Stopping to Smell the Roses

Everything will be coming up roses in Washington next weekend when the American Rose Society’s Central District Convention and Rose Show comes to town.

Exhibitors from four states — Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska — will bring some 700 of their best stems and arrangements to set up for judging and display at the Presbyterian Church of Washington.

The show will be open to the public Saturday, Sept. 22, from 1 to 4 p.m. There will be no admission charge.

The public will have the chance to do more than just take in the beauty of the roses. They also will be able to vote on the most fragrant.

Judges will already have named their winner, based on 70 percent fragrance and 30 percent form, but visitors can vote for the rose they find most fragrant overall.

This is the first time the convention and show will be held in Washington, said Wanda Weirich, who is co-chairing the convention and rose show with Carol Brunner.

Both women are members of the local Tri-County Rose Society, which is co-hosting the convention and rose show with the Rose Society of Greater St. Louis and the St. Charles Rose Society.

Last year’s event was held in Lenexa, Kan., and next year’s will be in Omaha, Neb.

Weirich said two years ago when it came time for Missouri to host the convention/show, she stepped forward to volunteer as chairman and bring the event to Washington.

“I wanted to show off our city,” Weirich remarked. “I really like it, and I think everyone else will too.”

The Washington Area Chamber of Commerce has made up welcome bags for all of the some 65 exhibitors who are expected. The bags are filled with local features and activities that exhibitors’ spouses and companions may find entertaining to do on this trip, or enticing enough to bring them back for a future visit.

“We are touting the Fall Festival of the Arts show that will be going on downtown at the same time,” said Brunner. “Spouses can shop or visit the wineries and breweries.

“In many cases, it’s the men who show the roses and their wives come along for the ride.”

In fact, that’s the case for the Brunners. Carol’s husband, Jerry, grows and shows the roses  — including a yellow tea rose that he started from a cutting because that is Carol’s favorite.

The theme for the convention and show will be “Roses in Wine Country,” and the weekend will include a winetasting and dessert reception at Hillermann Nursery & Florist on Friday night, Sept. 21, featuring Missouri wines and treats from local bakeries.

The event will conclude with a tour of Wanda and Kerry Weirich’s garden Sunday morning, Sept. 23, followed by lunch.

The Presbyterian Church of Washington was chosen as the location for the rose show largely because of its size. Weirich said 5,000 square feet were needed for the show itself and another 3,000 as a prep area.

Typically the show is held in a hotel banquet room, said Weirich, so this will offer something new.

Also different for exhibitors this year was the option to pick and choose the activities and classes they wanted to do.

While the rose show is open to the public on Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m., exhibitors will have the chance to attend four workshops, including “An Introduction to Soils and Reading Soil Test Reports,” led by Matt Herring of the University of Missouri Extension office in Union.

Planning for the events began two years ago, long before anyone knew this summer would be so extremely hot and dry. Still the weather doesn’t seem to have affected the number of exhibitors.

“This year has been a challenge with the drought,” admits Brunner. “We were worried that we wouldn’t get as many exhibitors this year.”

But that hasn’t been the case, she said. In fact, one exhibitor is bringing 150 entries and another, 100, said Weirich.

Tri-County Rose Society

The Tri-County Rose Society has about 52 members. The group holds monthly meetings at Hillermann Nursery & Florist in Washington, in exchange for members caring for the roses there.

“We open (the roses) up in summer and put them to bed in the winter,” said Kerry Weirich.

Meeting at such a public facility gives the club more exposure. Many times people approach members to ask questions and obtain information about growing roses.

The Tri-County Rose Society runs and judges the Washington Town and Country Fair’s annual rose show. And members maintain and care for the roses along a pathway near Lakeview Park (between the YMCA and the Lakeview Soccer Fields).

“It’s the James and Virginia Bowen Memorial Rose Garden,” Brunner noted. “There’s a little bench there with the roses.”

The area isn’t as well noticed as others in the park right now, but they will be once the All-Abilities Park and Angel of Hope Garden are complete, said Brunner.

For more information about the rose show and convention or about the Tri-County Rose Society, people can call 636-239-7380.