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Jun 04 • 2012 • BedsBushesFlowersGardensGreenhouseHardierPerennialsRoseRose Gardens

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ROCKFORD — Rose lovers from far and beyond flock to Sinnissippi Gardens in Rockford to see the vast varieties of the All-American Rose Selection flowers. The gardens include about 2,000 rose plants throughout, along with the 32-foot floral clock that is planted each year with annuals raised in a greenhouse. According to garden maintenance coordinator Haylie Goodin, Sinnissippi Gardens has the highest concentration of roses compared to other gardens. “A lot of other rose gardens you go into have perennials mixed in with the roses, but we have strictly roses in the beds,” she said. The rose garden was planted in the mid-1920s by Rockford Park District. “The footprint you see now is the same footprint it has been historically,” said Goodin. “We haven’t changed as far as bed design and layout.” Goodin said the garden has been accredited by the All-America Rose Selection for many years. Sinnissippi used to receive the newest variety of rose plants from the AARS, and also would be honored with each year’s winning rose. “We would get to plant the rose a year before it was out on the market,” she said. In the 1950s, the garden was renovated and the floral clock, which is the centerpiece of the garden, was designed and built by a local Rockford company. The rose beds in the garden are separated by family of rose. Goodin said they come from all around. A lot of them come from Michigan and Canada, because the bushes grown there are “hardier” and need little maintenance as far as pest and disease control. Each rose is labeled with variety and family. Each rose contains its own quirky name such as “Hi, Neighbor,” “Chuckles,” “Aunt Honey” and even “Dick Clark.” Goodin said the names are made up by the hybridizer. “It comes from whatever inspires them, whether it’s a life experience, a person or something else,” she said. Although the park district is responsible for maintaining the rose garden, local master gardeners assist with weeding, deadheading and care of the beds. One of those master gardeners is Ed Leach of Rockford, who has been a master gardener for 12 years. Leach said that master gardeners need 30 hours of volunteer work and 10 hours of continuing education to keep their license. He said many local master gardeners volunteer maintenance at Sinnissippi for their needed hours. Leach has been in charge of the ‘Carefree Wonder’ rose bed for three years. He claims the roses are high maintenance. At the end of May, Leach was out deadheading the roses. He said it is too early to be doing the work, but because of the warmer spring this year, the roses bloomed early. “You shouldn’t have to be deadheading this much this early,” he said. “But, if you want to keep them blooming, you have to cut off the blooms.” Goodin said the roses bloom in full mass two cycles a year. One in mid-June and the second in late August or early September. This year, the roses bloomed in the middle of May because of the warm spring. Currently, a renovation is taking place next to the rose gardens. The Nicholas Conservatory was built and opened in fall 2011. The conservatory replaced a greenhouse that was built in the 1920s. It is an exhibition of tropical trees, plants, flowers and floral displays. Goodin said the greenhouse that was torn down was a growing and production site for plants and flowers. The greenhouse also included display areas for visitors to view. “Now it’s more viewing and very little production,” she said. “It’s a whole different experience to come in and see both gardens.” Right now, the park district is trying to coordinate a path to view the Sinnissippi Gardens and the conservatory at once. “It’s the first year we’ve had both open and functioning at the same time,” Goodin said. Construction still is ongoing around the outside of the conservatory and to the Sinnissippi Lagoon which sits across from the rose garden. Goodin said the lagoon was completely redone and is scheduled to reopen this fall. She said when everything is completed it will be a destination to view all the gardens with the conservatory included.

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