Rose society's annual show ravishes

Otago Rose Society president Maureen Viggo with a bowl of her flowers, including "Scentasia"...
Otago Rose Society president Maureen Viggo with a bowl of her flowers, including "Scentasia" roses, which won a floral arrangement class in the society's annual show, held in Dunedin at the weekend. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Otago Rose Society president Maureen Viggo can count on one thing with roses - they always bring a smile to her face.

Recent unsettled weather and a slightly earlier than usual timing of the society's latest annual show meant entries were down on last year.

This year's show began at Forbury Park Raceway on Saturday.

But despite the weather problems, more than 200 floral entries, with a dazzlingly wide range of colours and perfumes, were on display. About 100 members of the public attended the first day of the two-day show.

"I want people to come in that door and say 'Oh wow!'," she said.

Mrs Viggo's first memory of roses was a powerful one - encountering as a 7-year-old a red hybrid tea rose with an "overwhelming" perfume, she said. It was "Etoile de Hollande", which her mother, Netta Campbell, was growing in her rose garden.

When it comes to roses and rose society exhibitions, many things have changed over the years. Busier lifestyles have meant many gardeners no longer have the time they once had to cultivate huge rose gardens and provide large bunches of up to a dozen roses for display at the annual show.

Today's roses on display may be somewhat fewer, and be combined more often with displays of other flowers, but roses still have the same undeniable appeal for rose fanciers whatever the gender, age and occupation.

For Mrs Viggo, who is also a committee member of the group Heritage Roses Otago, part of the appeal of roses is their fascinating history, including the intriguing stories of how roses came to be named, and the behind-the-scenes quests and dreams of rose breeders.

She said that even if people had a little less time for gardening these days, growing roses was part of maintaining a good work-home life balance.

The rose society was always looking for more members, she said.

"We're a warm, friendly group."

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