Central Park Rose Garden gets high respect

The Central Park Rose Garden claims the title of the third best municipal rose garden in the nation

Categories: Schenectady County

The Central Park Rose Garden claims the title of the third best municipal rose garden in the nation out of 130 entries.

A competition carried out for the first time by the All-America Rose Selections (AARS), a leading gardening organization, decided on “America’s Best Rose Garden” after several months of online voting and professional review. Visitors and rose enthusiasts had all spring to vote for their favorite garden; afterwards, experts judged the gardens based on their condition and the quality and dedication of volunteers.

“In 1995 I called it a weed patch,” Dave Gade, the garden supervisor, said. Since then, a group of volunteers has returned the garden to award-winning condition.

“It’s nice to be No. 3. Being in the top 10 was great, but being in the top three is just super,” Gade said.

The rags-to-riches — or as Gade calls it “weeds-to-riches” — story helped Schenectady’s rose garden win the ranking.

Fifteen years ago the garden seemed in disrepair. Concrete fixtures were in ruins, the gardens were overgrown and the city had run out of money and manpower to fix it. A group of community members got together and started the Rose Garden Restoration Committee, which took over upkeep and funding.

“Part of the criteria was community involvement,” Gade said. “For a lot of municipal gardens the city hires gardeners. But [AARS] was looking more at the ones that have been neglected at one time and groups, like us, brought them back.”

Gade said none of the gardens in the top 3 — San Jose Municipal Rose Garden, Dr. E. M. Mills Memorial Rose Garden of Syracuse and Central Park Rose Garden — receive a significant amount of money or help from their local governments. Between 40 and 50 volunteers help weed, plant, manage and raise funds for Schenectady’s rose garden.

AARS gave the first-place garden in San Jose a $2,500 donation. But the new title for Schenectady’s garden might be just as good, Matt Cuevas, president of the restoration committee, said.

“Certainly, it brings a lot more publicity and recognition to the garden,” Cuevas said. “And certainly the award recognizes the hard work that all the volunteers have put into it.”

Since it was placed in the top 10 earlier this summer, the garden has received an increased number of visitors. Every Saturday there is at least one, if not two, weddings and on some days there have been as many as four, he said.

Both Gade and Cuevas said they believe the national title could help bring in more funds to the committee, which is raising money to build a fountain in the center of the garden. The fountain is estimated at $80,000 and the committee has raised about half of that through a variety of donations and pledges.

“People like to give to things that are a success,” Gade said. “And it is great for the city to have people come see the garden.”

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