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Nosing Around The Roses In Golden Gate Park

The Golden Gate Park Rose Garden is an oasis of color and smell, popular among both tourists and honeybees. Fuchsia, red, peach, yellow and white blooms explode everywhere.

“The rose garden's divided into 64 beds, each with a different variety of rose,” says Andy Stone, the Rose Garden Supervisor, “Usually 12 roses to a bed, and then there's the beds on the side that have the climbers and the old fashioned roses.”


The garden has been around since 1961; it was created because the American Rose Society’s San Francisco chapter wanted a space to test different varieties in a cool, moist climate. Stone says most of the roses here have been donated, and most of them are hybrids.

Before we get going on our tour, I ask him what’s so special about roses?

"They are the queen of the flowers,” he says, “They're just one of the most beautiful flowers of the garden.”

Credit Chris Hambrick
Julia Child roses at Golden Gate Park's Rose Garden

We stroll across the lush lawn to get to know some of these beauties a little better. Stone points out one of his favorites, “This one is Julia Child and this type of rose is called a Floribunda, it has many, many flowers on each spike and they're somewhat fragrant, but what I like most is that they bloom so heavily,” he says. “They have healthy leaves, they're not affected by very many pests.”

It smells fantastic, Stone points out the bright colors and textures,  “Oh it's gold , it's a golden color, it's kind of buttery, Julia liked so much butter on everything so I think of Julia's buttery chicken with this one.”

 Speaking of butter, I notice the other roses that remind me of food.  Like the Cherry Parfait -- a white rose with red edged petals; while Rainbow Sorbet is a golden flower with a red-orange blush on the tips.

Credit Chris Hambrick
Carefree Spirit rose at Golden Gate Park's Rose Garden

For our next stop, Stone takes us to the area where climbing roses wind around lattice borders and he points out some interesting varieties.

“This is a very old rose called Rosa Eglantyne, and that would be grown in England on the old castles, or in Ireland growing up over the castles and it grows quite tall,” he says. “I almost like to let it go up and climb up the Redwood trees.”

Stone shows me some Briar Roses grown for their rose hips, which are sometimes used in jam, and other older varieties that have just five petals.


Credit Chris Hambrick
Wild Blue Yonder rose at Golden Gate Park's Rose Garden

I leave Stone to do some of my own nosing around and discover the Wild Blue Yonder Rose. It’s purplish-pink and has a really distinctive fragrance. This one might be my favorite. I also come across the Strike it Rich, a really tall plant with a vibrant gold color.





Then I see someone with clippers. It’s Stephen Childers, the rose gardener, and of course he has his favorite.  “Princess Anne is the second one from the front," he says. “It's a purple older English variety of rose with a really great scent and that's one of the reasons why I like it so much.”

Credit Chris Hambrick
Princess Anne rose at Golden Gate Park's Rose Garden

Surprisingly, not all roses have a scent. The hybridization process sometimes does away with it, as growers focus on taller, heartier plants.

“The newer roses have a really showy display, but there's no scent to them and that, for me, kind of takes away from part of what makes a rose so cool -- the fragrance of it," says Childers. "So the Princess Anne has the nice double flower and it has all the scent. You can smell it just walking by, so that's my favorite. Go give it a whiff."

I smell everything I can, and the wonderful ones twice.

The Golden Gate Park Rose Garden is open all year round, during park hours.

This story originally aired in August of 2015.