GW’s new garden is coming up roses

Gregory Creek has nurtured the 900 rose bushes at GW for two and a half years. He prunes them. He mulches them. He waters them. But this month he is comforting them.

In March, 400 of his fragrant bushes were uprooted from the rose gardens behind Lisner Auditorium, and Monroe and Government halls, to be replanted in the Quad.

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He said the move was carefully executed, and the bushes seem to be adjusting well to their new beds along H and 21st streets, and behind Corcoran and Bell halls.

The rose gardens are surrounded by fences now, but will be fitted with a new look by August. The small quad also will be renamed, said Warren Yaun, construction manager in GW’s Architecture, Engineering and Construction department. He did not say what the area will be named, but said it soon will flaunt a fountain, brick paths, a new gate and a monument.

In recent years, students have attended classes, barbecues, wine tastings and outdoor movies in the garden. Its appeal became even greater with the addition of a few dozen benches to nod off on in the shadow of a rose bush.

Freshman Sean Griffith said he spent a lot of time in the gardens last fall.

“In between morning classes, the sun was always there, so it was a bit warmer,” he said. “It was a comforting place to sit because my mother has a rose garden.”

Griffith is from Lowell, Mass., and said he was “shocked” to arrive at GW last spring to see the streets “draped with all those colors.” He said he was impressed to find such a campus in the city.

The roses garnered national recognition for the University’s gardens. In 1996, the University won the Grand Award for Landscape Maintenance for an urban university from the Professional Grounds Management Society. Georgetown University won second place that year.

GW’s accumulation of roses stems from a decade-old partnership with All American Rose Selections Inc. of Chicago, GW grounds Operation Manager Noel Gasparin said. Each year GW displays the upcoming year’s new roses – except this year.

The roses displayed on campus are not the familiar, single-bud florist roses, Gasparin said. Most bushes have stems that flower in more than one place. He said the roses cared for at GW are more fragrant than those florists sell, and “one bud alone can fill a room with its scent.”

Such fragrance, along with a thorn or two, is what Creek and Gasparin said make tending the roses difficult. Too many people stop to smell the roses – and then they ask questions.

Creek said he became the “Rose Man,” as his colleagues call him, because no one else could handle the questions students and professors asked.

“The professors and students are always asking for a general idea how to keep their roses at home,” Creek said. “Now and then, they request a rose or two.”

“When I’m working, I try not to make eye contact,” Gasparin said. “And it’s hard to turn people down because everyone has such a wonderful reaction to getting a flower.”

Still, some students don’t remember the roses at all. Graduate student Yuko Kawashima, who was also an GW undergraduate student, noticed the fences around the small quad but said she didn’t remember the roses.

“The campus has certainly improved since I got here,” she said. “I am all for the beautification.”

The University hired an outside contractor, Grounds Management Company of Davidsonville, Md., to move the roses in early March. Within four or five days, five men transplanted the bushes to their new beds, Gasparin said. But the roses won’t be moved again.

“At this time in the year, the roses are still dormant. They haven’t budded,” Gasparin said. “We tried to keep the root balls as intact as possible, and the weather is cooperating.”

The majority of roses at GW are grandifloras, floribundas and hybrid tea. In all, more than 75 different types of roses are displayed.

Gasparin said the first rose display is always the best. He expects the bushes will bloom around the time of graduation.

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