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Rose Society to rededicate Triangle Garden

The Rowan Rose Society’s Triangle Rose Garden has been brightening its little corner of the world on West Innes Street for 40 years. 

Today at 3 p.m., the Rose Society will rededicate the garden, which it maintains across the street from Summersett Funeral Home. The Rose Society has also passed a milestone, now in existence for 60 years. 

In honor of the occasion, here are excerpts from a history of the garden, written by John Lowery, one of the Rose Society’s most enthusiastic supporters. Lowery died last year. 

In 1976 the United States was celebrating the bicentennial of the beginning of the United States of America as a free and independent country. …

With the bicentennial year of celebration the Rowan Rose Society also began a journey to establish a rose display garden — one to serve as an educational and teaching garden as well as a beautiful display of the Queen of Flowers —but where and how could this be achieved? Members of the Rowan Rose Society would certainly be crucial in bringing such a garden to a realization.

At this time, John Lowery was employed as a supervisor in the Rowan County Department of Social Services and had an office window that overlooked a triangle of county land, vacant except for a lone oak tree sapling and scrub brush and some weeds and grass. Overall, it was unattractive and appeared to be useless. John, as a Rowan Rose Society member, was well aware of the club’s desire to sponsor and maintain a public rose garden. He visualized a triangle rose garden on that unattractive and vacant space, but it would take a major effort of the Rowan Rose Society to achieve success in such a project.

At the next meeting of the club, John presented his idea for a garden in the triangle of land adjacent to the DSS. This land was directly across on Old West Innes Street and sat between Summersett Funeral Home and on the other side faced the City of Salisbury cemetery with New West Innes Street carrying two-way traffic.

It was a highly visible site by both vehicle and pedestrian traffic. … Once the club voted to proceed and to obtain approval from the county, John and Baxter Morgan were designated as agents for the club to contact the county commissioners for their approval. …

One of the commissioners at that time was Mr. Hall Steele from the Mt. Ulla section of the county. Mr. Steele owned a feed and grain supply store and was also a gentleman farmer. He proved to be a valuable resource and offered to bring to the triangle site several loads of rotted cow manure, a tractor to plow the plot and spread the manure on the lot. The whole plot was built up about 20 inches in height to supply drainage for the rose beds, as we discovered the land was composed of “bull tallow” a gray dense clay with poor drainage characteristics and not suitable for cultivation of any very successful crop, especially not for rose culture.

Further assistance in creating this rose garden was an offer by the City of Salisbury to bring organic mulch for the rose beds. By this time John Lowery had drawn up a landscape design for the rose beds. The City agreed to allow a water line for the rose garden to be connected to the City water supply line without cost to the Rowan Rose Society. …

An official dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony by Salisbury Mayor Jim Summers, was held in summer of 1976, the opening day of the Rowan Rose Society Triangle Rose Garden. …

Spring pruning was an annual group task and still is carried out in the first or second Saturday of March. Teaching interested people in the public how to perform these tasks was part of our reason for maintaining a public garden. Pruning day was announced in advance by the Salisbury Post with an invitation for the public to learn proper pruning and other cultivation techniques.

Summersett Funeral Home has been a strong supporter of the Rowan Rose Society Triangle Rose Garden and has allowed use of their electricity outlet as well as storing our equipment in their garage. Rufty’s Garden Center has generously donated lime and fertilizer for a number of years. On our pruning day the Dan Nicholas Park Staff created durable and attractive signs routed and painted which have been in place many years.

Initially the 200 rose bushes donated by Jackson & Perkins were of two cultivars. One was a red grandiflora named “Merci” and a pink hybrid tea named “Promise.” …

Presently, mixtures of cultivars have been interspersed in vacant spots when one of the Merci plants had to be replaced. Among those replacements were roses like “Knockout” and “Salsa.” …

The Rowan Rose Society Triangle Public Garden continues to thrive and each year presents to the public a riot of color with these new cultivars, “Outrageous,” a pinkish-orange, and “Grand Prize,” a white rose.

… It is hoped that this Triangle Rose Garden will continue to thrive for many years to come and that the Rowan Rose Society can remain intimately associated with the garden’s success as an asset to our club and to the city of Salisbury and Rowan County.

— John O. Lowery

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