Friends of the San Jose Rose Garden hope it will be named ‘America’s Best Rose Garden’

April 2, 2010
Holly Hayes

Terry Reilly, the unabashed head cheerleader for San Jose’s Municipal Rose Garden, thinks this local treasure should be known as “America’s Best Rose Garden.”

If you agree, you can have your say by voting in the All-American Rose Selections contest, which launched Thursday and continues through July 1. The 10 gardens with the most votes will become finalists; these gardens will be visited by AARS experts to determine the winner.

Judging will be based on beauty, creativity and the garden’s overall contribution to its community. The latter category is where Reilly thinks San Jose has a distinct advantage.

“We’re the poster child for bringing back a neglected garden,” says Reilly, who is co-founder of Friends of the San Jose Rose Garden. The organization was founded in 2007 to coordinate a massive effort to rescue the garden.

Back then, the Municipal Rose Garden, at Naglee and Park avenues, was in a sad state, a victim of reduced city maintenance and poor horticultural practices. Weeds were everywhere, many of the rose plants had died or were about to, and the garden’s accreditation with the AARS was on probationary status.

Reilly and local rosarian Beverly Rose Hopper led the charge, and within a few months, the garden was looking pretty good. And by the time the AARS came calling, it was a showplace — so much so that the organization chose the garden to be a trial site to grow candidates for future AARS winners. The only other California test site is in Carlsbad.

The AARS was so impressed with the local volunteer effort that it now offers a case study to other public gardens on how Reilly and Hopper designed the rehabilitation effort.

“This contest is based on our playbook,” Reilly says. “We want to win this. We should win this.”

The win would be a feather in the cap of the garden’s core group of about 150 “master volunteers,” who prune, weed, mulch and keep the irrigation systems humming.

The top garden wins $2,500 and a plaque. Total votes for each garden will be measured against its annual visitors — so each garden, large or small, has an opportunity to win.

To vote, go to The winning garden and finalists will be announced this summer.