Syracuse Garden Loses Roses and Volunteers Ahead of Winter E.M. Mills Rose Garden Braces for Winter with Fewer Roses and Volunteers

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) — The Syracuse Rose Society is preparing for its final meetup of the season at the E.M. Mills Rose Garden in Thornden Park.

Pam Dooling, the chairman of the Syracuse Rose Society, says this season brought many challenges.

“Even though we did the exact same care that you’re supposed to do…we lost over 200 roses at this park alone,” Dooling said.

A single rose hangs off a bush in the old garden
While some roses remain in bloom, many have already been pruned and prepped for winter.
© 2022 Michael O'Connor

The losses were the result of inconsistent winter weather and a shortage of volunteers, with the society losing seven members this season. Dooling says her organization is encouraging people to take care of the garden by showing them how simple it can be.

“The purpose of the park is to teach the public how to take care of roses,” Dooling said. “Everybody says they’re so hard to take care of – they’re not if you know what you’re doing.”

The beds themselves provide visitors with a brief lesson on the roses they feature. Plaques in front of each bush tell visitors the name of the rose, what kind of rose it is, and when that particular kind of rose was created. Dooling says there are some roses that were originally planted in the garden 100 years ago!

A plaque honors Dr. E.M. Mills at the center of the rose garden.
The E.M. Mills Rose Garden celebrates its 100th anniversary at Thornden Park next season.
© 2022 Michael O'Connor

Those roses serve as a reminder of Edmund Mills’ original vision to make Syracuse the city of roses. Mills was the first president of the American Rose Society after founding the Syracuse Rose Society in 1911. Not only does the park feature a plaque in Mills’ honor, it’s also home to a unique rose bush named after him.

Diane Fini, the current president of the Syracuse Rose Society, says they purchased the bush all the way from California a few years ago. It’s the first bush in the garden to bloom each season.

“It’s a very rare rose to get and it’s very special for us to have,” Fini said.

In addition to the bush honoring Mills, many of the beds honor other members of the community that have had an impact on the garden. One of those members was David Rink, who passed away from COVID during the height of the pandemic. Dooling says they named a struggling bed after Rink to honor his legacy.

This season, it bloomed for the first time in years.

Dooling says her organization plans on planting over 190 new bushes next year to make up for the losses from this season.

For more information on getting volunteering at the garden, visit the official Syracuse Rose Society website.

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