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New advisory group to tackle Sacramento cemetery rose garden issue

Roses in bloom in The Sacramento Historic City Cemetery's rose garden on Saturday March 26, 2016.
Roses in bloom in The Sacramento Historic City Cemetery's rose garden on Saturday March 26, 2016. apayne@sacbee.com

A new advisory committee will help city staff untangle the prickly issue of how to care for the gardens in Sacramento’s historic City Cemetery.

Roberta Deering, Sacramento’s preservation director, made the announcement during a marathon Preservation Commission meeting Wednesday night at Sacramento City Hall. About 60 people, mostly volunteers in the cemetery’s gardens, turned out for the five-hour meeting.

“The city’s cemetery manager and Parks and Recreation Department director are preparing the establishment of a technical advisory committee,” Deering told the commissioners. The committee will include experts in “cultural landscapes, ornamental horticulture, conservation and preservation planning.”

Other details about this new advisory committee, which will be determined by the parks department, are still in the works, Deering said.

The action follows a month of outcry from rose lovers, worried that new city guidelines designed to better preserve the cemetery’s monuments would mean that dozens of rare roses might be lost. Internationally heralded, the cemetery’s award-winning Historic Rose Garden is considered among the world’s best collections of older varieties with more than 500 bushes, many one of a kind.

During a two-hour discussion, more than 30 people – most carrying roses – offered personal and passionate testimony in defense of the cemetery gardens and its many volunteers. Besides the rose garden, the cemetery also features major gardens devoted to perennials and California native plants.

“(The speakers) were really inspirational,” said commissioner Caru Bowns, who visited the cemetery rose garden for the first time Saturday. “I look forward to returning to the cemetery and seeing the continued evolution of the garden. ... Most important is the power of participatory decision making. The community of volunteers should definitely be part of decision making.”

“It’s a step in the right direction,” said rose garden curator Anita Clevenger. “I really appreciate the Preservation Commission for all their interest. What we need is a collaborative effort. We all need to work together.”

The Sacramento Historical Cemetery Rose Garden's curator, Anita Clevenger, raises concerns about the city's new guidelines for the garden and what it will mean for the flowers, many of them rare and historical.

Debbie Arrington: 916-321-1075, @debarrington

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