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The American Rose finds an open door

By Staff | Nov 23, 2018

BARB BARRETT/The Luminary The Muncy Garden Club received a surprise gift during their tea held last month when John Somits, Jr. of Muncy (center) came to visit with a book “The American Rose Annual 1946.” It was an original journal published from the American Rose Society which was organized in 1899. With Somits are (left to right) are Lois Geib, Lois Velkoff, Paula Schwenk, Elaine Leaver, Thelma George, and Melinda Bender.

MUNCY – A thankful gift was well received last month when a knock on the door came upon the Muncy Garden Club during their annual tea party held at the St. James Episcopal Church parish hall on S. Main Street in Muncy.

On October 18 John Somits, Jr. of Muncy paid a special visit to the club with a book from his father’s estate who was an avid gardener and had a growing fondness for roses. It was told that John Somits, Sr. grew roses in Hazelton and thoroughly enjoyed coming to the Williamsport area to see the wonderful rose displays. John Jr. recollected his visits, particularly remembering the year 1964. “I liked this area,” he told the garden club members and has since made Muncy his home.

From his father’s collection, John Somits, Jr. discovered the original edition of “The American Rose Annual of 1946.” It was prepared for The American Rose Society, edited by R.C. Allen and printed in Harrisburg. The society was a non-profit national organization incorporated July 7, 1921 to “serve the thousands of people who enjoy roses.” It was organized March 13, 1899 by a group of commercial greenhouse rose growers.

Members, who were mostly amatuer gardeners, paid $3.50 in annual dues or $10 for three years. Joining the society helped those interested to learn more about “the richest of all hobbies.”

The book listed the society’s board of directors, who were from all parts of the country, former presidents, colored illustrations and other publications from the American Rose Society.

Information was based on years of historical research pertaining to roses and their culture. The book presented to the Muncy Garden Club was the thirty first volume in a series representing “a new decade of rose progress.” It was believed that growing roses was “a promising trend toward better living.”

The growers would journal their experiences with ideas, successes in overcoming unfavorable conditions, soil management, propagation pruning, and climate changes.

Interestingly enough, the book’s forward states that “new developments in the art and science of rose growing are to be expected this year; DDT is shown to be as much of a boon to rose lovers as it has been to other fields.”

Memorial gardens in honor of war veterans were appropriate and very popular at the time, as many were returning from war and recognized with rose bushes.

To this day the American Rose Society still exists with a list of endorsed products, newsletters and a strong website presence that includes a free email membership.

The Muncy Garden Club members were grateful for the gift and planned a craft night for making wreaths from old books for November and a Christmas dinner in early December before meeting again in March of 2019.