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Review

I recently had the pleasure of reading Aurelia C. Scott’s “Otherwise Normal People, Inside the Thorny World of Competitive Rose Gardening.” Ms. Scott has written for Cottage Living, Fine Gardening and the New York Times. As a hobby she also enjoys growing all types of plants including roses at her home in Maine.

“Otherwise Normal People” focuses on the craziness of competitive rose gardening. Aurelia Scott attended a variety of rose shows all over the country. Large competitive shows are discussed in the book as well as smaller, local shows. Attending rose shows naturally leads into the real lives of those who show roses. The book shows how they go about developing beautiful roses which will bring home the most coveted award of “Queen,” or at least another crystal bowl. Rose shows offer little financial reward but that doesn’t stop the high level, cut throat, and often hilarious competition. You’ll quickly learn that anything from rose sabotage to blatant plant switching can occur at a rose show!

Ms. Scott starts out by introducing us to a variety of show competitors at their homes. Everyone from ingenious Clarence Rhodes, who has invented or created every item he uses, to Jeff Stage a retired sheet metal mechanic who won “Queen” with a rose he planted because he heard they were easy to grow is interviewed by Aurelia Scott. After reading “Otherwise Normal People,” you’ll see that rose show competitors come from all age groups and walks of life. However, they all have one thing in common; they’re willing to create bazaar contraptions to place over their most gorgeous roses, protecting them but ruining the beauty of their yard. Rose shows are all about the blooms once they get to the show, how a rose looks in the garden doesn’t make a difference. You can have a gorgeous yard full of roses and still not win if you don’t know how to properly grow, then buff the leaves and swirl the petals of your rose just so.

Once the competitive rose show section of the book climaxes with the conclusion of the ARS Spring National Rose Show in San Diego, CA, Aurelia Scott delves into Old World Roses. This final section of “Otherwise Normal People” starts out at the annual Celebration of Old Roses. Rather than a competition this yearly show is focused on bringing lovers of old roses together and helps growers locate or indentify their treasured finds. You’ll laugh out loud as women stuff cuttings of antique roses in their handbag at the Heritage Rose Garden in San Jose, CA. As well as a woman who pretends to be relieving herself alongside a road at night so she can quickly dig up an Old Rose in the gaps between passing car headlights! The stories of individuals traveling all over the United States to save Old Roses are truly inspiring. It’s enough to make you want to select some varieties on-line or search and old abandoned graveyard for cuttings yourself.

Whether you’re looking for a book that will inform you about rose shows, give you rose gardening tips, help you get involved with Old Roses or just plain make you laugh, “Otherwise Normal People” will cover all those things. If your family has been complaining that you’re a little plant crazy reading them a few paragraphs from “Otherwise Normal People” should cause them to re-categorize you as not totally nutty, at least not just yet. Who couldn’t use a good natured laugh while learning more about the world of rose gardening as the same time?

If you would like to see the book at Amazon.com click on this link:
Otherwise Normal People: Inside the Thorny World of Competitive Rose Gardening

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