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The Importance of Giving: Palisades Park Rose Garden

April 15, 2021 10:00 AM
by Phil Brock

The Importance of Giving: Palisades Park Rose Garden

Phil Brock in Palisades Park around 1955

“Roses do not bloom hurriedly; for beauty, like any masterpiece, takes time to blossom.”

-Author Matshona Dhliwayo

Our Palisades Park Rose Garden has been a popular destination in that park since the 1950s, owing to its lovely views and the iconic sculpture dedicated to Arcadia Bandini de Baker, who donated the portion of the land that is Palisades Park today.  As a lifelong resident of Santa Monica, some of my earliest and fondest memories were of playing in Palisades Park as a toddler amidst the beautiful roses. Nearly 65 years later, along with hundreds of our fellow neighbors, my partner Kathryn and I still enjoy daily strolls through this colorful garden, as we hold hands and watch our spectacular Santa Monica sunsets. During a walk last year, we noticed that the Rose Garden was losing its luster, so we asked how we could help.

Phil Brock and Kathryn Boole at the Rose Garden

We discovered that the Rose Garden’s last renovations and replanting’s had been over 20 years ago. At that time the beds were renovated, existing roses were saved and replanted, and missing roses were replaced.  The lifespan of a grafted rose is about 20 years, which means that over the years several rose bushes had died from old age. Palisades Park has sandy soil, which can become compacted due to foot traffic. As visitors accidentally step into the beds, the outer edges of the garden’s soil quality had deteriorated.  

City of Santa Monica Public Landscape Administrator Rachel Young, who joined the city in 2019, has had years of experience growing roses using organic techniques and teamed up this fall with Park Maintenance Supervisor Miguel Ramos to develop a multi-year plan to improve the Rose Garden plantings.  Upon hearing their passion and understanding the plan, Kathryn and I decided to make a contribution to Santa Monica’s historic Rose Garden so that this restoration process could begin.

Equipment operator Juan Martinez and groundskeeper Alex Martinez added much-needed organic compost to the garden and replaced 36 roses in four beds.  The rose varieties were selected from the original plants in the garden’s last renovation. These include the “Queen Elizabeth,” “Anthony Meilland” and ‘Trumpeter’’ roses. Public Landscape’s irrigation team, led by Park Maintenance Supervisor Christopher Oliver, optimizes the watering of the rose beds during winter.  As the spring season moves forward, organic fertilizers will be applied after each bloom cycle, and a fine-grade mulch will be added to prevent water loss and improve the soil composition.  Annual pruning occurs in December or January.

Over the next five years, residents and visitors should expect to see staff adding organic compost and restoring two to four beds annually. As older rose plants fade and fail, they will be carefully replaced. Although the new roses may take a year or two to achieve their full potential, we can all eagerly watch for more colorful blooms in the Rose Garden in 2021.

Kathryn and I were honored to contribute, knowing that our support helped to expedite something of beauty that our community could enjoy. We want to encourage such acts of giving. We have tough issues ahead of us in Santa Monica, some with simple solutions like the Palisades Rose Garden and others that will require long-term vision and commitment of substantial care and resources. One thing is certain - we have a bright future ahead if we all come together, understand the issues, and contribute towards the solutions in whatever ways we can. 

Working together, we can overcome even the greatest of challenges. And as we do, the spectacular Rose Garden at Palisades Park is always waiting for a visit, as a reprieve from the hum of a busy day and a place to truly “smell the roses.”

If you’re able and interested in opportunities to support the community we all love, visit the City of Santa Monica’s webpage Ways to Help Your Community.


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