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History of the Redwood Empire Rose Society

Organized 1965
Written by Barbara Shula

In the early 1960’s Commander Harry E. Stebbings, fresh from sea duty, encountered his first rose bush. Actually, there were 21 bushes and they came with a house he purchased in San Mateo, California. Not having the opportunity to grow roses at sea, he sought the expertise of the San Mateo County Rose Society to educate himself on the care and feeding of roses. After two of the members visited his home and identified the varieties as well as provided advice on nurturing them, he became an active member in the society and an ARS horticulture judge. When he completed his tour of duty at Treasure Island, Captain Stebbings moved to Santa Rosa.

His new home did not come with roses but he was quick to remedy that. Santa Rosa did not have a rose society but with the collaboration of Dr. Dennison Morey, he also remedied that. The first meeting of the Redwood Empire Rose Society was on September 23, 1965 at Harry Stebbings’ home. An ARS officer from San Diego attended. As of March 2004, Dr. Morey is the only surviving member who attended that original meeting. Since that inaugural meeting, RERS has met on the third Thursday of the month. Starting in January of 1966 the meetings have been held at the Luther Burbank Art and Garden Center.

The RERS has been very active in the Santa Rosa community. Each year the Spring Rose Show is attended by many non-members. The City of Santa Rosa sponsors a public Bloom Contest in conjunction with the annual Rose Parade. The Bloom Contest is coordinated by RERS members and the winner is given a membership to RERS. Until 2003, the RERS has entered in the House of Flowers Garden Contest at the Sonoma County Fair. We are planning to reestablish this activity as our membership numbers are improved.

Twenty six rosarians have served as President of RERS. Many are distinguished contributors to ARS and the Sonoma County community. Our first President was Capt. Harry Stebbings.


Last updated: 3/7/09
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