San Jose Heritage Rose Garden

No trip to San Jose would be complete without a visit to the San Jose Heritage Rose Garden. A Heritage Rose is one that has been bred for many years, sometimes centuries. At the San Jose Heritage Rose Garden, you will encounter over 3,600 different rose bushes representing more than 2,700 different varieties. While most of these varieties originated in Europe, there are many here that were discovered in the gardens of older homes, old cemeteries, and some actually discovered alongside a dirt road. The San Jose Heritage Rose Garden is maintained by a loyal army of volunteers with all gardening materials financed by the City of San Jose. Public admission to the garden is free, but donations are always welcome, and if you want to volunteer, they can always use the help.

The San Jose Heritage Rose Garden, or the “Sangerhausen of the West,” is an unexpected jewel located in downtown San Jose. The purpose of the rose garden was to provide a safe haven for important rose species and to connect the public with the rare and beautiful flowers. Special emphasis was placed on choosing types of roses that would supplement the Municipal Rose Garden’s collection. The criteria for choosing the roses that would be placed in the new garden included: In 1988, avid gardener Lorrie Freeman and nurseryman Tom Liggett began work to develop a proposal for a rose garden in the yet undeveloped Guadalupe Gardens. In 1992, the San Jose City Council approved and funded the proposal for a heritage rose garden that would be the size of a city block.

Ed Wilkinson, the original Curator, and Liggett, the original Director, spent countless hours establishing the Heritage Rose Garden’s botanical collection. They scoured many places, including old cemeteries and homes, for unidentified rose species. Using Wilkinson’s extensive database of garden rose species that were available worldwide, they also gathered propagating material from gardens and collectors all over the United States and imported bud wood from several of the greatest rose collections in the world. Liggett, with significant help from the South Bay Heritage Rose Group, grew the under stock, supervised bud grafting, and grew and harvested over 4,000 roses. These roses were replanted in the new garden by over 750 volunteers during the record rains of March 1995. In September of the same year, the vice mayor and other notable members of the city dedicated the garden. Since its beginning, volunteers have constantly cared for the rose garden and planted hundreds of additional varieties. The size of a city block, the Heritage Rose Garden is the largest public collection of roses in the Western hemisphere with over 3,000 varieties and more than 4,000 planted roses to admire.

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