Califonia Bountiful

Pat's Garden Travels: Best public rose gardens

May/June 2019 California Bountiful magazine

California offers a wealth of public gardens to discover. Join California Bountiful gardening expert Pat Rubin as she travels the state, bringing you the best of her travels to inspire yours.

This issue, Pat shares two of her favorite public rose gardens in California. 

Sacramento Historic City Cemetery Historic Rose Garden
1000 Broadway, Sacramento

Photo by Julia E. Heath via Shutterstock

A cemetery is an unlikely place for a rose garden, you might say. But years ago, cemeteries were garden cemeteries. Flowers, especially roses, are tightly tied in with the remembrance of death. Families would plant Grandma's favorite rose in the family burial plot.       

The Historic Rose Garden is a collection of 400 to 500 old-fashioned roses in Sacramento's Historic City Cemetery. The heritage rose garden covers about 2 acres and encompasses some 200 family plots. A small cadre of rose-loving volunteers have created a peaceful, gloriously scented haven amongst the old tombstones and paths.

There, the likes of the Apothecary Rose spill over the brick walls. Lavender Lassie scrambles up a metal framework fashioned between the beds, forming a tunnel of rose blossoms. Rosa odorata has scrambled 50 feet up into a cedar, and every spring drips great swags of white flowers from the dark green branches. Rosa Sally Holmes covers a metal arch across two burial plots and carpets the ground with its off-white petals. A Lady Banks rose has snaked its way at least 60 feet into a pine tree.

Most of the roses are what the volunteers call "found roses," meaning they haven't been identified.  Most are allowed to grow as big and broad as they like as long as they don't block the headstones. It's a bit of a wild garden, but beautiful nonetheless. Take some time to listen to the birds, watch the squirrels, and marvel at the fabulous collection of roses and their history.

South Coast Botanic Garden Rose Garden 
26300 Crenshaw Blvd., Palos Verdes

Photo courtesy of South Coast Botanic Garden/Jeff Staton

Once a dump site, the land has been reclaimed and turned into a beautiful garden. It includes a desert garden, a banyan grove, California native plants, a fuchsia garden, a Japanese garden and a Mediterranean garden.

Tucked inside this 87-acre garden is an 11-acre rose garden. Planted in 1990 and renovated a few years ago, the garden is full of David Austin English roses, All-America selection roses, hybrid tea roses, grandifloras, floribundas and more.  Some varieties date back to the 1880s. The roses are planted among shrubs and trees, bulbs, succulents and perennials, so you can glean lots of ideas about using roses in your own garden.

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