June is a month heavy with the sweet smell of roses; I was afraid I was going to miss the colorful display of blooms this year. I realized COVID-19 wouldn’t prevent the roses from blooming. The Rose Festival that draws large crowds every summer would not happen, and I hoped that the roses would receive the delicate attention that they demand.
The first half of June came and went, with no large gatherings permitted in the State of Ohio, or around much of the country. In Clintonville, at the Columbus Park of Roses, most of the roses are in “top form” at this time, and thousands of blooms are opening up for enthusiasts from all over the country, who come to Ohio just for this annual occasion.
“Peak bloom in the Formal Rose Garden is usually the second week of June. Blooms continue all summer but not at the same abundance as in June. Much depends on the Columbus weather during the summer — both rainfall and temperatures.” (William E. Riddle, PhD. and member of the Rose Foundation)
Friends of Columbus Park of Roses reported that the park was in peak bloom. “If you visit,” they implored “we would be interested in hearing how your experience was during this historic time in our country with the pandemic. We hope we have provided a place of respite.” (Facebook June 18th)
And, haven’t they? The roses bloom in colorful succession! Bold magenta and delicate peach are replaced by creamy ivory petals that slowly open to the sunshine of a summer’s day. It’s as though they are celebrating the fact that summer still happens, and the beauty of the park is there for us to enjoy, even as we self-isolate and keep an appropriate distance from one another.
One visitor, filled with gratitude, commented: “I visited the other day and it was beautiful! This park is such a gem, and truly a welcomed break during these difficult times. There were quite a few people around, but everyone kept their distance and were respectful of personal space. I look forward to visiting again soon, hopefully this weekend! <3” Allison Travis
To ready the gardens for summer visitors, year after year, Volunteers have worked tirelessly to prepare the flowerbeds, and tend to the spring buds, to trim and dig, to weed and lend support where needed. A thorn prick or scratch is a small price to pay for the fragrant rewards.
Don’t know a thing about growing roses? What could be easier, and more rewarding, for a new gardener? No prior experience required! Volunteers offer as much or as little time as they like. There’s no commitment or formal schedule. Volunteers come as they are, and the gardens flourish!
Gardening can be a quiet retreat, where one can be alone and reflect on nature, and our place in it. Or it can be a reason to socialize with old friends, rub elbows with park neighbors, and meet garden novices, eager to learn from those with more experience, and stories to share. But this year. . . the social function of volunteering was put on pause in April.
“This year, due to COVID-19, the volunteer program has been delayed. Volunteers hoped to begin working the first week in May, however we are working with only a very few volunteers. Hopefully we will be able to invite anyone who wants to volunteer in the garden soon. When we do return, we will continue to use the following protocol have been established:” (Park of Roses Website)
- Do not come if you are not feeling well.
- Maintain 6 feet between yourself and other people.
- Bring and wear a mask.
- Bring your own water and snack (if you wish).
- Bring your own tools and do not share them.
- Bring and use your own bucket to collect garden waste. Large leaf bags will be provided for final disposal of garden waste.
How do the Volunteers help? It’s the day-to-day work in a garden that is entrusted to Volunteers. That means pruning and weeding – lots of pruning and lots of weeding! Want your roses to bloom again and again? Spent flowers need to be removed, so deadheading is constant. Lowering the number of Volunteers on site at one time might be most clearly evidenced by the number of dead flowers still on the bush.
But the colors. . . . . they speak for themselves!
Despite its name, there are a lot more than roses at the park – the culinary visitor will be entertained by the herb garden, and in the Heritage Garden you’ll be treated by vibrantly purple Larkspur. There’s a place to hang your hammock and a bike trail nearby, not to mention gazebos and stages designated for weddings and small performances. You might trip over a portrait photographer, family of 5 in tow, if you aren’t careful.
As it turns out, Roses are not my favorite flower, even when it’s time for Valentine’s Day cards and chocolate bonbons. Am I not sentimental? I guess I’m not a fan of the varieties of rose commonly available at the local florist, or at the entrance of the local grocery store. Instead, give me fragrant Lilac, delicate Lilly of the Valley, or a gently bowing bouquet of spring Tulips, in a rainbow of colors.
“The Columbus Park of Roses is one of the largest public rose gardens in the U.S. with more than 12,000 rose specimens. The garden’s extensive variety of plantings and more than one mile of paved walkways with benches make the Columbus Park of Roses a setting with year-round appeal for visitors. The 13-acre garden is an accredited arboretum and features five horticultural themes:” (See the Park of Roses website for more information.)
• Formal Rose Garden — rose beds laid out in a symmetrical pattern, each planted with one variety for visual impact
• Heritage Rose Garden — rose varieties cultivated before 1867, and predecessors to many modern roses
• Perennial Garden — more than 100 varieties of bulbs, perennials, shrubs and trees
• Herb Garden — more than 100 varieties of plants grouped by usage, fragrance and pollinator qualities
• Backyard Garden — low-maintenance bulbs, perennials, shrubs and trees designed to give visitors creative ideas for their own gardens
• Arboretum — comprises the entire Columbus Park of Roses with more than 138 varieties of trees and shrubs
The Park of Roses might convince me to change favorite flower, quickly and irreversibly.
Enjoy every bit of your experience at the park, but Wow – the roses!
Join me on my next adventure,
Columbus Park of Roses: https://parkofroses.org/
Map of the Gardens: https://parkofroses.org/visit/
Columbus Recreation and Parks Guide – download the PDF to discover what’s going on around Columbus (created prior to the coronavirus pandemic): https://www.columbus.gov/recreationandparks/parks/Park-of-Roses-(Whetstone-Park)/