The Redneck Rosarian Runs for the Roses

Friends Drift Inn Special Series – Kentucky Derby Week

Thoroughbred Roses inspired by Kentucky Derby

I am no expert on roses; but I do not have to be when Chris VanCleave, twitter handle RedneckRosarian, is just a tweet away. President of the Birmingham Rose Society, Chris knows his roses. In fact roses are his passion! Visit his site The Redneck Rosarian to learn from the master. Giggles

Guest Post by Chris VanCleave aka “The Redneck Rosarian”

It’s the time of the year when the hats come on and the Kentucky Bourbon pours freely. Yes, friends, it’s Kentucky Derby Time!

Chris Van Cleave aka The Redneck Rosarian

Since its beginnings in 1875, the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs is the stuff that legends are made of. People come from around the globe to view the horses, fashion, enjoy the race as well as some good Kentucky bourbon. It is estimated that over 120,000 mint juleps will be consumed during the weekend. The mint julep is the official drink of the Derby.


This race is the destination of royalty, dignitaries and many a southern aristocrat all sporting the latest in haberdashery and haute couture. And then there are the roses.


The annual race culminates with the winner center stage crowned by a blanket of roses. In 1904, the red rose became the official flower for the derby and was solidified in 1925 when New York sports columnist Bill Corum coined the phrase “Run for the Roses”. Since that time roses have taken center stage along with the winner celebrating with millions the sweet smell of victory.

Many a thoroughbred and derby winner now has a rose named after them thanks to David Clemons, a hybridizer of roses in Grant, Alabama. His dedication to the Kentucky Derby and his love of roses has produced a beautiful collection of exhibition roses that are winning national acclaim.

His first introduction ‘Ruffian’ considered by many to be the greatest female race horse in history is honored with a beautiful pink miniflora rose.

Thoroughbred Rose "Ruffian" inspired by Kentucky Derby Winner Photo Credit David Clemons

Another introduction ‘Whirlaway’ named for the Triple Crown winner of 1941 is honored with a superb white miniflora.

Thoroughbred Rose Whirlaway developed by David Clemons

‘Unbridled’ the 1990 Kentucky Derby champion was the last to sire at least one winner of the American Triple crown: Grindstone (Kentucky Derby 1996), Red Bullet (Preakness Stakes, 2000) and Empire Maker (Belmont Stakes, 2003) is honored with an attention grabbing miniflora.

Thoroughbred Rose Unbridled developed by David Clemons

When I spoke to David about his Thoroughbred roses, he told me that just as the horses are groomed for excellence, so are his roses. It takes thousands of tries to create a rose worthy of a thoroughbred name.

So this year, as you sip your mint julep and enjoy “The Greatest Two Minutes in Sports,” consider the roses and how you can add a little bit of Kentucky Derby history to your own garden.

Learn more about the thoroughbred roses collection at Thoroughbredroses.

Visit Chris at The Redneck Rosarian for gardening adventures!
Check out Chris and his rose garden on YouTube

Thoroughbred Rose photo credits David Clemons.

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About Joyce Pinson

Joyce Friend Pinson is a regional farm-to-table columnist for the Appalachian-News Express. She is a local television host. Her column show and blog, Friends Drift Inn, explores food, gardening, and real life farm-to-table stories from the perspective of a baby boomer in Appalachia. Joyce has a background in agriculture, media, and small business. Joyce is an heirloom gardening addict and home canner. She has a penchant for big hats, pointy toed shoes, and bourbon. Along with her husband Charlie, Joyce really does live in a barn where they ballroom dance. And laugh. And cook. And giggle.