Hi, my name is Karen Ortega and I co-founded the Temecula Valley Rose Society in March of 1990. Most people in the area are not even aware that this society exists, let alone that we have a spectacular public access rose garden, aptly named Rose Haven.
My purpose in writing this is to tell this history of how it all got started. I moved to Temecula in 1988, and, quite honestly, I was just busy for the first two years raising my boy‑girl twins, Jonathan and Katie Rose. They were two years old when we moved into Lake Village. They reached a wonderful “age of reason” by the time they were four.
How it all started
Before moving to Temecula, my husband, Fred, and I had lived in San Diego. We were proud members of the San Diego Rose Society. We had even attended our first rose show and won numerous ribbons for our miniature roses and even one trophy for “Best Novice”, for a lovely apricot rose called Brandy.
My father had a green thumb and we always planted roses at every home we lived in (all 30 of them) in the years when I was growing up; and he passed on that love of roses to me and that green thumb, too. Our first home in San Diego had about 75 rose bushes and our home here in Temecula back in those days had about 100 roses! Sadly, not anymore.
One day, my twins and I were out in the front yard, finishing up the pruning for February. Yes, they actually had their own blunt‑tipped Corona clippers. A local photographer for the newspaper called the Californian (Steve Thornton) asked if he could snap our picture. He then asked if the paper could give out my phone number, just in case anyone had any questions; so I said “sure” as long as it wasn’t actually printed in the paper, I was fine with giving out my phone number.
Well, the local Garden Club did call and they asked me to come and speak at their March meeting. They even provided me with a few potted roses; so that I could demonstrate how to prune roses. As I was giving my speech, I asked how “I” could appear to them to be an expert on roses? Wasn’t there a local Rose society? When they said no, it only took me a short while to realize that it was time for Temecula to have its own Rose Society.
The Californian was very helpful in me getting the Rose Society started. I used their local news notes to write a short message inviting anyone who loved roses to attend a meeting at the Lake Village clubhouse on May 13, 1990. I asked them to please bring a baked good and that I would provide an “elegant” tea on my finest Rose China.
So, my twins and a very helpful little girl from next‑door, Jessica, helped me measure and bake a cake and some cookies; then we used our little red wagon to transport everything over to the clubhouse.
Thirteen wonderful Charter Members showed up. Our current co‑President Rebecca Weersing, became my first Vice President, Virginia Boos took notes the whole time, so we elected her Secretary, and the great Edie O’Hair finally became known as the first, greatest rosarian in Temecula. We now have many Consulting Rosarians in the TVRS.
I just wish I could find the notes and the names from that first meeting, so I could acknowledge all thirteen of our charter members.
Hint of things to come: At that time, Edie had over 1,200 roses on her gorgeous property up in De Luz in 1990. For two years in a row she graciously allowed us to hold our fundraisers for the public rose garden up at her place. She also designed the circular layout that the garden was planted in. We dressed in beautiful rose print dresses at all meetings in those days, and also presented ourselves with gracious sun hats and parasols to act as docents at those two Rose Fetes. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Promise of more to come…
“I DO Promise You a Rose Garden”
Well, we learned about the beginning of the Temecula Valley Rose Society, and now we will move on to learn how it grew and how we obtained the land for a public access rose garden.
As to how quickly the Rose Society grew, 13 people attended the first meeting on May 13, 1990. Within one year, we had over 100 members. One of the reasons we grew so fast is we got a lot of newspaper exposure.
There used to be a business on the corner of Rancho California Road and Ynez called Coldwell Banker Real Estate. The owner of that business, Bill Johnson, and his wife Tish loved roses as much as I do.
In the course of selling homes, the Johnsons believed in giving every new homeowner a bare root rose. They wanted to make Temecula like a certain town in Switzerland that is known and famous around the world for its roses.
I’m not quite sure how I became known to the Johnsons; (unless they just happened to be reading about the newly created Rose Society), assuming that, they contacted me through the newspaper and it turned out that we shared a lot of the same goals.
We wanted the rose to be the symbol for the new City of Temecula; So Virginia Boos and I got dressed up in our fanciest rose “suits” and we attended a city council meeting where we presented them with red roses in pots and asked them to legally adopt the rose as our new city’s official flower. And they did!
Both the Johnsons and the TVRS wanted roses planted in the median strips, so I’ve got pictures of that to show you, and “I” desperately wanted a public rose garden. TVRS itself was a little torn about the idea of us having to maintain our own gardens as well as do all that volunteer work on a possible public rose garden! But my original 13 plus many new members were 100% behind the idea. Now the Johnsons had already given us permission and a sign with their family name on it to place on a piece of property that was appropriate for building a Rose garden! Houses could never be built there, as a small earthquake fault (or two) runs through the property. Also, dead center on the level ground, there is a Metropolitan Water District access and road.
Now I’m not going to say that things remained as “rosy” with the Johnson’s forever, as they were in the beginning. But their original intentions were honored by the Rose Society, and we faithfully planted the garden, maintained it over the years through too much rain and too much draught. And in recent years the state of California has granted Rose Haven clear deed of ownership to the non‑profit organization that is TVRS. That was a proud day and a huge success.
How to Maintain a Promised Rose Garden
Mostly it took hard‑working, energetic people with strong backs who showed up on a regular basis to maintain our drip system, cut deadheads, prune roses in late winter, and plant more roses. Then it took enterprising people like Roy and Virginia Boos, who brought down their backhoe to clear the native shrubbery, and level and grade the land. I do believe it was Roy who built our first arbor at the entrance to Rose Haven. Can you name the five people standing in front of our first arbor?
There have been many more arbors added since, but one of the most unusual is made up of intertwined Roses and leaves, in wrought iron, made by David Granlund, and a tiny plaque says “Donated by David and Margaret Granlund“. It’s a double‑wide arch, and it absolutely “Wows” the eye. And it’s a small world. I met Margaret Granlund as one of my Tai Chi students, after I’d been away from TVRS for many years. She was always wearing this gorgeous silver rose necklace, and I said that I admired roses very much, and she said, of course you do, you are the founder of TVRS! If I had met Margaret within the first two years, I’m ashamed to say I hadn’t remembered her. This one photo is missing from my phone.
One thing I do remember is a drought that second year, where I had this dream of us somehow building a lovely rose‑painted water tank to capture our rare rainwater, up at the top of the garden, with emergency drip lines that would save our garden from burst water lines down on the street below. Yet we weathered just such an occurrence, and the roses were well established and hardy enough to survive. But I can still picture that water tower in my dreams! Do you know who really saved us from that first drought, and no doubt many others? The subtle presence, the hardest working and most loyal and greatest friend of TVRS? And Rebecca Weersing, who paid our water bills, etc. when the going got tough. So many heartfelt thanks to Rebecca.
So, during the first two years, we continued to beg roses from Tom at Week’s Roses in Bakersfield. But, as Virginia Boos recently pointed out to me, many that we received were not top quality, or #2 roses, that by now should be replaced. Perhaps it’s time I started calling whomever is in charge there now, 24 years later, and once I show them a current picture of say, last Mother’s Day spectacular bloom, they’ll ship us for free, again, top quality #1 roses. Because that’s what a rose garden of our caliber deserves.
29‑year‑old twins taking their Mom to the rose garden we built so long ago, with a LOT of help from our friends. My son Jonny was totally blown away by the scope, growth, size, and sheer beauty of our unique rose garden, that had started out as bare ground 25 years earlier. Jonathan and his wife Alyssa belong to the Huntington Rose Gardens, and he says their rose garden can't hold a candle to ours.