Revamping the Rose Garden in Cape Girardeau

Barb Blanchard’s love for gardening stemmed from picking bouquets of flowers from her grandmother’s English flower garden when she was a little girl. Blanchard is the co-chair of the Rose Garden Board of Directors and has volunteered her time to the Rose Garden in Capaha Park since 1969, becoming one of its biggest advocates and keeping the City of Roses true to its former name.

Mrs. Thomas G. Harris and Mrs. Chris El Stiver proposed the idea for a Rose Test Garden in 1931. Until recently, the Rose Garden was a test garden for the All-America Rose Selections (AARS), and received roses to plant yearly to monitor their development in the southeast Missouri environment.

The Rose Garden was established after over two decades of planning in 1954. Since then, Blanchard said the Rose Garden has survived totally on contributions and volunteerism from the community, the City of Cape Girardeau Parks and Recreation Department, and the Cape Girardeau Career and Technology Center.

When Blanchard first started working with the Rose Garden, there were six garden clubs in Cape Girardeau. Now there are three, and volunteers are harder to come by, she said. Trends in the economy and the community caused the Rose Garden to struggle to in growth and development.

“I think it’s because of the climate of our society,” Blanchard said. “It’s changing. It isn’t the same.”

Another factor that hindered the development of the roses was the change in climate. Blanchard explained that due to the mild winter last year, the roses did not reach their full dormant period and bloomed early.

“Roses, they’re just like people,” Blanchard said, adding that the delicate flowers need the proper amount of food, water, and sleep to survive and thrive.

In April 2000, a five-year master plan was developed in the hopes of revamping the Rose Garden. A list of goals was developed, including installing an improved, automatic watering system, installing electricity throughout the garden and planting new roses, perennials, azaleas and trees, as needed. These goals, among others, have been reached.

Goals that are still incomplete include repairing frames to beds with metal supports and replacing the benches when needed. The project currently being tackled is developing the Walkway of Honor, a walkway paved with personalized stones in honor of, or in memory of individuals.

Nancy Bahn pitched the idea for the Walkway of Honor in 2011. A paving plan was constructed and finished in June 2011. 200 granite pavers have been sold to create the walkway. A specific start date on the project has not been decided, but will be discussed at the next Rose Garden Board of Directors meeting on June 12.

“You can’t build a house if you don’t have a good plan,” Blanchard said. “And that’s what we have–a plan.”

Suggestions for the future of the Rose Garden include making it a test garden for Cape Girardeau, specifically. This would mean and selecting and planting roses from the local community, as well as from other locations, and seeing how they grow in Southeast Missouri conditions. The idea for a junior garden club has also been mentioned.

Blanchard considers the Rose Garden a “postage stamp piece of property,” as she describes visitors stopping by for lunch, pictures, and revisiting the past on their way through town.

“It really became, I guess you could call it, an icon in the community,” Blanchard said. “This has always been one of my loves.”

Granite pavers may be purchased and dedicated in memory of or in honor of an individual or individuals. To purchase a granite paver or for more information, contact Barb Blanchard at

By Amity Downing, Multimedia Journalist
Summer 2012 Public Information Office Intern 

1 Comment

  1. What a delight it is to have a garden of beauty and remembrance right here in our own neighborhood of Ward 3. Thanks to all of the women and men who have made a contribution to sustain and maintain our part of EDEN in Cape Girardeau at Capaha Park. God bless you and your blooms!!

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