Old buds clipped

New guidelines expected by end of the year

This is an extended version of a story that appears in the July 26, 2018, issue.

Some of the most historic roses in Sacramento recently took a beating.

Two years ago, a moratorium on rose-cutting was placed on the Old City Cemetery’s historic garden, after controversial guidelines to control the plants around landmarks and monuments caused an outcry. Back then, the proposed guidelines would have resulted in the removal or relocation of many rare plants at the world-renowned rose garden.

The moratorium halted any further active movement on the city’s part in regard to pruning the roses until an agreement was reached between the cemetery’s longtime volunteers and the city’s park staff.

As months turned into years, the roses continued to bloom and thrive under the care of more than 20 volunteers and the garden’s curator and manager, Anita Clevenger. But at a June 20 Preservation Commission meeting, Clevenger raised concerns that city park staff had once again visited the cemetery and began “limbing up, cutting back and removing plants,” a practice that badly damaged an old tea rose that was planted more than 100 years ago. Clevenger worried it wouldn’t survive.

“Everybody has the interest of the cemetery and the plants at heart, the question is how do we go about maintaining them,” Clevenger said.

Clevenger has made it clear things haven’t gotten better. About a month earlier, city park staff once again thinned and pruned roses in the Hamilton Square Perennial Plant Garden at the wrong time of year. As a result, another historic rose bush planted at the beginning of the 20th century was badly damaged, she said.

City staff had formed a technical advisory committee two years ago, or TAC, in order to revise horticultural guidelines for the cemetery’s rose garden. Since then, that committee has only met three times and guidelines have yet to be on its agenda—until now.

“There’s the expectations of draft guidelines that the TAC will be receiving by September 14,” said Caru Bowns, a member of the Preservation Committee and advisory committee. “These horticultural guidelines will be inclusive of what is happening at the rose garden and its vegetation.”

She added that TAC will meet to finalize the guidelines by the end of the year.

Bowns credits the vigilance of the rose garden’s volunteers for keeping the plants in bloom during the slow-moving process. She also admits that roses are tough to maintain and that the experience the volunteers bring to the garden is invaluable.

“There’s some wonderful history and traditions that are there,” Brown said. “What is critical is that unless the city gets a windfall of billions that will span for the next 50 years, it will need this core of enthusiastic people.”