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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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In the Garden: Renowned hybridizer works to make roses easy, even in cooler climates

Is there any flower more beloved than the rose? While other flowers have appealing attributes, roses have the whole package: beautiful blossoms over a long season, heavenly scents, ease of care, and so many different types with attractive growth habits.

On June 22, roses will be in the spotlight for the Spokane Rose Society’s 72nd annual rose show. Located at CenterPlace in Spokane Valley, the show’s featured afternoon speaker will be renowned rose hybridizer Ping Lim.

Originally from southern Laos, Lim has had a long association with this magical flower.

“At the age of 10, I first saw roses during a family vacation to a French resort in Paksong plateau,” he recalled during a recent phone interview. “At that moment, I was overwhelmed with their beauty. Their intoxicating fragrance soon had me fantasizing about becoming a rose grower.”

After graduating from Taiwan University with a horticulture degree, Lim immigrated to the United States in 1981. He was a rose breeder assistant at DeVor Nurseries in Pleasanton, California, and later hired by Bailey Nurseries near Portland where he worked as rose research director from 1992 to 2008. He is now employed by Altman Plants in Vista, California, as ornamental plant research director.

Roses have had a reputation in the past for being difficult to grow. Lim’s main goal with his rose-breeding work has been to make them easy to care for.

“There are more than 26,000 roses available commercially today in a huge spectrum of form and color,” he explained. “It made no sense to me to create or duplicate another color but instead produce healthy roses that can be grown without using chemicals.”

Lim has created more than 49 different cultivars of roses over the years, in a process that takes an average of 10 years. Many of them have received prestigious awards.

All of his roses grow on their own root, meaning they are not grafted. This should be of interest to gardeners in temperate climates since graft unions can be susceptible to winter kill. Lim’s roses are hardy down to USDA zones 4 and 5. He has even developed an own-root tree rose – something Inland Northwest gardeners haven’t been able to include in their landscapes. It’s aptly named Polar Joy.

According to Carol Newcomb, owner of Northland Rosarium, “Ping’s roses are healthy and hardy, and they are season-long bloomers. We have planted his complete collection, which will be blooming at the time of the show.”

In addition to attending Lim’s talk, you can admire the beautiful roses entered into the show from noon to 4 p.m. You might even want to show your own roses.

“We encourage all people to bring roses to the show,” Master Rosarian Lynn Schafer explained. “We will help them enter their roses. They don’t have to be members of the rose society, as we have classes for non-members and novices.”

For his talk, Lim will discuss his research efforts to produce environmentally friendly roses.

“My goal has been to develop roses that can contribute to a better planet: roses that are pesticide-free, disease-resistant, robust in variable climates and, of course, have uncompromised beauty and fragrance.”

Susan Mulvihill is co-author, with Pat Munts, of “Northwest Gardener’s Handbook.” Contact her at Watch this week’s “Everyone Can Grow a Garden” video on

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