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Stopping to smell the roses

Since 1973, Bill Shull has been devoted to his rose bushes. The former farmer loves the beauty of roses and the joy of growing them. The flowers also offer another kick.
“I like the competition,” Bill said.
Bill and his wife, Sasis, have entered their roses in competitions for nearly 25 years.
“I really didn’t care about roses until we won our first blue ribbon,” said Sasis. “Then they became my roses.”
The couple has competed in the Lincoln County Rose Show, which will be held this Saturday, for over 20 years.
Rose growers from all over North and South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia will be meeting at the Lincoln Senior Center in Lincolnton for the competition.
The show will last from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m., with show roses going on sale at the end.
“You’ll see the best of the best,” said Sasis.
For rose lovers, the event offers a time to admire the flowers and meet people with similar interests.
Sasis and Bill expect to see a number of rose-growing buddies at the show. The couple’s hobby has created many friendships over the years, not just with fellow gardeners, but also with people who admire their handiwork.
Every week, someone who passes by their home on Huss Street in Lincolnton pauses to admire their hundreds of rose bushes.
“I’ve gained a lot of friends just from people stopping,” said Bill. “You can never get too many friends.”
The people often sit on the patio with the Shulls and discuss everything from illness to grandchildren.
That’s the point of roses, Bill says — to share them with others, whether it be on your front lawn, in nursing homes and churches or during competitions.
His wife wholeheartedly agrees. The couple has even taken their love of roses one step further. They are both official consultant rosearians, and they use their knowledge to help other gardeners.
“They’re not easy to grow,” Sasis says of roses. “If they were easy, everybody would grow them.”
That said, Sasis believes roses are easier to grow than most people think. You just have to follow some basic steps. First and foremost — choose a good bush.
“You can’t just choose any bush and make a show rose out of it,” Bill said.
You also have to make sure you place the bush in a good bed, and you give it the proper care.
Sasis’s biggest words of wisdom are: “Pay attention to them — go out and look at them everyday.”
Each year they couple has added on to their rose bushes, and each year Bill says “No more.”
“All the time he’s building a new bed,” Sasis said.
They currently have more than 400 bushes, but the couple, who will celebrate their 51st anniversary in October, plans to slow things down. Already, the competitive aspect of their rose growing has lessened.
“We have (gone to competitions) every week, but since we’ve gotten a little bit older, we’ve slacked up,” said Sasis.
Despite slowing the pace, their marriage remains strong and roses can take some of the credit.
“I don’t fish. I don’t hunt. I don’t play golf,” said Bill. “This is a hobby we can do together.”
Want to go? The Lincoln County Rose Show, sponsored by the Cleveland-Lincoln Rose Society, will take place Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Lincoln Senior Center located at 514 S. Academy St. The show is free and open to the public.

by Sarah Grano

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