Garden makes GW’s campus a little rosier

Summer is over, but visitors to GW’s rose garden do not seem to notice. Passers-by admire its beauty, often stopping enjoy the scene that almost seems misplaced sandwiched between the Alumni House, Lisner Auditorium and Woodhull House.

Some University employees said the rose garden is their sanctuary. Joan Allerton, who works in GW’s Support Building, volunteers to prune the roses because she said it relaxes her.

“It’s kind of like therapy,” Allerton said.

For others, the scene is inspiring.

A young artist set up her easel to paint the landscape last Monday.

“I like the colors,” she said. “I enjoy watching people come in and out, sitting and studying.”

Everyone seems to have heard a different tale about the garden’s history. Thomas Heaton, the garden’s pest control operator, said the garden was born in the 1940s as the personal garden of an anonymous young woman. Some of the roses were transplanted from the White House during World War II, Allerton said.

The garden originated during former GW President Cloyd Heck Marvin’s tenure, from 1927 to 1959. He would take walks through the garden some mornings and look at the roses. He also was interested in the development of the University grounds, said Jane Lingo, assistant director of University Relations

Other historical sites in the rose garden include dedication plaques from fraternities, sororities and alumni.

Those who tend the garden said they take pride in the its appearance.

“It’s a group effort,” said grounds manager Noel Gasparin. Gardener Gregory Creek prunes the roses, and Heaton distributes insecticide.

Visitors often ask GW gardeners for advice about how to improve their own rose gardens.

“It gets to the point where you can’t even make eye contact with someone without them asking a question,” Gasparin said. “Every spring and summer when we’re cutting back the roses, people ask, `should I be doing this at home?’ “

GW’s campus has more than 900 rose bushes, Gasparin said. Hybrid tea, florabunda, granada floras and old world roses are among the types represented.

“(Visitors) feel that it’s pretty impressive,” Heaton said. “You don’t see roses like this other than in public gardens.”

Although Gasparin said he has never actually caught someone in the act, he is aware of local rose thieves enticed by the garden’s beauty.

He said he has seen passers-by with roses in hand.

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