American Rose Society
Fresh plans are blooming for the American Rose Gardens in Shreveport
Marilyn Wellan, a 35-year volunteer for (ARS) and the Gardens, is also a former ARS national president and is creator of the newly invented Master Plan for the Gardens. She is also serving as coordinator of the Great Garden Restoration Project.
“The Great Garden Restoration Project encompasses the total restoration of the Gardens,” Wellan said. “It was felt we could no longer patch an area here and there – we had to take on the whole property, make it workable for us, and make it a masterpiece for the touring public and all who use the facilities.”
According to Wellan, the rose gardens that had been at times impressive, and at times just passable over the years since opening in 1974, had finally grown tired and difficult to maintain. The towering pines had over-grown the gardens, robbing the roses of sunlight, nutrients and water in the soil. Deer were doing more and more damage each year. “The Master Plan called for a complete makeover for the gardens, as well as a plan to sustain them in the future,” Wellan explained. “The restoration is the implementation of that Master Plan.”
The plan was announced Dec. 6 at an afternoon event, “Wine & Roses.” “The event was planned as our introduction of the Great Garden Restoration Project to the communities of Shreveport, Bossier, Caddo Parish and all of Northwest Louisiana,” Wellan said. “The architect Ward Bryant of Whitlock-Shelton made his architectural drawings as well as a 3-D model of the new gardens available.” A Powerpoint presentation was given to walk attendees visually through the property.
Three American Rose Society presidents were in attendance, as well as community leaders such as former Congressman Jim McCrery, Parish Commissioner Louis Johnson and State Representative Alan Seabaugh.
The immediate goals of the plan were to consolidate the gardens into one impactful core garden, remove the pine forest that affected the area of the rose plantings, and install a deer fence to encompass the entire planted area of the grounds. “To date, we have raised $570,000 in cash, pledges and services and have been able to complete those three immediate goals,” Wellan said.
Other goals will take more time to accomplish. “The long-term goals are to create the most beautiful rose garden, and the most botanically important, visitor-friendly-andexciting garden that we possibly can,” Wellan said. “At the same time the new gardens are being created, new activities and educational programs for all ages are being made a part of our plans – for outreach, inclusiveness and to make our gardens a more integral part of the community.”
Wellan truly loves her job. “My favorite part of the job is having a dream this big and this exciting come together, in creating a plan and having it come into fruition,” Wellan said. “It’s also all 31 members of the ARS board of directors from across the country supporting this huge undertaking by the American Rose Center Committee of ARS. I love the satisfaction in playing a big part to create something so beautiful and meaningful as this garden.”
Wellan is looking forward to watching their plan blossom over the coming years. “Anyone watching us develop these plans will be witnessing history being made, for the community and for the state, for tourism and for the economy,” Wellan said. “When the Klima Education & Visitor Center was built in 2003- 2005, major contributions came into this community from our members from across the country, totaling $2.4 million. In addition, the annual American Rose Society budget exceeds $1 million, most of which is spent right here in the parish, for employee wages and for needed products and services. It’s easy to see how the ARC and the ARS have made quite a large economic impact on the area, and will continue to do so in the future.”
According to Wellan, the goal is to complete the five-year Great Garden Restoration project in 2022. “In that year, we will celebrate the Gardens’ 50th year in Shreveport and the Society’s 130th year,” Wellan said. “We’ll install the four circles of the new design all at once, if the funds are raised, or perhaps one circle at a time if it takes a little longer to raise the funds.”
Although there’s plenty of excitement to come, the gardens are still worth a visit now. “The gardens are a wonderful place for a quiet outing in a woodland area or a brisk walk or jog around the property,” Wellan said. “On coming to the gardens now, visitors will witness the energy and enthusiasm that abounds, with the beautiful new additions and the plans that are underway.”
“When the Great Garden Restoration is complete, we will be able to tell the history of the rose in America,” Jon Corkern, executive director, American Rose Society, said. “No other garden has ever done this. The garden to be built will become an epicenter of education and beauty for everyone to behold!” According to Corkern, there’s always a reason to visit the Gardens. “We have so much to offer, from our already existing gardens to our many events including: Spring Bloom, Christmas In Roseland, Green Thumb Seminars. Horticultural Symposiums, Weddings and our Easter Egg Hunt.”
In April 2019, there will be “An Evening of Wine & Roses” fundraiser, in which all proceeds will go to the Restoration and also toward Rose Garden special projects and programming. Tickets will become available in March. For more information, visit www.rose.org.
– Betsy St. Amant Haddox