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History of the Sacramento Rose Society

Organized June 27, 1940
Written by Adena Kalal

The year was 1940, and the song in the air was As Time Goes By, and a group of Sacramento gardeners were stirring to form a new rose society. On January 9th they met to start a series of meetings which led to forming the Sacramento Rose Society. On June 27, 1940, 23 charter members signed the newly created Constitution, many remained active in the group for years. They met in a club house in William Land Park. Some of the first community activities included planting an Old Rose Garden at Land Park, near the then existing rose garden of 486 roses, with 35 named varieties and 12-16 species plants. At that same time, our famous McKinley Park Rose Garden had 944 roses of 152 varieties. Incidentally, AARS Rose selections also started in 1940, with Dickson's Red, Flash, The Chief, and World's Fair being the first selections.

The society's early years were influenced by wartime conditions, minutes were not read because of a possible blackout, garden tours were limited to nearby urban gardens because of gas rationing. Lack of rubber bands was blamed for 40% loss of budded stock per California Nurseryman A.W. Lloyd in his December 1943 program on budding. The first rose show was held in conjunction with an iris show, at an evening meeting in 1945, at the garden center next to the rose garden at McKinley Park. Local society dues in 1940 were $1, ARS dues set at $2.50.

Picnics in the summer, rummage sales, secret auctions, and fireworks booths were among the fund raising activities over the years. More recently, statuary and garden ornament sales, and auctions of bare root roses have increased the society treasury. Rose displays at many shopping malls and at the Old State Fair Grounds and the newer Cal Expo were put on as well as annual spring judged shows. Starting no later than 1944, Little Rose Shows were featured at monthly meetings.

The first District Conference was held in 1957 at the old Elks Temple in downtown Sacramento, each of the ten societies in the Northern California Rose District sent $20 to the host club to help put on the conference. The total cost of this first conference, organized by Mrs. Laura Sutter, was $708.39. The total expense of the Sacramento May 1957 Rose Show was $123. (My how times have changed!)

Many early program speakers were well known including Dr. Covell, an Oakland dentist who later became ARS President; Dr. Robbins, Botany Dept. Chair from Univ. Calif. Davis; Clyde Stocking of the Stocking Nursery in San Jose; Warren Marsh, noted landscape architect from Southern California; and Sean McCann who was the featured speaker in October 1979, at a judging school held in Sacramento.

The society became an affiliated member of ARS in 1960 and was welcomed by then District Director Martin J. Martin. Incorporation followed in 1964 after several years of member review. Name tags were prepared in 1961 to be worn by the members at meetings, with 68 members on the roll. A fine of 10 cents was levied for anyone not wearing his name tag!

Pruning Demonstrations for the public have been given each January since the earliest years, the McKinley Rose Garden is the site used, the garden is pruned by the members while a knowledgeable rosarian (many times a past president) presents the demonstration to the visitors. This year we had about 40 members out to help prune the 1400 roses, and completed the task by 2:30 in the afternoon.

More District Conferences were hosted: 1963, 1973, 1980, 1993. This coming fall will again see the gathering of our district rosarians in Sacramento to enjoy a Conference - Days of Wine and Roses, complete with well-known speakers and a District Rose Show plus a complete miniature rose show.

The rose garden at McKinley Park was overhauled and new beds planted in 1973 under the direction of Lou White. Over the years, the society has donated dozens of roses to this garden as well as to the Crocker Art Gallery grounds. Through the generosity of the late Wiley Molder, scores of miniature roses were added to McKinley Rose Garden.

Many events have been shared with our local sister societies, Sierra Foothills and Gold Country. The 100th Anniversary Celebration of ARS - a party in the McKinley Rose Garden and more recently the Sacramento Valley All-Miniature Rose Show was sponsored jointly for six years. The annual pruning at McKinley Park is also a combined effort of the three groups. The cooperation between members and exhibitors has been tremendously successful over the years.

Our society is made up of approximately 220 members, we held our 56th Annual Rose Show this year. We look forward to many more years of association with our rosarian friends while encouraging others to grow and enjoy our special flower - the ROSE.

Humor has always been a part of our leadership's skill - to wit: from a 1961 Rose Bulletin, written by then President Jack Bowers:

A Gardener's Prayer
O Lord, grant that in some way it may rain every day - say from about midnight to 3:00 a.m.,
but make it gentle and warm so that it will soak in. Grant, too, that the sun may shine the whole
day long, but not everywhere - for instance not too much on the Rhododendron, the Azalea, or the
Lily. Grant, too, that there may be plenty of dew, a little wind, enough worms and no plant lice, snails,
or mildew - and once a week let a thin liquid manure fall from heaven.


Last updated: 3/7/09
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