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Rose Gardens 
The Centennial Rose Garden of the Olympia Rose Society

The Garden Arbor and Garden Bench Photos:


In the year 1889 Washington emerged from territorial status to become the forty-second state.  Nearly a hundred years later, The State of Washington, in celebration of its centennial year, offered cash grants to various community organizations to undertake projects in commemoration of the centennial.  One of these grants found its way to the Olympia Rose Society (ORS) to create an historic rose garden on the grounds of the Schmidt Mansion in Tumwater.

Following several years of planning, fund raising and good old fashioned hard work by many ORS members, the garden was dedicated on June 23, 1989.  Mrs. Jean Gardner, Washington First Lady, presided over the ceremony. The dedication was held in conjunction with the 1989 ARS Pacific Northwest District convention and rose show, which were being held concurrently in Olympia.  Several hundred rose enthusiasts were in attendance on that very hot afternoon.

The garden was designed to display a broad selection of rose varieties, and to place them into an historical context that would document the development of the rose from ancient times, through the period of Washington statehood, to the present day. To accomplish this, the garden was divided into five sections:

- Ancient Roses,
- Pioneer Roses,
- Statehood Roses,
- Modern Roses, with a special section on Making New Roses.

Ancient Roses:  This section contains a collection of some of the oldest and most cherished roses known.  Some are documented to have been grown by the Greeks, Romans and Persians.  Some date back to Elizabethan times, while still others were cultivated by Washington, Jefferson and other founding fathers of our country.  Included in this section are Tuscany (Gallica, 1596), Rosa moschata (Species, date unknown), Alba Maxima (Alba, 1450), Rosa gallica (Species, before 1500) and others.

Pioneer Roses:  Here we have a collection of varieties that were brought west in covered wagons during the early 1840's and 50's by pioneers bound for Washington and Oregon Territories.  Many were brought for their food and medicinal value, others as reminders of home.  They include Paul Ricault (Centifolia, 1845),  Felicite Parmentier (Alba, 1836), Common Moss (Moss, 1696), Gloire de France (Gallica, 1818), and others.

Statehood Roses:  By the late 1800's, the time of Washington statehood, the food and medicinal value of roses were largely supplanted by their usefulness as decorative garden plants.  Cultivars in this section of the Centennial Garden represent the kinds of roses you would have seen growing around the Olympia area a century ago, such as Marie Pavie (Polyantha, 1888), Reine Victoria (Bourbon, 1872), Tuscany Superb (Gallica, 1848), Mme Isaac Pereire (Bourbon, 1881), and others.

Modern Roses:  The center bed, and the four beds surrounding it, contain modern roses -- that is, roses introduced after 1867.  Modern Roses comprise several types, including Hybrid Teas, Floribundas, Grandifloras, English Roses, and Miniatures.  Several varieties of each group are represented here, including Touch of Class, Lavaglut, French Lace, Escapade, Sexy Rexy, Playboy, Queen Elizabeth, Silver Lining, Graham Thomas, Starina, and many others.

Making New Roses:  New rose cultivars are being created all the time.  All cultivated roses originate ultimately from about four wild species roses that have been selected, crossed, and back-crossed perhaps dozens of times over the centuries to produce the thousands of varieties now available.  Most new varieties are created using this process of selection and breeding.  In addition, many types of roses produce somatic mutations (sports) without human intervention.  Normally these sports are of little value, but very occasionally one is found which equals or even surpasses the beauty of its parent.  These, if they can be vegetatively propagated true to type, may become new cultivars.  This section of the garden contains specimens of varieties that illustrate the processes of selection, breeding and mutation.

The best time to visit the Centennial Garden to see the Old Garden Roses in bloom is from mid-May through the end of June.  Many of the modern roses begin blooming in early June and remain in bloom until November.  When you visit the Centennial Garden be sure to pick up a Visitors Guide.  This small booklet, available at the garden entrance, provides an overview of the garden layout and a detailed historical sketch of each antique rose the garden contains.  Reading the booklet while touring the garden will greatly enhance your enjoyment of the garden and sense of history it reveals.  The Centennial Garden is open from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm daily.

The Centennial Garden forms an integral part of the ORS and its activities.  While only about the size of a tennis court, it contains over 50 varieties and nearly 250 individual plants. Each spring and fall the ORS holds pruning demonstrations that are open to the public as educational events.  A rose sale is held every spring.  During the growing season work parties meet twice weekly for deadheading and general garden maintenance.  A separate five-man spray team applies fungicides for disease prevention every other week during summer.  The garden and its fiscal affairs are managed by the Centennial Garden Foundation, which is a standing committee of the ORS.  The Foundation maintains its own slate of officers and financial account independent of the Society.

Driving Directions:

The Centennial Garden is less than one mile from Interstate 5.  Coming from the north on I-5, take the 2nd Avenue exit (Exit 103) and turn immediately left onto Custer Way.  Go over the freeway bridge and turn left onto Schmidt Place, where you will find ample parking.  You will see the garden directly ahead on the grounds of the Schmidt Mansion.  If coming up from the south on I-5, take the Trosper Road exit, turn right and then left onto Capitol Way.  Go about a mile to Custer Way and turn left, then immediately right onto Schmidt place.

Don't forget to bring your camera!

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Updated July 02, 2004
Copyright 2004 ARS Pacific Northwest District