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Renewal of the Gerry Dunlap Rose Garden: New Palette, Refreshed Beauty

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BY Jeffery Gamboni

Stockton Beautiful, a local non-profit agency with a focus on beautification, was founded by Gerry Dunlap and Charles Lester in 1997. In 2002, Gerry, the club’s first president, started to promote a grand project, the introduction of a civic Rose Garden, something common in other California cities, next to the Haggin Museum.

In time, this project would become an overdue replacement for the former Rose Garden that stood where the Holt Wing of the museum is located. During the ’60s, the garden’s remaining roses and ornamental trelliswork were removed to allow for the addition’s construction and were never replaced.

Stockton Beautiful embarked on a multi-year project that included collaboration with the Stockton Rose Society, the city’s Department of Public Works, Parks and Recreation and the city manager’s office. The project would grow to include built elements such as cast stone columns, the steel barrel vault, the monumental trellis and memorial benches. The project was completed at a cost of over $300,000, which was fully funded by the efforts of the board of directors. The new Rose Garden, dedicated in 2007, has been maintained through the efforts of not only board members but also volunteers at large, as well as members of the Stockton Garden Club and Stockton Covenant Church.

In 2023, the board of directors finalized a master plan to renovate the Gerry Dunlap Rose Garden. Through the intervention of Gerry’s daughter, Jane Butterfield, the plan evolved to include the participation of T.J. David, renowned rose expert and the founder of the International Peace Rose Garden movement. He is responsible for the International Peace Rose Gardens at University Park, the Capital Grounds in Sacramento, the MLK Historic Sit, and numerous other locations worldwide.

David took a bold approach: all the existing roses were to be replaced with a palette of new roses selected for their special qualities. Those qualities include specifics such as varieties with a long bloom period, those that rebloom throughout the season, those that are disease resistant and bear vibrant foliage. He likes to focus on maximizing the visitor experience and addressing all the senses. He also includes roses with fragrant flowers in his composition.

The Rose Garden has been completely restored prior to the planting of the new roses in late May. The soil has been amended and cultivated to provide for the optimum growth of the new specimens. The irrigation system has been refined to deliver water with a minimum of waste. The columns have been repaired and the steel barrel vault and trellis have been repainted. The troublesome rose labels have been removed and the lawn has been replaced.

The refreshed garden also includes a new feature. We have installed a walkway in the middle of the garden that is paved with inscribed granite pavers that memorialize the original roses planted in 2007 and the honorees who were listed on the rose labels. Since the plan by David included the removal of all the roses, the board felt compelled to memorialize the original roses whose donors helped fund the original garden. This walkway improves the visitor experience and lends itself to more formal occasions such as the weddings that have been scheduled at this location through the City of Stockton Department of Parks and Recreation.

To celebrate the completion of this $100,000 project, a formal ribbon cutting will be held to celebrate the renewal of the Gerry Dunlap Rose Garden at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 26. The dedication is open to the public. Please come visit the renewed Rose Garden. We think you’re going to love it.