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Bloom is on his roses

(ran TP edition)

In rose society circles, Jeff Mogilewicz is the new kid on the block.

He has only been growing roses for 3{ years, exhibiting for two _ a minuscule length of time when compared with the veterans in Tampa's 32-year-old Rose Society. Mogilewicz also has only 60 roses in his Valrico garden. Some serious growers claim hundreds.

"I'm a rookie," said Mogilewicz, 49.

But already this rookie is shaking up the circle.

He has won three Queens _ the top prize in a rose show _ including one for his Limelight rose in the New Port Richey show. That yellow rose was a perfect circle when viewed from above, said Mogilewicz, and a perfect triangle when seen from the side.

Will he steal the show again at the Tampa Rose Show this weekend at West Shore Plaza?

"He's one to watch," said Gretchen Ward Warren, a devoted grower and longtime member of the Tampa Rose Society, membership 250. "His roses are beautiful."

Years ago, Mogilewicz probably wouldn't have known a hybrid tea from a floribunda. He only started growing roses when he moved to Valrico after 23 years in the Air Force and 17 addresses.

In Valrico, he wanted to "take root," he said. He started with only a few stalks. Then while attending one show, he saw a prized Perfect Moment and thought, "I've got one at home better than that one."

Roses now cover every sunny spot of his yard. Miniatures are in the front. Hybrid teas on the side.

"He is really into it," said his wife, Roberta, who sticks to collecting shot glasses because they don't take up much room or cost very much.

Mogilewicz enters about a dozen shows a year. He is also vice president of the Tampa Rose Society and chairman of the West Shore Plaza show.

Mogilewicz said his quick success is beginner's luck. If the New Port Richey show had been held one day later, that champion Limelight would have looked more like a warped oval than a perfect circle. Mogilewicz plans to enter this weekend's show only if he sees the right flower in his garden.

Nearly 3,000 roses are expected to fill the mall for the two-day competition. Exhibitors are coming from all over Florida. It doesn't cost anything to attend or exhibit, which is what Mogilewicz likes about the show.

"Anyone can come in with the perfect rose," he said. "And take home a Queen."