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City Park Rose Garden

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It's hard to imagine a rose garden containing 3,000 rose bushes but in 1940 that's how many rose bushes were planted in the City Park Rose Garden.

Established in 1897, the original garden was almost due south of St. Joseph's Hospital. In 1940 Reading's municipal garden, the oldest in the United States, in the city-owned list, was enlarged to 300 by 250 feet in dimensions, six to eight times as large as the original one. It afforded a space for 3,000 rose bushes, not to mention other plants, shrubbery, and trees.

The north entrance to the original rose-planted tract was widened and 20 species of wild roses, virtually all of them of rare kinds, were planted there. Other roses, climbers, were erected on frames four and one-half to six feet in height, to give their blossoms and color the maximum display effect. These wild roses illustrated to the home gardener not only variations in brilliant coloring, but also the shades of the wild types from the hybrid tea roses. Shrubbery was planted in wide arcs along the edges of the wild rose section.

In general, the design of the old garden was retained. Many tons of good topsoil from the Municipal Airport, collected during grading operations, was spread over the rose beds, to a depth of 18 inches. The soil of City Park, mostly shale, is too poor for good rose growing.

The old garden was the show section of the oval tract. The other section was a variety garden. In the center were lawns, graded and provided with concrete and slat benches for visitors.

At the south end of the tract were 12 beds of Rugosa roses, two varieties to each bed. Outside the Rugosa beds were walks of permanent black top surfacing, sharply edged and graded to match the slope of the grounds. Throughout the garden posts were conveniently placed for pillar roses, heightening the artistic effect and varying the color settings.

Every bed and each type was clearly labeled, thus enabling visitors to identify and to secure for home gardens the plants most admired.

A new driveway through the park, known today as Constitution Way, flanks what was the eastern boundary of the rose garden.

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