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Although New Zealand is now probably the most successful Rose growing country in the world for over a century, from Victorian times until the 1980s, the UKs National Rose Society (later Royal National Rose Society) was the world's most prestigious society devoted to one plant, and it numbered amongst its members some of the most obsessive exhibitors.
That great Victorian, S. Reynolds Hole, Dean of Rochester, was one of the chief instigators of the Royal National Rose Society. He was also was one of the most successful gardening writers.
His work A Book about Roses went into nineteen editions. The following anecdote from that book illustrates the obsessive nature of rose growers.
Dean Hole wrote
From a lady who lives near Nottingham, and goes much among the poorer classes, I heard a far more striking instance of this floral devotion than from the florists themselves.
While conversing with the wife of a mechanic during the coldest period of a recent winter, she observed that the parental bed appeared to be scantily and insufficiently clothed, and she inquired if there were no more blankets in the house.
'Yes, ma'am, we've another,' replied the housewife; ' but-' and here she paused.
But what?' said the lady.
'It is not at home, ma'am.'
Surely it'sd not in pawn?
'Oh dear no, ma'am; Tom has only just took it -just took it-'
'Well, Bessie, took it where?'
'Please, ma'am, he took it-took it- to keep the frost out of the greenhouse; and please, ma'am, we don't want it and we're quite hot in bed.'
Dean Hole comments
'These people ought to be presented with a golden warming-pan, set with brilliants, and filled with fifty-pound Bank of England notes.'
Roses, thanks to their affinity to smoke and soot, remained popular in the industrial regions of the UK for many years. Once the Clean Air Act came into force, however, roses succumbed to blackspot, lost their reputation as reliable plants, and are no longer the staple plant of town gardens.
With the rose in decline the National Rose Society hit hard times, and it looked as if if the UK would lose its unique treasure, the National Rose Gardens at St Albans. However the Royal Horticultural Society amongst others came to the rescue and the gardens at least for the time being, have been saved
Here is the official site for the RNRS