When you mention the City of Calgary to a Canadian, they probably don’t think of roses but perhaps they should! Our city has had a rose society since 1960 and fifty six years later we are still going strong. When the society first started the membership fee was $1.00 per year, milk cost 25 cents a quart, and Calgary’s population was just over 261,000. Things have changed since then, but not the enthusiasm of the society’s membership to promote rose growing in our city.
In January of 1960 the first meeting of the Calgary Rose Society was held with a membership of ten. P.J. Timms, pictured to the right, was the first President and held the office from 1960-1962. A well-known successful businessman, he had a passion for both cricket and gardening. He was a founding member of the St. John’s Cricket Club, which is still in existence and served as a President of the Calgary Horticultural Society. The Constitution of the Society was approved in 1963 and in March 1964 became incorporated under the Societies Act of Alberta.
The object of the rose society when first incorporated, was “to foster and promote camaraderie among amateur rose growers by stimulating interest and fostering improvement in all areas relating to roses.” Today the society still provides education, promotes fellowship among rose growers, and encourages competition at our annual rose show. During the first decades of existence the Society established many of its current traditions. Members participated in community events, created gardens, went on road trips, and enjoyed society activities.
From 1964 to 1998 the Calgary Rose Society took part in the annual Chinook Centre Charity Bazaar. The monies raised financed society activities but CRS did not forget the needs of the community. Donations were made to Cystic Fibrosis, Calgary Association for the Mentally Retarded, and the Cerebral Palsy Association to help fund their programs. In addition over the years we have donated to the Diabetic Association, the Calgary Correctional Institute and the Calgary Food Bank.
The Rose Society started three test gardens in the City of Calgary. One was located at the Glenmore Civic Nurseries at 14th Street and 75th Avenue SE. (Pictured below). A total of nine rose plots were planted in the joint city-society venture, designed to see which varieties were best for the area, which fertilizers helped most and what winter care was the most effective. Most of the rose bushes were donated by members and the City crews handled the majority of the plant care. Approximately 300 rose bushes representing 35 varieties were planted. The long-standing theory that roses would not grow in Calgary was soon dispelled.
A second garden was located in the vicinity of the lower Reader Rock Gardens just north east of the City greenhouses at 25th Avenue and Macleod Trail S.E. This area was redeveloped when the LRT was built in the early 1980’s.
The third test garden was created in 1967 in Confederation Park as a centennial project for the society. The rose chosen was “Miss Canada” and over 50 bushes were planted. Sadly none of the test gardens exist today.
Over the years the society has participated in three community gardens. A rose bed was planted at the old Alberta Children’s Hospital (now Richmond Road Diagnostic & Treatment Centre) in 1978. That rose bed was maintained by our members right up to 2007 when the new Alberta Children’s Hospital was opened. A second garden was created in 1978 at the Cross House, and a third at the Calgary Zoo in 1992.
Christmas parties were held on an annual basis from the 1960’s through to 1995. The first one was held at the Stampeder Hotel and continued at various venues around the city. In 1996 the society changed the event to a January brunch. For many years this has been held at the Glenmore Inn and is well attended by members. It gives everyone an opportunity to strengthen existing friendships and made new ones. Of course everyone likes to talk roses and share their plans for the coming summer.
From the first days of the Calgary Rose Society members participated in the CHS Annual Garden Show that was usually held in August. Many members won ribbons in the rose classes. As the years went by CHS changed its focus and discontinued the summer Annual Garden Show. In the mid 1990’s it started a Garden Show in April to celebrate the start of the gardening season here in Calgary. The event became educational with guest speakers and workshops and had displays by local nurseries and gardening companies. A section was set aside for other not for profit gardening societies and the Calgary Rose Society was invited to host a booth. This has now become one of the Society’s traditions. Every April at the Garden Show we sell roses, and our book plus promote rose growing in our city. For two days we talk roses with anyone who visits our booth.
This event was held for many years in the 1990’s to showcase the spring display tulips in the Zoo gardens. Local gardening societies were invited to have a booth to promote their activities and answer questions. The Calgary Rose Society always had a booth, and although the weather did not always cooperate it was a fun event.
In 1971, the Calgary Rose Society hosted a dinner for the New Zealand Rose Society during their brief visit to the city. The event was held at the conservatory at the Calgary Zoo and according to our archives a great time was had by everyone. It was an opportunity to exchange notes on the challenges and joys of growing roses in both countries.
As that event was so successful the society decided to arrange visits to rose societies within a 500 mile radius of Calgary. In July of 1972, thirty-nine enthusiastic rose society members boarded a Greyhound bus on a trip to visit the Missoula Rose Society. On one of the coffee breaks, dollar bills were collected from each person in order to buy 40 donuts and 40 cups of coffee. The only problem there was that the donuts and coffee were paid by paper money and the change received in silver. It gave the members a good laugh to watch the designated coffee run buyer walking back across the parking lot carrying a tray of coffee and trying to prevent his pants from falling down from the weight of the change in his bulging pockets. The rosarians of Missoula were wonderful hosts and gave guided tours of their gardens.
The following year a bus load of 38 Rose Society members took a trip to Spokane. A luncheon at Manito Park was arranged by the Spokane Rose Society. This event allowed members of both societies to meet and get to know each other. Afterwards members enjoyed visiting the rose garden, conservatory and sunken garden.
From the beginning the society has organized tours of member’s gardens for education purposes. This tradition continues to the present day. These days the open gardens are within the City of Calgary but in the past have included visits to out of town members living in Innisfail and Pincher Creek.
Mini rose sales started in 1973 as a fund raiser for the society. Originally the mini roses were sold just to members but over the years the sale was expanded to the public. A sale was held at the homes of two members on the Saturday of the Mother’s Day weekend. Mini roses were also sold at the Calgary Horticultural Society Garden Show. the sales were discontinued in 2014 as our supplier stopped selling wholesale. However each year the society orders shrub and tender roses for sale to members and at the Calgary Horticulture Society Garden Show.
When the first newsletter was published in 1968 it was a single page typed on Remington typewriter and run off on a Gestetner (a type of duplicator) until the society was able to purchase a second hand photo copier. At that time the society exchanged newsletters with rose societies across the United States and Canada. Today the newsletter is produced electronically and distributed through email to members.
In 1972 the society held a contest to name the newsletter. Seventy-three names were submitted and the winner was Mrs. W. Tester of Innisfail, Alberta with the name Rose Round-up. A contest to draw our Logo for our newsletter in 1987 was won by Dorothy Gillespie who featured an Alberta rose in her design. This logo is still displayed on our newsletter today.
Before the Rose Society had their own show, members participated in the rose section of the Calgary Horticultural Annual Garden Show. The first Mini Show, not to be confused with miniature roses, was held in September of 1969, and it became an excellent educational program. By 1972 the Mini Show had 64 entries – time for our own show! Encouraged by editors and members from other rose societies to do so, the first Calgary Rose Society Rose Show was held in 1973 with 250 exhibitors and over 500 entries. The most coveted award, the Queen of the Show, was won that year by Hazel Bennion with Lady Eglin, (pictured right).
Over the years, the hybrid tea rose called Pascali has won Queen of the Show trophy four times, which is more than other rose submitted as an exhibit. David Coulter (President in 1973) approached city council with the idea they fund a trophy for the show. Mayor Rod Sykes (a keen gardener himself) agreed and paid for the ward out of the White Hat Fund.
The trophy for the best Mr. Lincoln (pictured left)rose came from the Lincoln Dealership and the trophy for Chrysler Imperial rose (pictured right),came from Universal Sales & Service and Varsity Plymouth Chrysler Ltd. Jacques Funeral Home funded the Peace Rose Trophy and Gus Pieters from Peters Drive Inn paid for ribbons and rosettes. He continued that tradition for over 15 years.
Since then the Rose Society has held 48 rose shows. There are now 31 trophies awarded, and 127 classes to enter. Over the years the show has been held in four different locations and is currently held at the North Hill Mall on 16th Avenue. In 2012 the Rose Society celebrated the 40th Anniversary of the Annual Rose Show with Mayor Naheed Nenshi in attendance – keeping his eye out for a purple rose perhaps?
In April 2004 the first Rose Show Judging School for Certified Judges was hosted by the Calgary Rose Society. In January of 2004 the Board of the Canadian Rose Society
approved a new class of rose show judges named Certified Judges. The new judge class was created to assist smaller rose societies where there was not enough qualified or interested members willing to train as Accredited Judges. The school was taught by Jim Anderson of the Canadian Rose Society with assistance form Barbara Clarke an Accredited Judge. At the school six members of the Calgary Rose Society successfully completed the weekend course and passed the written exam. A second judging school was held in 2012 which eight members successfully completed.
In 2010 the Calgary Rose Society published a book entitled “Growing Roses in Calgary”. This has proved to be a very valuable educational tool for both new and experienced rose growers.
The City of Calgary now has a population of over 1.2 million, and our memberships cost $20.00 for an adult. The Rose Society remains active with approximately 100 members and continues to be a place where sharing tips on growing roses and encouraging new rose growers is ongoing. Members are always happy to talk about trying new things, experimenting with new ideas and of course, showing off the Queen of the Garden to whoever shows the slightest interest! Please join us.