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Roses, Growers Reap Rewards of Affection

September 29, 1996|SCOTT STEEPLETON

She loves "Star Trek," Dalmation dogs and roses, in that order. But on Saturday, Jeri Jennings of Camarillo set the first two aside to watch over the Ventura County Rose Society's annual Rose Show at the Stagecoach Inn Museum in Newbury Park.

This year's show brought about 500 entries of modern and "Old Garden" roses from around the state. Among the big winners was Terri Campbell of Ojai, who received the Victorian Rose award for her Irene Watts entry.

The Queen of Show was a hybrid tea rose called Signature, and the Miniature Queen of Show was called Incognito, both grown by Cal and Barb Hayes of Santa Ana.

The Dowager Queen of Show, which also was named the best exhibit, was a Rosa Rogusa Rubra grown by Col. Philip Ash of San Diego. This rose was introduced in what rose aficionados refer to as the Old Garden period--before 1867.

"The first hybrid tea rose was introduced in 1867. That was the beginning of a new era in roses," said Jennings, 50, one of four consulting rosarians in the rose society and a fan of Old Garden varieties.

"Hybrid tea roses have been getting all the attention lately, but now people are drifting over to the Old Garden roses," Jennings said. That probably has something to do with living in the 1990s.

"We live in pretty harsh times now, and the Old Garden roses connect us with a safer, gentler time," Jennings said.

Walking into a rose show is like walking through a rainbow, with the benefit of a mingling of scents like no other. "You have roses that smell like citrus and roses that smell almost like Juicy Fruit gum. And others smell pungent," Jennings said. "It's not as harsh as if you walk into a cosmetic aisle."

Jennings has been growing and exhibiting roses for about eight years. People say you can smell the roses when you drive up to her house, probably because both Jennings and her husband, Clay, spend quite a lot of time in the garden, which is full of shrub and Old Garden roses. Clay, 53, happens to be the president of the rose society and an accomplished grower, but you don't have to be a pro to grow beautiful flowers, Jennings said.

"Roses are real tough plants, they're tough cookies. Give them water and they'll grow, do a little bit more than that and they'll grow and bloom a little better," she said.

When she's not tending to her own garden, Jennings can be found helping others with theirs. And if she's not on the phone or responding to queries about roses on the society's Website, Jennings, formerly a commercial artist, is probably in front of the TV watching "Star Trek" or showing Dalmation dogs.

"I've been a 'Star Trek' lover for a long time. Dalmations come in second and I guess roses would come in third," she said.

She admits, however, that nothing is as relaxing on a sultry afternoon as a stroll through the garden.

"It's so nice. All you do is get yourself a nice glass of chilled wine and walk among the roses," she said.

The Ventura County Rose Society meets the fourth Thursday of every month at the Oxnard Community Center. For information, call 482-2066. The society's Web address is:

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