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The San Jose Rose Garden
In my last post I stated that I was particularly fond of a couple of rose gardens in the West, and how Portland Rose Garden was one of my favorites. My other favorite is the San Jose Rose Garden.
Like Portland, it is owned by the city and maintained mostly by volunteers. Also like Portland it is the site of numerous trials where rose introducers such as ourselves test the potential new varieties before they are introduced.
But what makes San Jose unique is the story behind the community that took over a once fairly run down municipal park and made it one of the best rose gardens in the USA.
When I moved to California, it was one of the first gardens I visited. It was in pretty dire shape, as the city did not have the money to take proper care of the 5+ acres of rose beds. Then something very neat occurred. A group of rose enthusiasts living close by decided that they had enough and took the matter into their own hands to make it better. They lobbied both the city, who in turn allowed volunteers to work in the garden, and the rose industry to help with donations to replace the very old, very tired looking beds with new strong plants and better performing varieties. Their timing was impeccable, since it was at that time that the All American Rose Selection was holding the “America’s Best Rose Garden” contest. This was a friendly contest to establish which garden did the best job showcasing and educating the public about roses. This gave the volunteer group an extra incentive, and they convinced the city, its workers and the local elected officials to come onboard and participate. As result, and sure enough, the San Jose Rose Garden ended up winning the contest. In the process, they figured out a road map to get city officials, local leaders and volunteers to work together on a project aimed at making quality of life in the city better, and their success has been repeated in numerous cities across the country since.
This community effort and the sensational results that visitors can enjoy from April to November makes the San Jose garden a unique place for rose lovers. It has now become one of the most visited attractions in San Jose, as well as the venue for numerous events like weddings and graduations.
Being the capital of Silicon Valley, it is also the only rose garden I know where they have a Google volunteer day where Googlers can come take a break from their computers to smell, trim, disbud and weed the roses in the garden.