The Press-Enterprise

The Press Enterprise
October 2, 2009

Psssst! Want to here a secret about a great place many people don't know about? It's the Rose Haven Heritage Garden in Temecula at 30592 Jedediah Smith Rd. at the corner of Cabrillo Avenue and Jedediah Smith Rd.

The garden is about 3.4 acres of about 2,000 rose bushes, a reflecting pond, drought tolerant gardens and great views. It's been there about 20 years at Jedediah Smith Road and Cabrillo Avenue and it's often a ghost town. What a shame.

And as long as we're on secrets, you know how everybody in these tough times is saying we've got to step up and pitch in? Many people just say, "yeah, yeah, yeah," and go back to watching TV. Get this: The Temecula Valley Rose Society has run the place for those two decades and it's all volunteers.

And let me tell you, weeding a rose garden in the heat of summer is something that takes a lot of fortitude.

At an annual fundraiser, 'Last Rose Of Summer', it's primarily seniors in attendance. When you consider that's who's also mostly taking care of the gardens, it's even more impressive.

Florence Blacharski is still active in the group and she's 99. She's in charge of recognizing the members' special occasions such as birthdays with cards. And she's full of opinions; noting that she loves roses as much as ever, but she thinks the garden currently looks a little overgrown. She's no shrinking violet when it comes to speaking her mind.

One of the group's charter members is Virginia Boos. The garden started with one acre and 400 roses, all donated. Money has always been an issue, so it's a good thing there's always been free help available.

Despite it all, she's really proud that the place has made it two decades, even if many people still seem surprised to hear there's a community garden nestled among the large estate homes off Ynez Road in south Temecula, an area that somehow escaped the stampede of subdivisions so prevalent in southwest Riverside County.

The amiable president of the group, Ron Rumbold, jokingly says he has the job because nobody else wanted it. The society now has about 75 members, down from about 100 when economic times were better. Covering the monthly expenses of about $500 for water, power, and taxes is a challenge, but somehow it gets handled, he notes.

Lively Ann Coakes coordinated the big fundraiser. Since joining the society eight years ago, she's become much more knowledgeable about the plants.

When asked what her favorite roses were back then, she'd identify them by colors. More knowledgeable members would note the plants have names.

"Now I know the names," Coakes says of her education.

She says pretty much everyday somebody is out here working in the garden. "Three and a half acres and a bunch of old ladies," she points out. "Think of how hard that is."

The volunteers are known as Gardening Angels. How appropriate, given that this place could be considered God's work.

Walking up and down the numerous paths, it's impressive that there are hardly any weeds. Granted, there aren't many blooming roses this time of year, but at twilight, standing in the gorgeous white gazebo, it's easy to see why the nearby section is called the Romantic Garden. There's even a small patch of idyllic-looking green grass to enjoy.

Down below is the small reflecting pond, as well as a variety of small wooden benches to sit and take it all in, including how remarkable it is that the place is mostly run by aging volunteers. Here's another secret: Gardening is the unexpected fountain of youth.

Reach Carl Love at