The centerpiece of our garden, this prized collection features more than 1,000 roses and 150 cultivars. It’s a truly majestic display of the many styles of growing roses and it most certainly draws a crowd.

Joshua Isaacs Photography

For our visitors, the Cowden Rose Garden (named for one of The Gardens’ founders, Robert Cowden) is a beautiful and inspiring focal point, with thousands of rose bushes of many varieties blooming from spring through fall.

The rose garden complex began with Singer and Hodges landscape designers drawing up plans for the open sloping area between the Ward Garden and the City Park boundary to the northeast of it. The earliest main planting areas were the Gazebo, the Tearose Circle, and the Florubunda Terraces (1991-1994), followed by the English Border in 1996. The area is punctuated throughout by upright poles, posts, arbors, and trellises providing a variety of rose displays. A wood and wire hedge support was the latest structure to be built, in 1998-1999, as a Boy Scout project. Walkways, brick paths, stairways, and memorial benches also contribute to the scene. Each area demonstrates one rose type or another to its best advantage. A special Rose Trellis was installed in Spring 1999 as a joint Boy Scout/GHF project.

Roses generally need good drainage, full sun, moving air, and regular watering to control its pests and encourage their beauty. Even with those advantages, roses chosen here are especially picked to resist powdery mildew and other pests. Roses were planted more closely together than usually recommended, to create a mass effect. Maintenance requires regular deadheading of the blossoms, undertaken by trained volunteers to keep the roses blooming. And effective, well-timed winter pruning helps keep the roses looking big and healthy each year.

Modern roses are grafted onto special root stock, known as Dr. Huey, which is hardy and disease-resistant. This technique, known as hybridization, has given us the many beautiful and successful Hybrid Tea varieties growing in the center of our rose garden. Along the park border and the back of the Children’s Garden, we feature a lovely selection of David Austin roses, named after the celebrated British rose breeder, which is tended regularly by volunteers from Orinda Garden Club.