A community call to action blossoms

August 5, 2008 2:34:22 PM PDT
At a time when governments are cutting budgets and slashing services, the people of a San Jose neighborhood are doing some pruning of their own. They are restoring the city's Municipal Rose Garden to its former glory.

For all the silicon chips in San Jose, there is one place where a visitor can smell the software. It is the Municipal Rose Garden, a landmark and treasure made all the more beautiful through perseverance.

"Well, I think it's what all cities are facing -- shrinking budgets," said San Jose Councilmember Pierluigo Oliverio.

When the Santa Clara County Growers Society conjured the garden in the 1920s, they had big plans for it. San Jose was an agricultural area at the time and they envisioned it becoming the rose capital of the world.

A postcard from long ago reveals the garden's beauty from back when the city could afford three full-time gardeners who were also experts with roses. But the garden did not remain that way. As years passed, it eroded. Neighors like Murial Schlicting watched helplessly as weeds took over.

"We were very upset when the garden went downhill," said Schlicting.

It got so bad that in 2005 the garden lost its national rating. Among rose lovers that was a civic embarrassment.

"It was a kick in the pants," said Beverly Hopper.

"It just looked bad and the community can sit by and watch it get bad or it can step in and do something about it," said Terry Reilly.

So they did. Terry Reilly, Beverly Hopper and Murial Schlicting, among others, engineered a volunteer group that works in partnership with the city. Where the budget fell short, they stepped in, and began to turn the place around.

"We look at this every day, and it's the least we can do," said Schlicting.

They've done it the old fashioned way. But they've been high-tech, as well. From his office at home, Terry created a database and a call to action.

"It's about community. People coming out and contributing something," said Reilly.

Master gardeners earn and wear green vests. There is a merit system -- for every 10 hours of work, another gold star.

"My wife and I were married here eight years ago. So I have an emotional attachment here," said volunteer Miles Tobin.

The result, a rose garden well on its way to being more beautiful than every before -- new fencing. new lights, an improved fountain and an old lesson.

"The lesson is that if you want to see something improve, then pick up a sheer. And that's what happened here," said Oliverio.

They say that to fully appreciate the brief, but intense beauty of a rose, one must tend it through the seasons. Now San Jose's Municipal Rose Garden has 4,000 plants and respectability, again, in bunches.

"There is a sense of accomplishment, particularly with roses because you cut the bloom off, it's kind of dead, and then you come back and you can see the new growth," said Reilly.

How to help
To learn more or for information on how to help the Friends of the San Jose Rose Garden, visit www.friendssjrosegarden.org.


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