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Robert B. Martin Jr., President

In the 1935 American Rose Annual, J. Horace McFarland, the Father of the American Rose Society, presented a “high ideal” for a proposed Rosarium of the American Rose Society. There a Committee formed two years earlier laid out the detail of an “attempt to realize the vision of a vast garden devoted to the display, study and culture of roses in all their forms.” In it, they envisioned a large area with a “comprehensive display” of roses “more complete than any municipal rose garden.” They hoped it would showcase the “landscape value of shrub roses” and areas “devoted to special exhibitions”.


At its October 1969 meeting the ARS Board approved the establishment of Society headquarters in Shreveport, Louisiana which in their estimation was a “nearly ideal location”. Facilitating the decision was a gift of 118 acres of land in Shreveport, followed by a fund-raising campaign among the citizens of Shreveport which produced very generous contributions to the development of the American Rose Center as a permanent home for the Society. Thereafter, on May 9, 1974 – now 45 years ago – the American Rose Center was officially dedicated and opened to visitors.


To those who thought the project too idealistic, the Committee on the National Rosarium quoted the words of the late municipal designer, D. H. Burnham:


“Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high and hope and work; remembering that a noble, logical design once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with ever growing insistency.”


On April 4, 2019, in conjunction with a planning session of its Board of Directors, the American Rose Society broke ground on the J. Horace McFarland Plaza, the introduction to the “clockworks” that will make up the new design of America’s Rose Garden – a series of circular gardens, as gears in a vintage pocket watch, representing in a graphic way a tour of rose history, going back in time from the present day. Located just beyond the newly constructed Shanley/Del Vecchio Garden Gate Pavilion, the J. Horace McFarland Plaza has since been planted with the newly released ‘McFarland’ rose.


America’s Rose Garden is the fulfillment of the long-held dream of J. Horace McFarland, who among his innumerable contributions to the American Rose Society served as its President from 1930-1932. It is being carried forward through the efforts of four more recent occupants of that office. First proposed in its current form by Pat Shanley, President from 2016-2018, the work is being coordinated by Marilyn Wellan, President from 2003-2006, with fund-raising among district and local societies being undertaken under the direction of President Emeritus, Dr. Jim Hering, President from 1997-2000. And, as your current President I have made this work the Number One priority of my administration.


We make no little plans. The details of the Great Garden Restoration have been and will continue to be published in the American Rose, on our website, and in presentations being made throughout the country. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for you to be involved in carrying out a long-held dream of so many of our predecessors, a dream of a great Rosarium and THE garden for America’s Floral Emblem, the Rose. I encourage all members of the American Rose Society to become familiar with and to support this project through your encouragement and financial support.


Why Shreveport? It has been often said that our home is where our heart is. As rose gardeners our home is where our garden is. And our garden – America’s Rose Garden – is in Shreveport. I ask you for your support and hope you will make plans to come home to visit. We’ll leave a light on for you.



Groundbreaking five.jpg

In the year of its 125th Anniversary (2017), the American Rose Society launched the Great Garden Restoration Project – an ambitious plan to restore and improve the gardens at the American Rose Center. The 118 acres that make up the ARS property at Shreveport, Louisiana were donated to the Society by a local resident in 1970. By 1972, a Master Plan included a well-designed administration building and plans for the gardens. By 1974, the Society had made the move to Shreveport from Columbus, Ohio, and the gardens were opened.


A number of structures were added in succeeding years, greatly enhancing the value of the property. But over time, the garden's appeal deteriorated. Pine trees had grown to massive heights, and robbed roses of sunlight, nutrients and moisture. Deer multiplied every year and became more emboldened, destroying new growth on rose bushes. And the original scheme for 60-plus small garden spots throughout the acreage was expensive to maintain.


In early 2017, a five-year Master Plan was approved by the American Rose Center Committee and the ARS Board of Directors which set the path for the Great Garden Restoration, and for success in the future. The plan outlined these major Immediate Goals: 1) consolidation of the many gardens into a “core garden” with visual impact; 2) clearing of many trees; 3) deer fencing; 4) new walkways; 5) soil testing and amending; 6) creating an exciting new design for the gardens (see above image).


By the end of the year 2018, the Immediate Goals of the Master Plan had been achieved; $570,000 was raised in cash, services, in-kind gifts and pledges. The Great Garden Restoration Project is well underway, and promises to create a garden that is a major attraction for visitors from around the world, is visitor-friendly, reduces maintenance, is respectful of the environment, is educational in nature, and that is capable of increasing earned revenue to support the gardens.


We invite everyone to follow our progress, and be a part of the Restoration with your support.


Marilyn Wellan 

Restoration Project Coordinator

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