The Subject Was Roses


The journalistic puns are already being employed; it’s a “thorny subject,” a “prickly issue,” etc. (I prefer “the subject was roses”) but the controversy over removing roses from Sacramento’s historic cemetery raises some serious issues. Here is a recent Sac Bee story:
The recent designation of the Gold Rush-era graveyard as historic has triggered new rules that could require the removal or drastic cutting of many rare specimens in the cemetery’s world-famous rose garden, which features more than 500 varieties. Several of these can be found only in this Sacramento garden, internationally heralded as a “living library of rare roses.”
To better preserve the stone monuments and restore the cemetery to an earlier historic period, the city has ordered arbors, trellises, decorative arches, tripods and other metalwork be taken down and plants removed from plots. Under the new guidelines, markers and monuments must be fully visible from all directions. No plants can be within 12 inches of monuments.
“The whole rose world is upset about this,” said Kathryn Mackenzie, a longtime volunteer. “We have visitors from all the world come here to see the roses. They come because we have roses they can’t see anywhere else.”
That worldwide reputation has brought many accolades to the cemetery rose garden. In 2009, the garden was inducted into the Great Rosarians of the World international hall of fame.
“The reputation of this garden is bigger than national, it’s worldwide,” said Stephen Scanniello, president of the Heritage Rose Foundation and curator of the New York Botanical Garden’s Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden. “This garden contains the largest collection of rare and endangered roses in the United States. … It’s a national treasure.”
With its graceful arbors and trellises, the cemetery garden is true to its Gold Rush and Victorian roots, he added. “Among the most important elements of the garden are the historic climbing roses. When garden cemeteries were first created, roses were an important feature. They were trained on structures, decorating tombs, and planted on graves to honor those who rest in peace.”