April 13, 2013

Sacramento's coming up roses this month

Mild winter weather set up perfect conditions for an explosion of what many consider to be America's favorite flower, and public gardens in the area are making the most of this rosy bonanza with several events timed to coincide with the peak of bloom

This Sacramento spring, everything's coming up roses.

Mild winter weather set up perfect conditions for an explosion of what many consider to be America's favorite flower, and public gardens in the area are making the most of this rosy bonanza with several events timed to coincide with the peak of bloom.

"Everything's looking great," said Marni Leger, volunteer coordinator for the Natomas Rose Garden. "We're just about ready to pop. In another week, we should see our first big blush. Our first wedding is April 20, so it's perfect timing."

Coincidentally, many of these public gardens made major improvements or renovations in recent months, giving them even more must-see appeal for late April and early May.

"Really, for the first time, (the circumstances are) just about perfect," said Cecily Hastings, co-founder of Friends of East Sacramento, which oversees the newly renovated McKinley Park Memorial Rose Garden. "We're encouraging everybody. If there's ever a time to visit, it's now."

At McKinley, hundreds of new rosebushes have been planted. Eight large perennial beds are now complete. In addition, three large metal arches will be erected later this month to create a shade structure in the garden for weddings and special events.

"Our (wedding) bookings are going very, very well," Hastings said. "People are delighted how the garden looks."

Thousands of rosebuds promise colorful displays at McKinley and other gardens. This week's warm weather pushed the flowers closer to a grand opening.

"Our public gardens will be spectacular," said Ellie Longanecker, president of the Sacramento Rose Society and the volunteer who spearheaded the McKinley renovation. "There's been so many recent contributions to (them). We'll see an accumulative effect."

Longanecker, who grows hundreds of roses in her Carmichael garden, looks forward to the society's 65th annual Sacramento rose show set for April 27 at McKinley Park's Shepard Garden and Arts Center. Some years, flowers are abundant; others, not so much.

"It's like throwing a party," she said. "You start stressing out – 'Is everybody going to show up?' With the roses, you worry – 'Will they arrive on time?'

"But right now, it looks like it will be a really nice rose year," Longanecker added. "The foliage is healthy. There are so many buds in my garden, just on the verge. Everything looks really pretty and ready to go."

Also hoping to hit that peak of bloom is the Woodland Library Rose Club, which hosts its 22nd annual garden tour April 28. UC Davis, home to 8 acres of field-grown roses, follows with its Rose Days on May 4 and 5.

The earliest roses have already started their show at Sacramento's Historic City Cemetery (a.k.a. the Old City Cemetery), home to one of the world's best collections of heritage bushes. With some varieties found nowhere else, the cemetery garden was an inaugural member of the Great Rosarians of the World hall of fame for its living library of rare roses.

"One of our Banksias looks just like a sheet of yellow hanging 40 feet in the air," said Judy Eitzen, president of the Old City Cemetery Committee and a volunteer in the rose garden. "The white Banksia on the pine tree on Broadway is three-quarters open. It goes all the way up (the 60-foot tree) to almost the top."

Nicknamed Lady Banks, the Banksias bloom only once a year. Hard rain on Easter weekend knocked down many blossoms, Eitzen noted, but they were quickly replaced by more flowers.

"The roses are just covered with buds; there must be millions," she said. "They're beginning to come out quite nicely. I suspect we'll have a wonderful bloom for our 'Open Gardens' (event)."

Set for next Saturday, that annual event attracts hundreds of patrons, who tour the roses as well as gardens devoted to perennials and California native plants. They also come for the once-a-year opportunity to buy bushes propagated from the cemetery's rare rose collection.

"We'll have a hundred people lined up (at 9:30 a.m.), waiting for us to drop the rope," Eitzen said.

One reason for local gardens' success: location. The Central Valley offers perfect growing conditions.

"We can do things with roses a lot of other places can't," Eitzen said. "We're very lucky where we live. We wouldn't want it any other way."

At the state Capitol, the World Peace Rose Garden will celebrate its 10th anniversary May 5.

"The garden will be absolutely stunning," said T.J. David, the garden's co-founder. For 2013, he said, "We added 80 new roses in different varieties that will really enhance the garden. We're seeing those new roses take off like rockets."

Named one of the top 10 public rose gardens in America, the Capitol Park landmark is a favorite photo spot for special occasions.

"On Saturdays and Sundays in spring, we'll see eight or nine limos pull up, one right after another," David said. "People will jump out, snap photos, and drive off again. At the peak of bloom, it looks like a camera convention in the garden; so many people are taking pictures."

The upcoming anniversary celebration will attract guests from around the world, David said.

"The garden is really a celebration of all the things that happen here," he said. "This has been such an incredible place. We're already recognized as one of the best in America, but this could be our best year ever."



Where: H Street between Alhambra Boulevard and 33rd Street, Sacramento

When: Open daily dawn to dusk

Admission: Free

Details:, (916) 452-8011

Newly renovated, this 1,200-bush garden welcomes visitors daily. Weddings and special events are by reservation; $100-$150 per hour, available in three-hour blocks. A gala fundraiser is planned for 5:30-8 p.m. April 29 to support the garden and nearby Clunie Center; tickets are $95 each, $175 per couple.


Where: South Natomas Community Center, 2921 Truxel Road, Sacramento

When: Open dawn to dusk daily

Admission: Free

Details:, (916) 808-1571

Sacramento's youngest public rose garden features a new 6-foot fountain and more than 500 bushes. It's booking up rapidly for spring and summer weddings and events; standard rate is $140 for three hours. Volunteers are welcome to help care for the garden; sign up online.


Where: Historic City Cemetery, 1110 Broadway, Sacramento

When: 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m. next Saturday

Admission: Free

Details:, (916) 264-7839

Patrons line up outside the gate to get into this event, featuring the cemetery's 500-bush heritage rose garden plus perennials in Hamilton Square and California native plants. Plant sale features rare roses propagated from the cemetery's world- famous collection; see catalog online.


Where: Shepard Garden and Arts Center, 3330 McKinley Blvd., Sacramento

When: 1-5 p.m. April 27

Admission: Free

Details:, (916) 799-6199

This large show usually coincides with Sacramento's peak of bloom. See hundreds of flowers at their best. Event also includes a large exhibit of 19th century roses and modern arrangements with an America's Cup sailing theme. Cut flowers and potted roses offered for sale. Entries accepted 7-10 a.m.; beginners welcome.


Where: Start at Woodland Public Library, 250 First St., Woodland

When: Noon-5 p.m. April 28 (rain date May 5)

Admission: $20, $10 youths; available online

Details:, (530) 661-5980

This popular tour includes several local gardens in historic Woodland, starting with the library's rose garden.


Where: Capitol Park, 16th Street between N and L streets

When: 2 p.m. May 5

Admission: Free

Details:, (916) 381-5433

The special May 5 celebration salutes the garden's message of world peace. Acclaimed as one of Sacramento's most romantic settings, the 675-bush garden is open daily dawn to dusk. Weddings reservations are available through the California Highway Patrol, which administers the permits. (See website for forms and details.)


Where: Foundation Plant Services

When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. May 4 and 5

Admission: Free

Details:, (530) 752-6642

Open house of the university's 8-acre test rose collection includes free tours 12:30-3:30 p.m. both days. Also, check out sales of new Eyeconic shrub roses and other unusual varieties.

Call The Bee's Debbie Arrington, (916) 321-1075. Follow her on Twitter @debarrington.

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