to improve our website and use of social media.

13. What’s your pitch to the younger generation to join ARS?

Roses are the most beautiful flower of all and symbolize love and commitment. Growing roses is an enjoyable activity that is superior to heavy athletic and physical exercise in its long-term health benefits. It is also far more productive in that you get beautiful roses to share with your spouse or loved one. Your local rose society and the American Rose Society will welcome you and will be pleased to send you a Consulting Rosarian who will show you how to grow roses successfully. I guarantee you that the return on your investment of time and energy will be a multiple of your effort. This is true not only in growing roses but also with rose societies, whether at the local, district or national level. The more you put into roses and rose societies, the more you will receive in return. Try it – you will like it a lot.

14. Do you think TV or media coverage would draw people to roses and exhibiting? For example the World Series of Poker’s popularity exploded once it was televised on ESPN.

It might draw some people to roses but it is hard to imagine that there would be a sufficiently large audience to attract sponsor interest in producing an exciting show on the unhurried process of growing and showing roses. Perhaps a better model would be something like the popular Antiques Road Show on PBS, maybe something like a garden road show or even a Rose Show Road Show. Here, I recall the documentary television series, Gardens of the World with Audrey Hepburn that aired on PBS in 1993. The first of the eight episodes of that series featured roses, and there was even a rose named after it. I suppose that had some success in increasing interest in gardening, but I do not recall that it had any particular effect on ARS membership.

15. Do you think ARS should start an outreach in schools?

The ARS already has a Kidz ‘n’ Roses Committee that has developed educational resources that are available on the ARS website (if you can find them). I’d like to see those materials made more accessible and would encourage the Committee to expand its outreach to schools. I also think we should expand our outreach to young people by encouraging service projects with roses, such as the Eagle Scout project undertaken by my stepson with Dona’s assistance. How about a merit badge for rose gardening? – I’ll bet scouts would love to have one showing a big red rose.

16. Photography has become an integral part to ARS in recent years at both the local and national levels. How do you tie in other arts or foundations (such as Trojan Victory or Pink Promise) to expand its reach?

‘Trojan Victory’ was named in connection with an alumni fund-raising campaign many years ago by my alma mater, the University of Southern California. ‘Pink Promise’ was chosen to represent the National Breast Cancer Foundation with a percentage of each plant sold given to benefit the foundation. These are worthwhile activities. However, I don’t see a relationship between these types of charitable promotions and rose photography. Maybe I am missing something, which I am not afraid to admit, because I am always willing to listen and learn.

In reference to rose photography, I was an early advocate of adding digital photography to our rose shows and in our national photography contest. Also, my wife Dona is recognized as one of the best rose photographers in the American Rose Society, and we have both judged photography at a national level. I still believe there remains more that we can do to promote photography such as featuring the winners on our website. It is also time to add a chapter to our judging manual to provide guidelines on how rose photographs are to be judged.

17. Where do national rose shows fit into the future of the ARS?

Rose shows matter and national rose shows matter most. In 2009 I was awarded the prestigious ARS Klima Medal for lifetime achievement in rose education. In connection with the award, I was invited to submit an essay on an educational topic. My essay, titled “The Educational Value of a Rose Show” was published in the March/April 2010 issue of the American Rose. A copy of that article is available on my campaign website, www.bobmartinarsvp.com, as well as my essay, “Support Our Local Rose Shows”.

In my Klima article I expressed my belief that the primary educational value of a rose show lies in the education of its participants, not just the exhibitors but all involved in the common effort of putting the show on. And, as an educational organization, the rose show is the most single important educational activity a rose society can undertake.

The ARS needs to do more to promote both national and local society rose shows. The exhibition of roses is virtually a taboo subject in the American Rose and very little space is given at our website to local rose shows. I believe we can and should do a lot better including making our website calendar of rose shows actually usable and by adding a calendar and advance notice at the ARS Facebook page. I also believe ARS should do more to publicize show results, by among other things actually providing a visible link to my website, www.roseshow.com, where such results have been voluntarily published for 14 years.

18. As with any organization, ARS members have a diverse background, and come from all social and economic classes. How will ARS address the cost to include all current and future members in ARS and at ARS events?  (Some costs will prevent prospective and current members from joining or attending events.)

Most ARS events, including national and district conventions, are sponsored by local rose societies that come forward as volunteers to undertake the event. Most recently I was actively involved with the San Diego Rose Society in the planning of the ARS national convention in San Diego in May 2014, where I served as program chairman. We were very sensitive to costs and had success at pricing the convention venue and events at the lowest cost possible. Hotels and travel, particularly by air, are however expensive and getting more so. It is difficult to find societies to sponsor such events and make the financial commitments that are necessary to reserve space. I have seen no evidence of indifference to cost by societies that volunteer their service and I believe ARS should welcome their efforts and avoid second-guessing their decisions on how to price their events.

19. The world is going greener and this movement is in the forefront of the ARS. What are your personal feelings on spraying and where does this fit in the future of ARS?

The American Rose Society “exists to promote the culture and appreciation of the rose, through education and research, to members, to local rose societies and their members, and to the public.” That is the mission statement of the American Rose Society. Our purpose is to educate people on how to grow roses, and growing good roses requires that they be sprayed periodically to prevent fungus diseases and to control pests as they appear. In my opinion, there is nothing more “green” than healthy rose foliage.

With respect to the future of the ARS, people are not going to join the ARS in order to learn how to take care of roses they bought because they were told those roses do not require any care. The ‘Knock Out’ rose has been the best selling rose in America and has sold a reported 80 million roses. It was introduced in 2000 at a time when ARS membership was in excess of 20,000. Since the introduction of ‘Knock Out’, ARS membership has declined steadily to the current 8,000. That may be a coincidence, but it is clear that the introduction of the easy care ‘Knock Out’ rose has done nothing to promote or increase membership in the ARS. It is also reported that the rose industry currently sells about 47 million plants a year. If every member of the ARS bought 60 rose plants a year, ARS members would still account for less than one-half of one percent of sales. The rose industry knows these things, which is why few in the industry belong to the ARS, and fewer even much care what we do. I support the rose industry because I love roses and want to buy and report on the good ones that are introduced. At the same time, I recognize the reality that ARS support of the rose industry means little to their objective of selling millions of roses to people who are never going to join the ARS.

The truth is that roses require more care than many other landscape plants. At the same time, roses are the most beautiful flower that you can grow and as an educational organization, ARS and our local societies exist to educate gardeners on how they can successfully grow roses that look to them like roses, as well as revealing to them the huge universe of beautiful roses of all types, including the old garden roses and unfamiliar classed such as polyanthas and hybrid musks. We need to talk about the rewards of growing roses. And, we need to deliver the message that even though the Rose does require care, the good news is that not only are roses green but there is actually a ‘Green Rose’. 

20. When your term as president is over, what lasting impression do you want to leave?

I would like to leave the impression that I encouraged many people to join and be of service to the ARS, taught many people how to grow better roses, and brought joy to people by sharing the roses Dona and I grow. I would also like to leave the impression that I am still alive, continuing to be of service to the Rose. Here I draw as my model, our President Emeritus Dr. Jim Hering, who has continued to faithfully serve the ARS long after his term as President. I plan to do the same until I am called home, where I am hopeful that I will have a rose garden to tend eventually with Dona, my eternal companion