A love affair with roses

    by Don Bingham 

    It has been a journey of 18 years for Don and Paula Adlong — a world-class love affair with each other and with roses! 

It all began in 1963 with Paula’s first rose garden. Growing roses had been a family tradition, passed down from parents, and it has evolved into an amazing array of 450 rose bushes of 200 different varieties in the Adlong Rose Garden in Conway.


The Adlongs live on a tree-covered hillside that Don says “grows rocks better than anything,” and their gardens require hauling in all the elements required to build the award-winning rose beds. Though Paula began the journey, Don joined in 1997. Paula credits Don for straightening out the rows and rows of pathways through the wonderland of blooming roses.


Both have served the Central Arkansas Rose Society in numerous capacities, including president. Don and Paula serve as editors of THE ROSE MITE, the society’s newsletter. The two have authored articles for numerous periodicals, spoken at Master Gardener meetings and traveled extensively as judges for rose shows and conventions, including Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska Alabama, Louisiana and Missouri.


The top award for a winning rose is the “Queen of Show” — the Adlongs have won this award too many times to count! The McFarland Trophy plaque hangs among their many award certificates — this is the national award they won in 2002. They have taken four District McFarland Trophies. 


They work as a team with Paula handling most of the grooming, and Don puts together the challenge classes. Even though their first love is exhibiting, they have an extensive interest in all aspects of growing roses and sharing their garden with anyone wishing for a tour.


The technical term for Paula is Master Rosarian (Rose Judge) — both husband and wife are “Consulting Rosarians” and are both members of the National Rose Society, which features 10,000 members.


They have hybridized many roses and named one after Paula — “Hey, Paula” is a prize-winning blend of yellow and pink colors. And there’s also the “Southern Breeze,” a mauve colored “Queen” winner. It’s only one rose from the 60 to 70 “Queen” winning roses the Adlongs have produced over the years.


“We have made numerous friends through the years and keep in touch with many of them on a weekly basis,” Don said. 


Paula added, “We have a prayer chain — and word goes out for a need from our friends and each need is lifted in prayer.”


One of the secrets for the trophy roses is in the grooming — timing is everything. Weather, insects, when to cut a rose bloom — all the factors will influence the delicate production of such champion roses.


Chrysal preservatives are often added for anti-bacterial growth and food nutrients. This is often necessary for the 70-plus bouquets Don and Paula will distribute during any given season. May, June and October are the peak times to come stroll through this wonderland of sights and aromas. The roses will repeat blooms every five to six weeks.


As pleasurable as the rose-growing process is, their greatest delight is in distributing the bouquets to businesses, doctor’s offices, shut-ins and even for an occasional wedding. 


From a small plot of ground in a vegetable garden with less than 10 hybrid tea bushes in 1988 to one of the South’s largest rose bush garden wonders, the Adlongs know roses! Grandson, Justin, has now taken up the mantle and has joined the future generation of rose experts. The tradition continues.