San Jose Heritage Rose Garden

Open daily from dawn to dusk, no admission charge

The San Jose Heritage Rose Garden, or the “Sangerhausen of the West,” is an unexpected jewel located in downtown San Jose. In 1988, avid gardener Lorrie Freeman and nurseryman Tom Liggett began work to develop a proposal for a rose garden in the yet undeveloped Guadalupe Gardens. In 1992, the San Jose City Council approved and funded the proposal for a heritage rose garden that would be the size of a city block. The purpose of the rose garden was to provide a safe haven for important rose species and to connect the public with the rare and beautiful flowers. Special emphasis was placed on choosing types of roses that would supplement the Municipal Rose Garden’s collection. The criteria for choosing the roses that would be placed in the new garden included (1) those rose varieties that were in danger of becoming lost or inaccessible; (2) those roses whose genes contributed to the best roses ever; (3) those roses that were so great that the public should have the opportunity to view them; and (4) those roses that would become rare in the future.

Ed Wilkinson, the original Curator, and Liggett, the original Director, spent countless hours establishing the Heritage Rose Garden’s botanical collection. They scoured many places, including old cemeteries and homes, for unidentified rose species. Using Wilkinson’s extensive database of garden rose species that were available worldwide, they also gathered propagating material from gardens and collectors all over the United States and imported bud wood from several of the greatest rose collections in the world. Liggett, with significant help from the South Bay Heritage Rose Group, grew the under stock, supervised bud grafting, and grew and harvested over 4,000 roses. These roses were replanted in the new garden by over 750 volunteers during the record rains of March 1995. In September of the same year, the vice mayor and other notable members of the city dedicated the garden. Since its beginning, volunteers have constantly cared for the rose garden and planted hundreds of additional varieties.