Gazette Gardener: Your votes could bring Central Park's rose garden sweet smell of victory
Schenectady’s Central Park rose garden has been a favorite place of photographers, artists and residents for more than 50 years. Now the garden is in a national competition sponsored by the All-America Rose Selections (AARS) to find the best public rose gardens in America and needs your vote.
The winning garden receives a $2,500 cash donation and will be featured in a national public-relations campaign highlighting the best gardens in America.
The voting officially began April 1 and continues to July 1. You can cast your vote at www.rose.org/votenow, where you will see a list of eight public rose gardens in New York state, one of which is the Central Park garden.
The 10 gardens with the most individual votes from across the country will become finalists. Then, a panel of experts from AARS will travel to the finalist cities, evaluate the gardens and select one winner based on beauty, creativity and the garden’s overall contribution to its community. The winner and nine finalists will be announced in the summer.
“With more than 130 AARS accredited gardens nationwide, the competition is going to be tough,” said Henry Conklin, AARS president. Next time you’re on the computer, support the efforts of the volunteers who tend our local rose garden, which has 4,000 rose bushes, and vote. If you have never visited the garden, put it on your list. The roses are spectacular with peak bloom in June.
This competition is just one of the things going on at the rose garden this spring. Dave Gade, the garden’s supervisor, said Schenectady’s garden has been chosen to test and identify Earth-Kind roses.
Earth-Kind is a special designation given to low-care rose cultivars in a program started by the Texas AgriLife Extension Service. It has since sprouted similar research programs at six other universities.
The Earth-Kind designation means that after considerable research and field trials, the rose in question has demonstrated superior pest tolerance and landscape performance.
The goal of the Earth-Kind landscaping initiative is to preserve and protect our natural resources and the environment by finding those roses that do well in a variety of soil types, have excellent drought tolerance, are disease resistant and bloom prolifically without fertilizing, chemical spraying, deadheading and with lower water needs than other roses.
“Many people believe that roses are hard to grow. A few years back, hybridizers started to listen and developed roses that really worked,” Gade said. Coincidentally, the green movement began and roses that grew without chemicals and fuss became increasingly desirable.
The goal of the trial here is to compile data and determine which of these new roses perform best in our zone 5 gardens. Gardeners might recognize the names of the roses being tested as many are available at local garden centers and include Knock Out roses such as Blushing, Pink Double, Pink Drift as well as Carefree Beauty, Lena and Ole.
In total, 45 plants (15 cultivars) will be planted. All the roses will be grown on their own roots, not grafted, as this will help identify roses with the strongest genetics.
To prepare the beds, 4 inches of compost will soon be mixed into the soil of new beds being created on the north side of the garden, which is near the Wright Street entrance. Previous research has found this amending provides enough nutrition.
“The first year, we will just grow them. There will be no winterizing,” Gade said. Data will be collected monthly during the growing season and the plants will be rated on a scale of zero to 10 on factors such as overall health, flowering effect, number of blooms and fragrance. The only other garden in New York state trialing Earth-Kind roses is the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx.
In addition, Gade said that two new and as yet unnamed rose varieties will be grown at the garden this summer for the AARS. “These are roses that won’t be introduced into the garden centers until 2011,” he said.
If you want a preview, come visit the garden. If you would like to learn more about roses, see images of the rose garden or volunteer you can find more information at www.schenectadyrose.com.