Q and A: Rose Garden a sight to see, says restoration group head

The rosy dispositions of Elizabeth Taylor, Betty Boop and Julia Child are back in Schenectady’s Cent

The rosy dispositions of Elizabeth Taylor, Betty Boop and Julia Child are back in Schenectady’s Central Park.

Matt Cuevas loves to see them. The “ladies” are among the roses on display in the park’s famous rose garden.

Cuevas, president of the Rose Garden Restoration Committee, appreciates Elizabeth’s deep pink, Betty’s crimson-tinged petals and Julia’s butter-gold complexion. But he really likes Hot Cocoa on a stem.

“It’s just an unusual flower, and one of the reasons I like it, it’s got nice, dark green foliage,” said Cuevas, during a recent tour of the garden on a cloudy Friday morning. “It’s one of the most pest-resistant and mildew-resistant roses. … To me, it’s just the color — this dusky, reddish color.”

The carousel of color on display in the park will continue into early July. Park gardeners and volunteers maintain 4,000 individual rose bushes and 300 different varieties of roses on one acre of land. The park has been a summer place for nature fans, photographers and brides and grooms since the first roses bloomed during the spring of 1960.

Central Park Rose Garden

WHERE: The Wright Avenue entrance to Schenectady’s Central Park (at the corner of Wright Ave. and Central Parkway)

WHEN: Open all year; hours are from dawn to dusk; the garden blooms from mid-June to mid-October


MORE INFO: www.schenectadyrose.com

The garden will participate in Schenectady’s summer Art Night — the third Friday of each month — hosting local artists and musicians from 5 until 7:30 p.m. on July 15 and Aug. 19. Cuevas hopes bunches of people come to see the bunches of buds groomed by the committee. He answered a bunch of questions about his favorite flower.

Q: What kinds of colors do you have in the park?

A: We have red, yellow, orange, pink, mauve. There are bi-colors — two colors — there are some that actually change color. There’s one that opens up kind of orange and turns to pink; there’s another one that will open almost white and turns to a pink rose. Roses come in every color except for blue. Blue — that’s the one thing hybridizers have been trying to do for probably the last century, trying to find a blue rose. I don’t know if it’s in the gene of the flower. The closest you get is kind of a mauve; that’s really a purple.

Q: When will people see the most color?

A: About mid-June until early July, that’s the peak season. It will stay peak for about a week or two, depending on the weather. If it really gets too hot, they’ll fade faster. If it stays relatively warm but still cool, we’ll stay in pretty good color into July. It will kind of drop off a little bit. We still have color all season; there’s usually a second flush of blooms in the fall, going into September and October.

Q: Who are the visitors?

A: Everybody comes. The garden has been a favorite spot for Schenectady residents; we’re now finding that it really has become a regional garden. That really has been our focus, to make it much more known outside of just the Schenectady area. We’ve been working on the gardens the last 15 years, bringing it back. It was almost destroyed by the city in 1995.

We started in 1995, became the Rose Garden Restoration Committee. The city really didn’t have anybody to care for it anymore. The city was pretty much in financial distress; they had laid off most of the gardeners, or the gardeners had retired, so there really wasn’t any caring for the garden. We’ve been raising funds every year; certainly a good part of that is the legacy that was left to us by Mr. Carl [Charles W. Carl Jr., head of the former Carl Co. department store] that has given us funds to really hire the gardeners. We’ve been fundraising steadily for the past 10 years. We’ve gotten a lot of recognition from different people, been able to restore the fountain, put in kiosks, a bench, the gatehouse. It’s all part of a master plan we developed in 2005.

Q: When’s the best time of day to see the roses?

A: For me, I would say morning, or evening just before dusk. The light at that point isn’t as intense. You’re getting light from the east or the west, so you’re getting low light, the colors actually pop a little bit more. If you come in at noon, it’s still pretty, but I think the sun tends to wash out the color. When you’re in full sun, it’s still spectacular, but it tends to be overly bright. One thing you do get sometimes with full sun is more fragrance.

Q: Do you grow roses at home?

A: I don’t; I don’t have enough sun. I have a few rejects from the garden here. When we replace sections of the garden, if we find we have to totally rehab a bed, we pull them all and replant them. If there are some bushes that are still usable, we’ll try to replant them in the garden. If not, we give them to the volunteers.

Q: Are roses tough to grow at home?

A: They’re not as tough as you think. They require a minimum of six hours of sun. They do like to be watered, fertilized in the spring and throughout the season. Because we are such a large public garden, ours are sprayed with a fungicide every two weeks, which helps keep down the black spot [on leaves]. Not every garden gets that.

Q: How about bugs?

A: The only thing we tend to get here — and the garden is well cared for, the roses are extremely healthy, so they seem to be a little more resistant to pests — are Japanese beetles. It depends on the season. I think here, because there are so many roses, I think a home gardener tends to be more at the mercy of the Japanese beetle than here, because they’ve got so many to feed off.

Normally, what Japanese beetles will do is they’ll get right into the rosebud itself and chew it apart. … There are so many roses here, they can’t destroy what’s here. And the gardeners, those of us who are not squeamish, if you see any beetles, you just take them, squeeze them between your fingers and kill them.

Q: Weeds?

A: We mulch, and the mulch keeps them down, but they are still enough that if you don’t stay on top of them, you’ll get weeds. Everybody knows weeds are basically wind-blown seeds that somehow end up in your beds no matter what you try to do. Anybody who has gardens knows you’re always at the mercy of the weeds.

Q: Albany is known for tulips, but tulip season can be kind of short, right?

A: That might be something we should think about in Schenectady, become the ‘Rose City.’ We’re one of the few public gardens of this size with this variety of roses. A lot of rose gardens tend to be private gardens. A garden of this size tends to be kind of rare for a municipal garden. We were named the third best rose garden in the country in 2010 by the All-America Rose Selection group. No. 2 was in Syracuse, an open municipal garden, and No. 1 was San Jose, Calif., another municipal garden.

Q: People don’t come in here and clip themselves, do they?

A: Unfortunately, people do. It’s strongly discouraged. The whole reason is to let everybody enjoy it. If everybody figured they could take a dozen roses home, we wouldn’t have anything here. We try to encourage people to say this is a public garden, it’s for the public to enjoy, it’s not just for any individual. We do have some people who tend to think, “This is a public garden, I pay my taxes, I’m entitled to it.”

Q: Can rose lovers — new volunteers — just show up on Tuesday nights?

A: We’re always looking for volunteers. You can go to our website and check us out online [www.schenectadyrose.com] or they can come here Tuesdays at 6 o’clock. We can loan you a pair of pruners, but most people come with their own equipment.

Categories: Life and Arts

Leave a Reply