Volunteers help keep the Temecula Valley Rose Society blooming

By CARL LOVE | Contributing Columnist | The Press-Enterprize
PUBLISHED: April 25, 2019 at 11:30 am | UPDATED: April 25, 2019 at 11:31 am

This sign [not shown] welcomes people to the Rose Haven Heritage Garden in Temecula. (Photo by Carl Love, contributing photographer) Virginia Boos was eager to introduce Brenda Jahanbani.

"She is one of our younger members," Boos said of her 60-year-old colleague.

Boos is 92 and, to her, younger members are a big deal at the Temecula Valley Rose Society where volunteers are aging and membership has declined. From a peak of about 110 in 2005, membership plunged to about 40 a year ago. For years, the group didn't generate much publicity and its social media presence was minimal.

"We weren't doing any of that," said Boos, the group's president. Even her leadership position is a sign of the group's struggles because she said nobody else wanted the job. "I felt like we were fading away," she said.

Now the group has a website and Facebook presence. "We started getting into this century," she laughed.

They're also generating publicity thanks to a celebration of National Public Gardens Week from May 13 to May 19 at the society's gorgeous Rose Haven Heritage Garden, 30592 Jedediah Smith Road, Temecula.

Seven days of activities include a ribbon-cutting ceremony hosted by the Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce, workshops and lessons. The week ends May 19 with the annual first-bloom celebration from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., including a concert.

The 3.4 acre garden is an oasis in the urban setting that is now Temecula, a city that has about quadrupled in size since 1990 when the rose society formed as a way for locals to swap ideas about growing roses.

Bill Johnson, a local developer at the time, said he could get the group access to the property, which can't be developed because of [MWD] water district lines that run under the property. Karen Ortega, who started the group, led the charge to call area growers and get 800 roses bushes donated. Many of the bushes still thrive on the property's rolling hills. The society eventually bought the land in 2005 for $7,500.

There are probably about 2,000 rose bushes on the site now. Yet the space is so much more, including a reflection pond, a gazebo, a water-wise demonstration garden (certainly an up-to-date notion), a children's garden and an urban forest. It's a variety of environments connected by one purpose: An escape from the hustle-bustle enveloping the area.

Boos says many locals assume the place is operated by the city of Temecula, meaning maintaining it is no big deal. But keeping it up is a big deal because the city does not own it. Instead it's kept up by the volunteers. Membership today has rebounded to 71.

Boos said gardening helps keep her young and active because she also has to maintain about 250 rosebushes at her house in Temecula.

At 87 and quite active himself, Ray Jacques is another example of the benefits of gardening. He's at the garden helping out twice a week, his specialty is growing new plants from the trimmings of another.

Now to get that bank account growing. Currently at about $10,000, Boos and Jahanbani hope to increase it to about $375,000. This would allow the group to generate the income to maintain the garden.

One way to help the cause is to figure out how to set up a donations tool on the group's various social media outlets. And while the fundraising goal may seem ambitious, it's not as though the garden isn't a good cause, rebounding after all these years and providing a beautiful escape from the stress of modern life.

Reach Carl Love at carllove4@yahoo.com