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Trees of Elizabeth Park
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Rose Garden

The rose garden is the center of Elizabeth Park. It is the first municipal rose garden in the United States and the third largest rose garden in the country today. Theodore Wirth began the design of the rose garden in September of 1903, and it opened in June 1904. The rose garden began with about 190 varieties of roses, and this eventually grew to almost 1,000 by the 1950s. Today, the Conservancy oversees and manages the rose garden and needs to raise over $100,000 for rose expertise, full-time summer gardeners, contractor services, and fertilizer, mulch, lime, and replacement roses.

The original main garden, the “square,” is an acre in size and has 132 rose beds. The logo of the Conservancy is patterned after the square. Mr. Wirth’s original design of a square with a center circle and eight pathways remains today. The North and South gardens, which are semi-circular sections, were added later to make up a total of 2.5 acres of roses, 475 beds, and the eight grass pathways. The wide paths were designed to accommodate larger crowds.

There are over 15,000 rose bushes and 800 varieties of old and new roses in the garden. Featured are hybrid tea, climbers, hybrid perpetual, and floribunda, shrub, and pillar roses, among others. Ramblers grow on arches that radiate from the “gazebo,” or Rustic Summer House, which is covered in Virginia creeper. The gazebo was built in 1904 as a part of the original plan. In 2005, it was reconstructed with the original plans using red cedar.

Elizabeth Park rose garden became the first official test garden in 1912 for the American Rose Society founded in 1892, with the idea to test and to provide accurate information about roses for the public. This is when the half-circular section of the garden was added on the south side of the main square. In 1937, the American Rose Society asked the park to add another semi-circle, which completes the garden of 2.5 acres as it stands today.

The arches are in full bloom in late June, early July, and are just spectacular. They only bloom once. Many of the other roses in the garden continue to bloom until the fall.
The rose garden, the gazebo, and the arches in the park are probably the most photographed and painted subjects in the park, and are a recognized symbol of Hartford.

The names of the roses are often whimsical and interesting, such as Orange Dream, Lemon Drop, Dainty Bess, Topnotch, and Bride’s Dream. As a way to raise funds, the Conservancy offers rose arch and bed dedications. The Rose Garden is a popular place for weddings and wedding photos. It is estimated that 15-20 weddings take place each weekend in peak season. The garden has been a constant and popular spot since it opened in 1904. Mr. Wirth’s vision to create a rose garden in 1904 has set Elizabeth Park apart from other city, regional, and national parks. He said he wanted a rose garden because, “Roses bring joy to the public.”

Varieties of Roses at Elizabeth Park
Hybrid Tea Roses

Samples are Tiffany, Elle, Peace, Elina. The hybrid tea is the rose that one pictures when one thinks of roses. The hybrid tea is a relatively new class of roses. While roses date back over 4 million years, the hybrid tea was recognized as a class with the introduction of the variety La France in 1867. This date officially marks the difference between old garden roses and modern roses.

Grandiflora Roses

Samples are Queen Elizabeth, Earth Song, Cherry Parfait. The grandiflora class came about as hybridizers wanted to produce a rose that had hybrid tea blooms with more than one bloom per stem. The first grandiflora to be introduced was Queen Elizabeth in 1954. Grandifloras are tall, elegant plants that bloom repeatedly during the season and generally feature classic hybrid tea flower clusters with stems, which are slightly shorter than those of hybrid teas.

Floribunda Roses

Samples are Julia Child, Tuscan Sun, Travemunde. Developed during the last century, these bushy shrubs have the large, showy blossoms of the hybrid teas but bloom more freely, setting clusters of three to fifteen blossoms rather than a single bloom on a stem. The floribunda came about by the crossing of polyanthas with hybrid teas.

Shrub Roses

Samples are Lady Elsie May, Golden Unicorn, Day Dream, and Grandma’s Blessing.  The shrub rose bushes are large and produce an abundance of blooms. They have a natural disease resistance and they grow in a variety of climates with minimum care. The great beauty of their flowers is borne consistently over a very long season.

Austin Roses

Samples are Ambridge Rose, Sharifa Asma, Pat Austin, and Heritage. These roses were created by English hybridizer David Austin and are in the shrub class. Austin’s objective was to create roses that had old garden rose characteristics of many petals and fragrance with the modern rose characteristic of reblooming. The Austin roses come in many varieties and growth habits.

Arch Roses

Samples are Excelsa, Dorothy Perkins, White Dorothy. The roses on the famous arches date back many years. They were originally classed as ramblers, but now they are officially climbers. Climber roses produce long, arching canes with numerous flowers that can be trained to a trellis, fence, or other supporting structure.

For questions or information, please call: 860-231-9443, ext. 104
or email us:

Christine Doty
President and CEO

Kathy Kraczkowsky
Co-Director of Park Operations

Elizabeth Park Conservancy
1561 Asylum Avenue
West Hartford CT 06117
Map (directions)

Pond House Café
1555 Asylum Avenue
West Hartford CT 06117
860.231.8823 / phone
Map (directions)
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