Nelson Shrub Rose Garden

Photo by Mark MacLennan

Photo by Mark MacLennan

The Shrub Rose Garden location shows up on early master planning documents for the Arboretum in the late 1950s. Located approximately half-way on Three-Mile Drive, the south-facing, one-acre location was originally planted with "old-fashioned roses" that bloomed once a season. It is one of three rose gardens at the Arboretum. Many of those original roses were donated from a flower show and some are still present on the west side of the site, in front of the towering fir trees that border the garden. Tom and Jane Nelson endowed the garden when it was renovated in the late 1990s.

 While the garden always had a circular layout, the beautiful round reflecting pool that is now the centerpiece, was added in the late 1990s when the garden was enhanced. James Robin, the landscape architect for the project, added radial lines from the granite square terrace through the bottom of the shallow pool as a way to subdivide the surface artfully. It was built in the middle of winter so Robin constructed an air supported dome over the space for construction. The original fence that frames the back of the garden was rebuilt and now supports mature wisteria.

 As part of the redesign, many of the new, repeat-blooming shrub roses were added to the garden along with massing of some varieties to improve the season-long flower show. Prime bloom season is June through August but continues until frost. It is the 7th most popular wedding space on the property. Two sculptures and a sundial grace the garden. Wonderment, by Minneapolis artist Nick Legeros, shows two children peering into the pool. The Nelsons commissioned this piece for the garden. South Wind II, by Paul Granlund, one of Minnesota’s most popular sculptors, shows a young woman with head and arms flung back, basking in the breezes of summer.

 Gardeners Ted Pew and Clarence White care for the garden. The 603 rose plants are not given any winter protection. Come spring, some are perfectly hardy, while others die back a bit. They have lots of pruning to do there each spring - some roses are cut back to the ground, others are cut back as needed. The gardeners battle voles and moles, disease, nasty weeds that make themselves at home under the canes, and thorns that can be brutal.

 Visitors will see mainly pink, white and yellow blooms, with some red. Sir Thomas Lipton, Champagne Wishes, Morden Blush, Carefree Beauty, and University of Minnesota introductions Suddenly Summer and Summer Waltz Shrub Roses are some of the 304 different rose taxa (which includes species and varieties) in the sun-filled garden.