Sprawling flower garden a McKeesport attraction

| Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A mere half-hour drive from the Mid-Mon Valley and you can experience one of nature's wonders, free of charge.

It's the Rose Garden and Arboretum in Renziehausen Park, this side of McKeesport.

Established almost 70 years ago by the Garden Club of McKeesport, the site includes more than 1,700 rose bushes of every description. There are gardens dedicated exclusively to miniatures, hybrid teas, grandiflora, floribunda, climbers, shrubs and old garden roses.

The three-acre site also has a lot more than roses. It contains magnolia and dogwood trees, azaleas, rhododendrons and a large variety of annual and perennial flowers.

There are butterfly and herb gardens and a water pond with lots of happy fish swimming around the water lilies.

Magnificently constructed trellises, each with its own floral display, are evident as you stroll the brick walks. In the center is a handsome gazebo, perfect for a peaceful rest to survey the surroundings.

The gazebo is just large enough to accommodate the occasional wedding service and frequent photo sessions.

The late Caroline Sullivan, a rosarian (rose expert) and early member of the Garden Club, which was founded in 1933, negotiated with the city to donate the land for the rose garden, which was developed by a Pittsburgh landscape artist.

W.P.A. workers, provided by the city, did the labor, which included walls of natural stone and French drains on the hillside to control the many springs.

By 1940, Sullivan had secured enough donors for 400 rose bushes of 150 different varieties. She would be so proud to see the garden now.

On any given day of the week you can find visitors admiring the breathtaking scenery - and Garden Club members working around the grounds.

Maintaining the roses in healthy condition takes a lot of dedication, and you can find it in the volunteers.

When not out working in the gardens, the volunteers can be found in the clubhouse engrossed in garden-related projects or making items for the gift shop.

They also supervise the meeting room, which is available for rentals and luncheons.

The club has monthly business meetings.

A paved parking area is alongside the garden.

The wonder of this magnificent site is that the club receives no funding, other than occasional contributions and practically all of the planting and maintenance is done by volunteers.

Garden Club of McKeesport has the distinction of possessing the second largest rose garden in the state - Hershey has the largest - and proudly shares its beauty for all who stop by.

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