As Washington Park’s rose garden turns 100, its longtime curator hangs up his shears

Only once have ever had this garden perfect. Just once. At least to my standards. Other people think it’s perfect all the time. We came out here in 1984 to visit my brother-in-law for Christmas. We left Milwaukee, Wisconsin at 25 below landed here at 50 above. It was like the tropics. And he brought us to the garden and I fell in love with this garden at that time. And I told my family, “I’m gonna work here someday.” And they said, “Yeah right.”
But look what happened. (Laughter). Here, looks like this one could use some work. In 1915, the big idea was to save the roses in Europe. The war was going on. They had to grow food not roses. So it was between Tacoma and San Francisco and Portland. And in 1917, we got the official word that this garden had been chosen then to be the official test garden. So it’s just evolved from that. I started out with about 32-3,500 roses when I first started here now we’re at just under 11,000. My other job is picking up garbage. Takes about 100 people a month just to keep this garden dead-headed. Volunteer: What am I supposed to to? Harry: We’ll just be doing some dead-heading. And you have a bucket and I don’t. This is in good shape. Aren’t those arches gorgeous. But it takes me and a volunteer two days to get those roses trained and trimmed in the winter. And then retied. And we have 229 of them to do. Our roses grow totally different here. Mostly because our nights are fairly cool our days are generally not very hot
and the winters are generally quite mild This is one of the roses I was telling you about. It’s from Germany, it’s supposed to only be three-feet high. And here, I mean, it’s not done growing yet. I’m always asked which rose is my favorite. And my reply is, “It’s like which child is your favorite?” This is my favorite rose. One of my favorite roses. This is Love and Peace. I just fell in love with the way the whole
thing grows. These nice green leaves. It’s straight and it’s strong. And out of 150 points I gave it a 147 only because it had no fragrance. Otherwise, it would have been, for me, a perfect rose. I am retiring, yep. That’s gonna be really difficult. I live and breathe this garden. It’s been my life nearly 30 years. I probably will come back here and volunteer. But only sunny days. You know, I’m here at 5:30 in the morning. I can be tired from the night before. But I get here, and it just re-energizes me. And I come back and just go for it.

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