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Elizabeth Park

Elizabeth Park - Hartford, CT

Winter can be a bleak time of year in the northeast and I must admit that for a lifelong New Englander I am not fond of the cold at all. This means that rather than skiing, snowshoeing, or participating in any of the other outdoors activities that require enduring the cold I am much more likely to be found inside by the fire place looking through seed catalogues or David Austin's latest "book of roses."

By February however I am feeling a bit of cabin fever and we are usually plotting our next adventure. Also being stuck indoors with so much cold outside usually inspires big dreams of what the garden will bring this current season, and so the two will usually marry into some type of garden experience, whether its the Boston Flower show in March or hunting for indoor plants or seed starting goodies early. This year i have planned to experience the many gems (some hidden and others not so much) throughout New England, and by gems I mean rose gardens. Our travels this past weekend brought us to Hartford, CT. A roughly two and a half hour drive and home to the oldest municipal rose garden in the country. Elizabeth Park sits within an exquisite neighborhood of large, old fashioned, high value homes, which definitely adds to the charm of visiting.

Within the one hundred plus acre park sits the two and a half acre rose garden. Now of course in the beginning of February in zone six there are no roses blooming, however as a bit of a garden nerd I found wandering through the four hundred plus rose beds along with central gazebo and arches draped in rambling varieties of roses to be a genuinely thrilling if not an educational experience. Seeing the bare form of the plants and how they interact with the man made structures gave me a lot of ideas for the upcoming season in my own garden.

Unfortunately I discovered late that the roses I was truly seeking existed within a separate space titled the “heritage” rose garden. This is where the old garden variety of roses (also known as heritage roses) are grown, one of the few public rose gardens in the country to have a focused garden for these older treasures. 2020 will be the first year that I myself add some of these varieties to my garden and I hope to absorb as much knowledge for their care before the season starts.

A little bit of history- in 1894 financier Charles M. Pond left the endowment of land to the city of Hartford with the stipulation that it was named to honor his deceased wife Elizabeth and be kept as public space. In 1904 the rose garden was established and the park was widely used by the public. In the 1970’s however the city declared that it could no longer afford to care for the park and proposed demolishing it. Many volunteers came forward in 1977 to raise money and save the park from being destroyed. The details alone make this garden worth visiting.

I have two more trips planned to visit this park this year, hopefully to attend their spring plant and bulb sale as well as sometime in June to see the roses at their peak. This park is a sight to behold and highly recommended if you’re a rose or garden enthusiast and certainly a no brainer if you are close by.