Gardens of the Arboretum Series: The Rose Garden

By Paul Kammerdiner

To fully understand what we see when we come to the Cedar Valley Arboretum and look at the gardens, we need to start thinking in terms of how long it takes most growing things to mature. Relatively speaking, our gardens are very young; for instance even though a formal rose garden was part of the Master Plan in the 1990s, it did not get developed until 2001.

Quoting from the Master Plan under the heading The Formal Rose Garden:

“The rose more than any other ornamental plant embodies a long and enduring history of ornamental horticulture in Western civilization. Roses were certainly cultivated by the Persians and ancient Greeks as well as the Mogul Empire in India. The love affair with the fragrance and variation in color of the rose comes through medieval and renaissance Europe to the New World.”

According to Arboretum records, our Rose Garden was the brain child of Arnold Webster, a local arborist and long-time volunteer. This photograph taken in March of 2000 shows the space north of the tower. In the foreground are the spaces for community gardens; notice a corner of fence exists but there is as yet no Children’s Garden or Education Center. The Rose Garden would be planted on the other side of this fence, or to the west.

While Mr. Webster was in college, a former roommate was Griffith Buck who become a professor of horticulture at Iowa State. It was Dr. Buck who developed a hybrid strain of hardy roses that became known as “Buck Roses.” His intent was to produce a strain of roses that would survive an Iowa winter without any type of elaborate protection and he was highly successful. It therefore was no surprise that the first plantings in the new garden were Buck Roses; with 14 varieties donated by Arnold Webster. This garden began during the growing season of 2001 but sadly in December of that year Mr. Webster passed away. However, under the expertise of Craig Gibleon the Rose Garden continued to take shape. Early plant lists in our archive show 30 different cultivars of Buck Roses in this space.

This photo was taken in June of 2004.

The Rose Garden continued to flourish. Then in 2007, with the assistance of Craig Ritland, it was re-designed to include an oval brick walkway in the center of the garden with a space in the middle for lawn.

It was also at this time that the perimeter was surrounded by over 90 Emerald Green Arborvitae. One year later the cedar fence was extended to the south to enclose the garden and lend it a more formal feel. The space was dedicated to the Northeast Iowa Community Foundation, a major funding source.

In 2010, the Rose Garden received another major face-lift in the form of new companion plants to the roses. A plant list shows: Yarrow, Beach Wormwood, Turtlehead, Coral Bells, Shasta Daisy, Blue Switch Grass, Russian Sage, Oriental Poppy, Meadow Sage, Prairie Drop seed, and Dwarf Lamb’s Ear. Of course this is the Rose Garden, so the list also shows an addition of 35 different varieties of Shrub and Knockout Roses. The intent of this design is to ensure color and texture throughout the entire growing season. On a practical note, an irrigation system was also installed.

Also in 2010, the Arboretum received a donation from the Veldhuzien family to be used for the construction of a new Pergola in memory of Ivan and Virginia Meyers. This beautiful structure was designed and installed by volunteers along with four cedar planters. This space has become a popular backdrop for events of all sorts, especially weddings.

Gardens are always a work in progress and I suspect the same holds true for the Rose Garden, another of the Cedar Valley Arboretum’s tranquil retreats.