Diane Sommers currently serves in the following positions with the American Rose Society. I had the pleasure of interviewing her for this post. She is also currently running for the position of vice president of the American Rose Society, an organization I whole-hardheartedly support and talk about a great deal in my posts. I often mention that I do not purchase a rose without my Handbook for Selecting Roses, A Supplement to American Rose Magazine. I hope you will enjoy getting to know Diane through this informal conversation I had with her and the wonderful pictures she so generously shared with us. Having grown up on the beautiful North Shore of Lake Michigan in Northern Illinois I have a lot of respect for any rose gardener that grows roses in northern climates.
Board Member/District Director (2007 – Current)
• Chair of Finance Committee( 2007 -Current)
• ARS Treasurer (2010 – Current)
• ARS Endowment Trust Trustee (2008 – Current)
• MET Endowment Trust Trustee (2011 – Current)
• ARS Strategic Planning Committee (2009- Current)
Q. Diane, When did you start growing roses and why?
A. My parents came from a background of farming, so I feel I was naturally drawn to gardening. I have a double major in chemistry and biology. I started my career as a medical technologist. My boss early in my career was a pathologist named Clara Hussey. Dr. Hussey was a deeply devoted gardener and would give us miniature roses every year. Clara also encouraged me to get involved with her local rose society and to show at their local society’s rose show. Once I learned how easy it was to grow roses and I didn’t kill them I just wanted to acquire more and different varieties of rose bushes. I love minis. I started exhibiting with minis and with some early success really became hooked on exhibiting at rose shows. Early on, there was much more focus on hybrid teas at the rose shows, and I felt I could be more successful showing miniature roses. Of course that has changed dramatically, and at least in my area, miniatures, floribundas and shrubs are quite popular at our rose shows. Over time, my interest in different varieties has evolved and I now grow a diverse variety of roses from OGR’s to mini’s and hybrid teas. I enjoy showing them all too.
Q. You are a Consulting Rosarian; can you explain what that entails?
A. Whether at the bank where I work as Director of Finance, at local rose society events, or in my neighborhood, people are always asking me questions about how to grow and take care of their roses. I am always willing to help people anyway I can in answering questions or just chatting about their gardens. I also do talks on roses at the local library and garden centers and promote growing and enjoying roses through those types of programs.
Q. You are also a Master Consulting Rosarian; can you tell us about how to become a Master Consulting and what it means to you?
A. I was nominated as a Master Consulting Rosarian by my local rose society after 10 years of service as a Consulting Rosarian. Becoming a Master Consulting Rosarian was a nice way to be recognized for something I do naturally and enjoy – sharing my knowledge about growing roses It is a very special hobby for me and if I can help others enjoy roses in any way that is just great!
Q. Consulting Rosarian and Master Consulting Rosarian are just two important credentials that you hold. What else is important to you as a rose gardener?
A. As a hobby, what stands out to me is the people and friendships I have made my way across the country because of my rose hobby. I enjoy working in my garden, learning new ways to grow better roses, and sharing ideas and experiences with others. I do enjoy helping others to grow roses. You know, it really isn’t that hard. If you do a few things right you can have great roses. I give a talk called “Simple Steps To Growing Great Roses.” To me, the three most important keys to growing great roses are:
1. Buy Quality Plants
2. Plant Proper Place (good soil & sunshine)
3. Water & Feed
Q. You also show roses. What is the most important thing you have learned from showing roses?
A. 1. Exhibitors grow good roses. So I’ve learned how to better feed my roses, make sure they get enough water, and select the best varieties for competition. In the past few years, I have begun to enter the design section and enjoy using a wide variety of roses in my arrangements!. I am a Type A personality and tend to be competitive. At rose shows I have met lots of very interesting, knowledgeable, fun, & competitive people who enjoy fun friendly competition. I enjoy the pre-show friendliness and all the fun I have at the show. I have also become a horticultural and arrangement judge . I learned to do arrangements so that I could continue to participate by entering arrangements in shows where I judged the horticulture section. I also feel rose show’s are a great educational opportunity for the public as the public is drawn to the rose show and we have a chance to help them with their own rose questions.
Q. I see that you created the library program for the Waukesha Rose Society. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?
A. Years ago, the Waukesha Rose Society sponsored two libraries, providing them with an annual ARS membership and asking to be able to put on a program on rose growing at the library. We found out that many libraries are looking for educational programs to provide to the community so it has worked well. The Greater Milwaukee Rose Society took the program further, and we now partner with several libraries. We pay for their annual American Rose Society memberships so the magazine is in the library and have also provided Modern Roses 2012. We still often present programs on rose growing at the libraries. The rose society has now taken this concept even further, and has developed a “speakers bureau” of consulting rosarians and others that volunteer to speak for local organizations. We have worked together on PowerPoint programs that are shared for presentation. These programs include how to care for roses as well as our members recommendations as to roses easy to grow in our area. I recommend that each rose society reach out and help the community this way – it can really be beneficial to all
Q. What is the most important thing you want to share with readers about yourself and your love of your rose hobby?
A.Those that know me would tell you that I am a very down to earth kind of person. I have been successful professionally and I am very passionate about roses. I have demonstrated my ability to leverage my financial skills and business acumen to drive improvement in the American Rose Society through my role as Treasurer and Chair of the Finance Committee. There is much more that needs to be done and I believe my unique set of skills and interests are just what the ARS needs from its future leader. We have real challenges in front of us. I have made a difference as the leader of our Finance Committee. I want to do more. Please give me that chance and vote for me for ARS Vice President.