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by Christopher Boyle
LONG ISLAND, NY – In today’s hustle and bustle world, sometimes it can be easy to overlook something as simple and beautiful as a single rose at the peak of its bloom; however, there’s a group of people out there who have made it their mission to remind people to appreciate the beauty in life just a little each and every day.
The Long Island Rose Society, which meets at the Plainview-Old Bethpage Public Library once every month, boasts a history spanning over 50 years since its creation, and according to 15-year member and former president Cathy Guzzardo, she and her cohorts are out to spread the word about the delightful pastime of rose gardening.
“We’re considered ‘Rosearians.’ We grow roses and we teach about roses…we love to share our knowledge about roses and promote them to everyone,” she said. “Over the years we have taken in members from defunct rose societies, and the membership has gone up and down over the years. At one point we had about 260, but at the moment we have about 80.”
Guzzardo, a North Valley Stream resident, said that her love affair with roses started at a very early age while she was growing up on a small plot of land in Queens.
“My neighbor gave me my first paying job…weeding her garden for 50 cents and all the roses that I wanted…you pocket the 50 cents, but it’s the roses that you remember,” she said. “That always remained with me – in fact, one of those rose bushes are still there to this day – and later, I started volunteering at the Planting Fields Arboretum in Oyster Bay, and it was through there that I got in contact with the Long Island Rose Society.”
Kathy Picinic, current LI Rose Society president and a Bethpage resident, said that she’s acquired a wealth of growing knowledge since she began attending their meetings eight years ago; before then, she had the preverbal brown thumb, so to speak.
“I loved planting roses for years, but I didn’t know how to take proper care of them, so they’d always die on me,” she said. “I now have about 60 roses, which is nothing compared to some of the members, but I’ve learned a lot…what to grow, what to feed them, how to cut them, how to prepare them for winter, spring…it’s really enjoyable. I’m always learning something new and interesting, and now my roses are a beautiful sight to see”
Members of the LI Rose Society, Guzzardo said, love to welcome newcomers and are more than happy to impart their years of hard-earned experience and wisdom upon them.
“The people here are so generous with their knowledge…they can’t wait to tell you about growing roses,” she said. “We also have several members who are certified through the American Rose Society, and they have to study and are tested on their knowledge every three years…those Rosearians are a great source of information for both new members and old.”
In addition, the LI Rose Society has regular guest speakers lecturing on a variety of fascinating topics on the subject of making the Earth a greener place to live. Recent lecture topics have included composting, soil, plant and flower diseases, and more; in addition, Society members bring prize roses to each meeting for display and impromptu judging against their fellow members.
Guzzardo said that the mission of the LI Rose Society is as strong as ever and plain for all to see- to instill a love of roses and gardening for all of those willing to partake.
“We try to keep the enthusiasm up and to stay on top of things in the rose world,” she said. “We want people to know that roses can be a very accessible flower to raise…I believe that there’s a rose out there for everybody, even if you’re sun-challenged. We’ll find a way for you to make it happen.”