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Meet the Gardener: This rose expert puts petals to the mettle

By: Gloria Young, Home & Garden
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Consulting rosarian Dave Coop knows a lot about roses, but it all started by chance. “My wife and I had built a retirement home in Auburn and I had bought a couple of roses to plant,” he said recently. “The same week, I saw a notice for the Gold Country Rose Society and thought I needed to find out how to grow these correctly.” That was in 1990. Coop, now a Rocklin resident, is vice president of the Gold Country Rose Society this year. He’s also active in the Sacramento Rose Society. In addition, he’s an accredited rose show judge. At home, he tends about 150 rose plants. “Many of them are miniature roses,” he said. “Even though they are called miniature, it is just the bloom. Some of the plants are the same size as tea roses.” He enjoys them all, but one stands out above the rest. “My favorite rose is called French Lace,” he said. “It is a white floribunda.” He explained that floribunda is larger than miniature, but smaller than a hybrid tea rose. When he has the time, Coop can easily spend half the day gardening. But right now, he’s working in the Placer County Elections office so he has cut his gardening time back to a half hour to 45 minutes, he said. But backyard tasks are just one part of his involvement with roses. As an accredited consulting rosarian, he must have a working knowledge of many aspects of cultivating the flower. “You have to study all the different diseases and growing habits of different styles of roses and then take an exam,” he explained. The most common problem he finds is watering. “They’re watering either too much or too little,” he said. “It’s not easy to determine what is too much or too little. If the roses are not getting enough, the leaves will start losing their shine. Too much, and the leaves start turning yellow.” Besides dispensing advice and using his expertise to judge show roses, he also enters his own flowers in competition. In fact, he won two awards at the recent Sacramento Rose Show. “One was for a small red miniature called Ain’t Misbehavin’ and the other was an arrangement award in the oriental arrangement category,” he said. Coop has a ready answer for those who’d like to try their hand at growing roses. “Some roses have more diseases and pest resistance than others,” he said. “They can find out which ones those are by attending a Rose Society meeting.” The society meets once a month on the second Tuesday in the Rose Room at Auburn City Hall, 1225 Lincoln Way. Rose expert Dorothy Lewis, who has been a buyer for Eisley Nursery for about 16 years, keeps track of what’s new in blooms. “This year, the new All American ones are Dream Come True and Mardi Gras,” she said. “They’re both pink and yellow blends.” They’ve proven to be good sellers, but are unscented. If you’re looking for a rose with a nice fragrance, she recommends this year’s Falling in Love, a light pink blossom. “It’s a hybrid tea rose,” she said. “It’s been a very big seller. In fact I ran out and had to get some from another source.” The best time to plant roses is in the winter. But they can be planted now, too. “We use a pulp pot so you can plant right in the pot,” Lewis said. “Just sink it right into the ground and they don’t know they’ve been replanted. We do that so you can plant in the hot months of July and August and not disturb the blooms.” Coop tries to add a few new roses to his landscape each year. “As a judge, I have to try and grow some of them so I know what their growing habits are and what the blooms are when I judge other shows,” he explained. What is his favorite part of growing roses? “Displaying them and sharing them,” he said. Long before roses captured his interest, gardening was something he knew well. “My family grew vegetables and flowers and cut flowers and took them to people in hospitals and what have you,” he said. “I grew up around growing things. My father had 22 acres of almonds in Oakdale during one period of my life.”