Jace Hiers is wise beyond his 14 years, particularly when it comes to his appreciation and cultivation of what is widely known as America’s favorite flower.
His promotion of the culture of the rose among youth and adults helped the Orangeburg Preparatory School student snag a Rising Star Award from the American Rose Society during the National Fall Convention held earlier this year in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
Jace said the award represents his efforts to change the way the rose is perceived.
“The award is really for people who are making a change in the world of the rose. My dad really helped me grow up with roses, and I didn’t think children my age really understood how cool they really were,” he said.
There's much to learn about the propagation, hybridization, classification and chemistry of the rose, but Jace hasn't tackled everything at once. He has taken incremental steps in helping youth understand the value of roses beyond their aesthetic beauty.
“I really wanted to help bring youth to the roses. So I took the initiative to work hard and I got this award, which is for people who are really helping change the way the roses are looked at,” he said.
He created an app that he said helps describe the rose in a different way than in the past.
“I took a STEM class at Clark Middle School about two or three summers ago. They taught you how to make an app. I used the computer software called MIT App Inventor to start making an application to really describe the rose in a more modern way," Jace said.
“It’s still in development because there are a lot of roses. It’s a long process, but I really enjoy doing it. It’s a lot of fun. I love technology, and since I grew up working with roses with my dad, those two things combined just makes it a lot more fun,” he said.
Jace is the son of Jay and Pam Hiers of Ehrhardt. Jay, who has served as Orangeburg’s superintendent of parks for more than 17 years, is proud that his son has developed the same interest in roses that he has.
“I’m about as proud as any parent could be, especially since his award is a national award. Some of the people that he was nominated with are actually international award-winning rose hybridizers whose roses we grow in the rose garden in Orangeburg. He had heard me talk about these people,” Jay said.
Jace said his father has been instrumental in helping him cultivate his own appreciation of roses.
“Ever since I’ve been born, my dad has always had this rose garden that basically envelops the house. I started off just being out there watching him and trying to copy what he did. And I say I got promoted to taking the water hose and trying to get the mole holes out of the rose bed to make sure they didn’t’ mess up my dad’s roses,” Jace said, laughing.
“That was a sure job for me. I was determined I was going to keep them out of my roses. Then I slowly made my way up to pruning. Then my dad would occasionally let me pot some of them and put them in the ground. But my dad is very sensitive when it comes to that, so it’s a rare opportunity,” he said, smiling.
Jay said, “He sort of grew into it naturally because not only do I grow roses at work, but I grow them at home. So when he was able to handle a water hose, he could water a rose all day long.”
Jace began participating in rose shows at the early age of 5.
At the Augusta Rose Society Rose Show, 5-year-old Jace’s "Ruby Baby" won Novice Queen. He received a blue ribbon and a crystal pitcher for that award-winning entry.
He has spent time at the Orangeburg Festival of Roses signing up people to join the ARS, helping new rose growers find a new rose that they can grow and be proud of, along with helping children pick out and plant roses to take home with them.
Jace has also graced the front of the ARS’ brochure for its Kids N’ Roses program, which teaches kids how to grow a love for roses.
At age 12, he was asked to speak in New York during a program put on by GrowNYC on how to get youth interested in growing roses. GrowNYC provides free tools and services anyone can use in order to improve the environment of New York City, along with environmental programs that transform the local communities there.
By age 13, Jace was selected by the ARS as its Youth Ambassador to China, where he got to meet renowned rose leaders from other countries.
Pam said, “We were there for 10 days. The Chinese officials started off saying he was the future president of the American Rose Society. By the time we left, they were saying he was the future president of the United States.”
She said she and her husband are proud of Jace and his accomplishments.
“He has just become an ambassador for the roses. The way that he is able to connect with people of all ages all over the world and country is just amazing. I see a bright future in store for him,” Pam said.
Jace said while he appreciates the fact that people compare him to his father and expect him to follow in his footsteps in terms of developing a career, he has other interests, too.
“I hear that a lot, but I can see myself raising roses as a hobby. I’m really into technology, but I’m also into sports. I could see myself either entering the cybersecurity field or becoming an entertainment lawyer. But roses would be in the back of my mind,” he said, smiling.
Jace is a lot busier now that he’s gotten older, but he occasionally dabbles in the cultivation of his own roses.
“It’s gotten a lot busier, but it’s really fun to just go back out there and see the roses that I’ve planted whenever I was younger and just trying to make sure that they’re doing as best as they can. It just brings back a lot of really good memories,” he said.
Jay said his goal is to get more local youth interested in growing roses, including with the future development of a species garden.
“We’re working on getting the Chinese species garden planted. This is some of the true seed roses that were brought over from China. Europe is given a lot of credit for a lot of the modern roses, but it’s because those Chinese roses were actually taken from China and brought over for seed and for pollen,” he said.
He said the ARS will hopefully garner more interest among youth, particularly since that will be the major key in its survival.
“Right now, it’s the oldest horticultural society dedicated to one flower. It’s actually celebrating 125 years this year, and for it to be successful in the future, it’s going to need the younger folk to get interested in it,” Jay said.
He said growing roses doesn’t have to require a chemistry book.
“Roses are not as difficult as we’ve made them out to be. You can put a little or a lot into growing roses and still get results," he said. "Some people are satisfied with a few blooms in a quart jar; others want to put them on a show table and win blue ribbons with them. It just depends on how far you want to go into it."