Inside the Biltmore International Rose Trials

The trials on the storied North Carolina estate provide breeders with critical data on new plant performance.

The Biltmore International Rose Trials provide an opportunity for all types of breeders – from novice to professional – to test their selections for two and a half years in a very public setting. The trials are sited at the Biltmore’s lavish and large rose garden, in complete view to the multitude of people who visit each year.

The Biltmore estate in Asheville, N.C., was home to George Vanderbilt and his family. The estate is steeped in horticulture tradition. It encompasses more than 8,000 acres including renowned gardens designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, known as the father of American landscape architecture. The Biltmore’s rose garden has been in continuous cultivation since 1895. It’s a dramatic backdrop to the trials, says Paul Zimmerman, an industry consultant, who helped launch the trials.

“Plant trials and experimentation were important to both Vanderbilt and Olmstead,” he explains. “It’s fitting that we continue that tradition with the rose trials.”

Paul wanted an international rose trial located on the East Coast, and one that was accessible to all.

“At the time, we had the All-America Roses Selections trials. It was industry driven and it was expensive to be a part of. It ended up being more for big breeders and nurseries,” he says. “With international trials, there’s generally no fee and it’s accessible to anyone. It gives newer breeders and even backyard breeders the chance to be on equal footing with the big breeders.”

Click here to read more about the Biltmore trials' methodology and see the 2016 winners.

Photo: Max Cooper Photography. Biltmore rose garden crew, from left to right: Aileen Black, John Smith, Paul Zimmerman, Jon Parker, Duane Bateman, Kaye DeBona, and Joan Glacken.

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