Roses In The Near North: History of the Huronia Rose Society

The Huronia Rose Society’s website was made possible by a bequest from the estate of Elizabeth (Betty) Nielsen. Betty was a member of the Canadian Rose Society in Toronto and she was the editor of the Canadian Rose Annual when they lived in Toronto. They moved to Waubashene and she became a charter member of the Huronia Rose Society. She donated a trophy for the Best Design which is still being vied for at our annual show. We appreciate her lifelong dedication to the promotion of rose culture and will continue her work with the information on this website.

Early in 1980, a public meeting was organized in Barrie to see if there was enough interest to start a Rose Society. A good attendance indicated it could be a viable organization and so the Huronia Rose Society was born.

This is still the ONLY Rose Society north of Toronto, being in the Georgian Bay area of the Great Lakes. Huronia, a tourist destination, had already been home to the Huron First Nations when the first Euoropeans arrived in the late 1600’s.

The old adage – “You can’t grow roses north of Toronto” was proven wrong by the many members of Huronia Rose Society who are enjoying gardening with roses over the years. Also, our annual rose shows testify to the excellent roses grown in Huronia.

As early as the first year of existence we have held an annual Rose Show, an evening tour of members’ gardens; published a newsletter called “Rose Petals” several times a year as a reminder of upcoming meetings and events. Over the years, the annual Rose Show has been of great interest to members and the area’s residents.

Public meetings are held to bring informative speakers on all aspects of growing roses and other gardening techniques, for sharing problems and successes as well as socializing with rosarians from the Huronia area.

Since Barrie’s Floral Emblem is a Red Rose, two HRS members have been invited to sit on the Communities in Bloom committee. Through this involvement, we had several opportunities to promote our Rose Society.

In the spring of 2000, when the Barrie White Rose Nursery established a rose garden at Barrie’s Royal Victoria Hospital, planted with a new rose variety introduced by White Rose called “Royal Victoria Hospital Rose”, a fund-raising venture for the hospital, members of Huronia Rose Soiety assisted with the planting.

For several years we had sought a location to establish a rose garden of hardy Canadian Roses. In 2000 as a Millennium project, our Millennium Memorial Rose Bed was created as a gift to the city and an educational project to promote growing Canadian bred roses. The city donated and prepared the garden and members donated the cost of 28 roses in memory of loved ones.

Each year a fund-raising sale of rose bushes to members and friends was organized and still continues. In 2000 a sale of rose bushes to the public was held at the Barrie Farmers’ Market, focusing on hardy Canadian Rose and this successful event is repeated each May since.

Our first rose garden tour was offered to the public in 2000. “Huronia Roses:, A Garden Tour” featured 10 gardens in the Barrie area, each one with roses but also many other wonderful garden plants, each one different. Over 100 visitors had a delightful Sunday enjoying our members gardens.

Millennium Memorial Garden, South Shore Centre, Barrie

Millennium Memorial Garden Photo by Edna Caldwell taken July 2020

After their organization in 1980, the Huronia Rose Society members sought a location to establish a rose garden of hardy Canadian Roses.

In 2000 as a Millennium project, under the leadership of President, Mr. Ray Ramsay, the Millennium Memorial Rose Bed was created as a gift to the city of Barrie and an educational project to promote growing Canadian bred roses.

The city donated and prepared the garden. Members donated the cost of 28 roses in memory of loved ones . Volunteers of the society are responsible for the planting and continued care and maintenance of this garden.

The rose garden is sited on the south shore of Kempenfelt Bay, beside the beautiful conference centre, South Shore Community Centre.

The location is ideal in that it is in full sun, but at the same time is open to the breezes that come across Kempenfelt Bay. Some winters there has been considerable die back. Without fail, the Canadian hardy roses bounce back and are always in bloom by mid-June.

Thanks to HRS’s volunteers the garden is maintained, with pruning, watering, fertilizing and spraying. A monthly schedule is drawn up for these tasks and a weekly schedule in the peak blooming time to deadhead and clean up the fallen petals. From the beginning an environmentally conscious approach was taken to care for and maintain of this display garden. By 2015, choosing hardy roses which are disease-resistant has made the volunteer’s tasks much easier. A minimal amount of insects are present. Come September, the deadheading is discontinued, to allow the shrubs to slow down growth in preparation for winter.

Roses planted initially, were William Baffin, Jens Munk, John Davis, John Cabot, Morden Centennial, Morden Blush, Winnipeg Parks and Morden Ruby. In following years Champlain, Hope For Humanity, Emily Carr, Morden Sunrise, Navy Lady, Campfire and Oscar Petersen were added. Originally, the city staff prepared a large sign listing those family members in whose memory the roses were planted. This sign was replaced some years later in a more permanent format.

Two Emily Carr roses were planted in 2012 in memory of Wendy Caldwell-Halkewycz and Robert Horlings.

2 Campfire roses were planted in memory of Audrey Miller and Robert Boyes in 2016.

In 2018 a sign in memory of Reta Caldwell was placed by a Champlain rose (Reta’s favourite colour of roses.) Reta was one of the founders of the Huronia Rose Society.

In 2003 a dry stone wall was built around the garden with assistance from the city Parks staff, which enhanced the appearance and prevented water run-off.

The following year one of the members built a cedar obelisk, which looks quite fitting between Morden Centennial and John Davis roses.

In 2006, a cedar display stand was placed at the edge of the rose bed to hold a Guide to the Rose Garden, giving the names with picture of the roses planted in the garden. Two holders for our promotional book marks allowed the public to make themselves aware of our activities, welcoming them to our meetings. Over time it became too damp due to rain, so was removed. Instead, to allow visitors to know the names of the roses they are looking at, a metal sign was created with the garden plan and names of each rose. This is mounted below the large sign beside the garden. It has been updated as of 2019 as more roses were changed or added .

The City of Barrie Parks staff continues to assist the society by supplying and spreading compost as well as erecting snow fencing around the bed to hold the snow in place over winter. In 2018 extensive renovations took place in the area and an underground water line was installed by the city Parks, connecting a tap just outside the garden to the main water line nearby. Then in 2019, a watering system was installed right in the garden and the roses are watered automatically. For that feature HRS is truly grateful.

This garden became a reality and continues to delight all who pass by. It is in a parkland setting with adjacent walking / biking trails. As the volunteers work in the garden, they continue to get many compliments from the public and questions about growing roses. Sometimes it slows the work down somewhat because of the many admirers of the roses. We value this contact with the public, always inviting them to our events, giving advice if it is asked, sharing the good news that it is very possible to grow roses successfully “North of Toronto”.

Revised Feb. 2020


A Gardening Club with a Difference

  • Are you interested in various aspects of gardening?
  • Are you a newly-retired person who has dreamed for years of spending more time gardening?
  • Are you new resident of the Barrie/Simcoe County area?
  • Do you enjoy others’ roses but think you can’t grow them in these parts? Or that they are too much work?
  • Perhaps the Huronia Rose Society would be of interest to you.
  • We all do enjoy growing roses, but we enjoy many other kinds of gardening, too. Companion plantings help give colour all summer.
  • We have speakers on general gardening topics as well rose-growing .
  • We share information on the easiest roses to grow, that are disease and insect resistant so they require minimum care.
  • Our Members’ Garden Visit has proved to be very popular, a social event to get to know each other better.
  • We do have a rose show at the end of June where one can see roses one may want to grow.
  • We offer hardy, disease and insect resistant rose bushes for sale to members and the public, which are Ontario grown and ideal to our climate.
  • So if you are interested in joining a group of friendly gardeners, contact our Membership chair at huroniarosetreasurer@gmail.com or just come as a visitor to one of our meetings at no cost. See meeting dates and locations listed on the Meetings page.
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