Clyde Harriss and the Rowan Rose Society will showcase their best at Saturday’s annual Rose Show

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 17, 2015

By Elizabeth Roy

For the Salisbury Post

It’s the national flower of England, state flower of four U.S. states, and symbolizes love, compassion, beauty and romance in many languages and cultures. Even Venus and Aphrodite connected to the rose for its physical representation of love.

“The rose is the most beautiful flower there is, and there are so many different types,” says Sara Hill, president of the Rowan Rose Society and consulting rosarian.

In Sara’s Corbin Hills neighborhood, where she is known as “the rose lady,” her 50 rose plants are an irresistible draw for passers-by.

“I speak to a lot of my neighbors through the roses,” says Sara. “Neighbors ask to smell the roses, ask me questions about them. They enjoy walking past my house.”

And for Clyde Harriss, fellow member and past president of the Rowan Rose Society, roses — and a passion for horticulture — had the power to pull him all the way from New York City’s Wall Street back to his hometown of Salisbury.

After earning a master’s in business from Columbia University, Clyde worked in the trust department for a bank on Wall Street. He enjoyed the buzz of the big city, but after five years of the urban excitement, Clyde moved back to Salisbury and eventually opened Greendale Nursery in 1965, a business that he ran for 33 years until his retirement at age 68.

“It’s quite a turnaround from Wall Street in Manhattan to running a garden shop and nursery in a small town,” says Clyde, now 86. “I enjoyed both kinds of work, but I felt like the nursery was ultimately more satisfying to me.”

Clyde sold several thousand rose bushes each year at Greendale, but stayed so busy with business tasks that he never had time for a rose garden of his own until retirement.

Today at his home on Briggs Road, Clyde tends to the 150 rose plants around his property and in his rose garden — a secret garden of sorts, which he enters through an arbor enwrapped in climbing roses. Across the driveway is Clyde’s perennial garden, where purple foxglove and a variety of irises reflect in a garden pond.

“They’re all full of buds,” Clyde says of his rose bushes — tea roses, Louise Odier roses, miniature climbing roses, and a number of other kinds. “A couple of them are showing color, but it’ll be another week or so.”

And like those of other rose growers of the Carolinas, Clyde’s roses will bloom just in time for the Rowan Rose Society’s 56th annual Rose Show on May 23 and 24 at the West End Plaza. Clyde will keep busy doing everything from baking brownies the night before the show to working the event and providing refreshments for judges and participants, but he plans to make time to prepare and show several roses at the event.

Preparation of show roses entails cutting the selected flowers the afternoon before the show, then waking up early on the day of the show to prepare the roses — to make sure the foliage is clean and the petals are open just enough, and to gently remove any damaged petals, Clyde explains.

“There’s a little bit of grooming involved,” says Clyde. “The judge is looking for perfection.”

Prize-winning roses must be about a third of the way open and have firm substance to the petals, Clyde says. Foliage should appear shiny and healthy, and a rose’s stem should be in proportion to the rose.

The Rowan Rose Society anticipates 30 to 40 exhibitors this year, coming mainly from North and South Carolina. Exhibitors have from 6 to 10 a.m. to register and set up, with judging beginning at 10 a.m., and the show opening to the public for the remainder of the weekend at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

Sara and Clyde are two of the eight consulting rosarians in the rose society, with other members qualified as master gardeners. Some members have as many as 500 rose bushes, Sara says.

And Clyde is an inspiration to them all.

“Clyde is without a doubt one of the most fascinating people I have ever met,” says Jack Page, rose society member and co-owner of The Perfect Rose. “He’s a true fixture of the Rowan Rose Society. His contribution remains consistent and vital to our group.”

Members of the rose society meet at John Calvin Presbyterian Church on the third Tuesday of every month, eight months a year. In addition to sharing in their passion for roses, society members enjoy friendships and a variety of social events, Jack says.

“The members are so knowledgeable and willing to give of their time, to help other people grow roses,” says Sara.

“It’s just a love for growing roses.”


Want to go?

What: Rowan Rose Society’s 56th annual Rose Show

Where: West End Plaza, 1935 Jake Alexander Blvd. W.

When: Saturday and Sunday, 1 p.m.-5 p.m.

What else: The show will feature hundreds of rose blooms, including large flowered hybrid teas, new varieties, fragrant old roses and miniature roses. A special display will include award winners from each class, including Queen of the Show. Rose Society members
will be on hand to answer questions.

More info: For more on the show and the Rowan Rose Society visit the group’s website,

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