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There are a dozen rose test gardens throughout the United States. One of them is located right here in the Valley. What is a rose test garden? We went to find out.
The northern entrance of Mesa Community College is adorned with rose bushes — thousands of them. They vary in color, variety and size. Did You Know the Mesa Community College Rose Garden is the only rose testing site in the desert Southwest?
“Every year we get about 80 rose bushes and then we test them every two years. So, those that are in here this year in 2016 will come out and we’ll put a whole new group in,” said LeRoy Brady. He's with the Mesa-East Valley Rose Society and is the landscape architect of the garden. He also evaluates the test roses.
“There will be everything from hybrid tea, to floribunda, to grandiflora, to shrub roses and climbers,” he said.
Brady said in 1996 Mesa Community College approached the Mesa-East Valley Rose Society with the idea of a rose garden to spruce up the place. By the following year the first rose bed was planted along Southern Avenue. In 1999 MCC garden was granted a test site designation.
Today the garden is among 12 American Rose Society testing sites. The garden is considered unique because the Sonoran desert has two blooming cycles, unlike any other place in the U.S. The first cycle is between April and June. The second is October through December.
“Roses are absolutely beautiful here. When you think that Arizona grows about 65 percent of the roses that are sold across the nation, why shouldn’t roses be here," Brady said.
Brady is one of hundreds of volunteers who have planted and cared for the roses since the garden was first created. Public funding helps maintain it. There are more than 350 varieties, and about 10,000 rose bushes. On the west end of the campus, rose bushes are planted to form shapes that symbolize the meaning of roses, including one area shaped like a heart and another with a peace symbol design. On the east end of the college campus is a veterans garden which has 2,000 rose bushes.
“And all the roses in the Veterans Garden have patriotic names or military names and it’s designed around significant thing in the military including the flags of the all five services,” Brady said.
This has become a sightseeing destination for many visitors. Brady and his fellow rosarians provide tours of the garden, and in the winter they also offer classes on how to plant and care for flowers.