Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden

See Calendar of Events for information on Annual Pruning Demonstration

The Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden—How It Grew

Balboa Park, San Diego, California

By Sue Streeper,

The Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden, often called the Balboa Park rose garden, was just a dream in the head of Dick Streeper when he was elected president of the San Diego Rose Society in 1969. He worked with older rosarians, such as Jean Kenneally and Jim Kirk, to launch a rose garden in the city sometimes referred to by our locals as the perfect place to grow roses, but where a public rose garden did not exist at that time. There had been two previous rose gardens in Balboa Park, but by the late sixties there was little left of the original plantings.

With the help of Jim Milch, then chairman of the Park and Recreation Board, and Vince Marchetti, project officer for Park and Recreation, the idea of a large rose garden began to take hold. By 1973, the city council was ready to choose a site and the Parker Foundation supported the project financially. Several rose producing businesses donated the roses for the initial planting and the members of the San Diego Rose Society potted them up while the walks, raised beds and irrigation system were being made ready. By 1975, the garden was well established and it was dedicated during the American Rose Society convention held in San Diego that year.

The plaque commemorating the dedication of the rose garden in 1975 lists the following organizations which were involved in bringing the garden to fruition: The Parker Foundation, Armstrong Nurseries Inc., Jackson & Perkins Co., San Joaquin Rose Co., San Diego Rose Society, Howard Rose Co., Weeks Wholesale Rose Grower and Boise Cascade Corp.

There were 1200 plants of 83 varieties in the original planting. The beds are designated S (south), C (central), and N (north) to identify them conveniently.

The garden was enlarged during the 1980s or 1990s when the construction of new downtown buildings needed a place to discard soil and nearby Florida Canyon turned out to be the ideal place. The gazebo, which had been a half circle, now became a full circle and beds were added on the east side of the garden. With this addition, the garden was expanded to 1600 plants of 104 varieties. Those beds are labeled N-9 through N-12. In addition, David Austin English Roses were planted overlooking the canyon in Beds N-11 and S-3.

The irrigation system was upgraded in January 2013 with funding from the Balboa Park Trust, administered by the San Diego Foundation. The mission of this foundation is to improve the quality of life in all of our communities by providing leadership for effective philanthropy. Many local residents visit the rose garden frequently, aided by the wide walkways which make it accessible to strollers and wheelchairs. Tourists are unfailingly complimentary as they visit the display which is in color from March through November. Many weddings are scheduled in the rose garden.

The San Diego City park staff is aided in maintenance by the Rose Garden Corps (RGC), a group of about 45 volunteers who work Tuesdays and Thursdays to keep the garden tidy and healthy. Their tasks include removing spent blooms, picking up petals and leaves, fertilizing, replacing plants, supplying labels and supplementary watering as needed.

Every year on the first Saturday of January, the San Diego Rose Society holds a pruning demonstration to educate the public about proper techniques of rose care. Often, there are hundreds of attendees who are there to learn. The Rose Garden Corps and the Park and Recreation Department staff then finish pruning all of the roses. The first bloom in late March to early April is especially spectacular.

The garden is located on Park Boulevard within view of hundreds of cars and pedestrians every day. It was honored by All-America Rose Selections as the outstanding rose garden nationally in 1978. In 2003, the World Federation of Rose Societies gave the garden its Award of Garden Excellence. And more recently, the rose garden was inducted into the Great Rosarians of the World (GROW) Hall of Fame on February 1, 2014, at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California.

◊  Balboa Park Rose Garden Wins GROW Award

By Sue Streeper,
The Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden in Balboa Park has been honored by being chosen for the Huntington Library’s GROW Hall of Fame in San Marino, California. GROW stands for Great Rosarians of the World, an organization that honors an outstanding rosarian every year and features that person at its annual lecture event. For the last few years, a public rose garden has also been chosen for recognition as an outstanding venue.

The garden was inducted into the Hall of Fame at the Huntington’s lecture event on February 1, 2014. Numerous San Diego Rose Society members and volunteers in the Rose Garden Corps attended the celebration in honor of our beautiful garden.