Merriam-Webster’s definition of a rose: any of a genus (Rosa of the family Rosaceae, the rose family) of usually prickly shrubs with pinnate leaves and showy flowers having five petals in the wild state but being often double or partly double under cultivation.
You can stop and smell them, things can come up like them and sometimes life isn’t a bed of them.
Roses are something pretty and perfect for that special occasion for most of us, but for members of the Huronia Rose Society, they are pretty much a way of life.
And have been for four decades.
“Today, our members come from all walks of life and have all types of gardens: large rose gardens in the country, rose gardens in urban backyards, roses on a patio and balcony or in a condo complex,” Michelle Lynch, one of the society’s directors, tells BarrieToday.
“The passion for growing roses may have begun when our members were children and they learned about roses from their parents or grandparents.”
And there’s just something about working with Mother Nature to create something beautiful.
“The passion could also begin when you grow your very first rose and the blooms captivate your imagination,” she adds.
Lynch says the Huronia Rose Society aims to encourage everyone to grow Ontario-grown roses that are hardy, disease-resistant and reliable.
“We love to share our knowledge about roses: how to grow roses, where to grow roses, what bugs might arrive in your garden and how to manage them on the roses,” she says.
“We have Huronia Rose Society Planting Guides that are given to everyone who buys a rose at our annual sale. We reply to all the rose questions that arrive in our email and we are happy to chat on the phone, too, with anyone who has a query.”
The group came together in 1980, according to society secretary Edna Caldwell, who provides a basic history.
“Forty-one years ago, a number of rose enthusiasts felt there was enough interest to call a public meeting of gardeners and rose lovers to determine if a club might be formed in the area,” she tells BarrieToday. “We reached out to all gardeners within the county and beyond its borders. The name Huronia Rose Society was specifically chosen to encourage membership in the greater Georgian Bay area.”
The club has met in a few different venues over the years.
“Initially the first Huronia Rose Society meeting was held in Barrie, then at the Simcoe County administration building; and then in some Ontario government meeting rooms at Midhurst.”
Next came the Barrie Public Library, other city meeting rooms and then (and currently) the Dorian Parker Centre in Sunnidale Park.
In 2000, the City of Barrie provided space for a garden that would hold the Millennium Memorial Rose Garden, consisting entirely of Canadian-developed roses. The Huronia Rose Society planted and continues to maintain this rose garden today at the Southshore Centre.
While the number of society members has tapered off a tad - in 1980 there were 69 members - they still get together (virtually, although that could be changing soon), have speakers on rose-related topics as well as occasional general gardening themes. Members can also take advantage of bulk orders of miniature and regular rose bushes.
“COVID has challenged us and now we are online and meet via Zoom and enjoy those speakers in the comfort of our own homes,” says Lynch. “Last year was the 40th anniversary of the Huronia Rose Society and we had a very modified celebration due to restrictions.
“But this year we are celebrating a 40 plus-one year anniversary with guest speakers and a look back at our history all online. We have planned a couple of garden parties/meetings and an outdoor rose show for all of our members and are making the best of things,” she adds.
“We are always happy to welcome new rose gardeners and hope they look us up online,” she says, adding that many years ago, rose growers south of Highway 7 didn’t think Simcoe County could produce a decent rose," said Lynch.
“The old adage ‘You can't grow roses north of Toronto’ was proven wrong by the many members of Huronia Rose Society who have enjoyed gardening with roses over the years,” says Lynch.