Snyder: Memorial Rose Garden’s History In Los Alamos

A small visitor enjoys the Los Alamos Memorial Rose Garden. Photo by Sharon Snyder

Los Alamos Historical Society

For the first day of spring 2020, it seems appropriate to tell the story of a flower garden. Not just any flower garden, but one that has been special to Los Alamos for many years.

Since the days of the Los Alamos Ranch School there have been gardens near Fuller Lodge, adding color to a scene that is special to all of us and enjoyed by visitors from around the world.

As early as 1930, Helen Sulier, the Ranch School’s nurse, created a small flower garden near the Lodge and tended it for many years.

In addition to Sulier’s efforts, Headmaster Lawrence Hitchcock planted irises along the paths and created a strawberry patch nearby.

After World War II, a group of civic-minded individuals came together to form the Los Alamos Garden Club. Among their first efforts, these gardeners introduced rose bushes to existing flowers beds in the Community Center in the early 1950s.

In the mid 50s, the club was given a plot in what was simply called “the Center,” and that plot became their first rose garden. It added something lovely and colorful to the town’s business area.

In the 1950s, Los Alamos was still a government entity, and there was no cemetery for burials if someone died. Remains had to be placed elsewhere, so families began to donate rose bushes for planting by the Garden Club as a memorial to their loved ones. Because of these tributes, the garden began to outgrow its space.
In 1958, a site near Fuller Lodge was acquired from the Atomic Energy Commission, and a professional landscape architect was brought in to design the Los Alamos Memorial Rose Garden. The group has obtained grants through the years, and improvements have enhanced the garden.

One such addition was the installation of the Veteran’s Blue Star Historical Marker in 2017. The club donated the marker to honor men and women of the Armed Forces—past, current, and future. The gardens and the surrounding lawn have been the scene for weddings, receptions, craft fairs, concerts, and various community events.

As the garden grew in size, the workload increased for the members of the Garden Club, so, in 1968, Los Alamos County assumed responsibility for some of the maintenance.

Club members still provide guidance and care for the garden with help from the Los Alamos Parks Department.

Many rose bushes have been planted through the years and many have been replaced. The Garden Club keeps “extensive records of those who donated rose bushes in memory or in honor of family or friends, the names of the rose bushes, and where they are planted.” The Los Alamos Historical Society archive stores those records.

According to the Garden Club history, the Los Alamos Memorial Rose Garden is the oldest public garden in Los Alamos as well as being the oldest public rose garden in the state. It remains an uplifting source of beauty in our community today.