The former Students' Garden became a rose garden in the late 1950s. The Rose Garden was a very popular attraction during the summer months and its importance was recognised in 1960 when the Royal National Rose Society (R.N.R.S.) chose to display award winning roses there. In December 1960 the Parks Director reported that he had been appointed to the Council of the National Rose Society, which would be holding rose trials at Roath Park during 1961.
Species roses were planted in the long borders running on the east and west sides of the Rose Garden, and rose cultivars in the beds in the central area. These were laid out in a complex design of over 60 beds each containing a single cultivar of rose. From 1961 there were six long beds at the outside edges at the north end that were devoted to the R.N.R.S. These were planted in rotation each year with six trial roses of each cultivar supplied directly from rose breeders by arrangement with the Society. Each rose was expected to display for six years.
In some years more than a dozen new cultivars were added and if this occurred for two or three years, the rotation would be completed in only four or five years. The R.N.R.S. evaluated the roses annually and compared the results with those from their other Regional Rose Gardens and so were able to recommend the best of the new cultivars for a particular region. The Park Superintendent would select the best performing Roses from the R.N.R.S. Trials as replacement planting in the main beds. By the late 1960s the Rose Garden was nationally renowned and attracted visitors from near and far.
In the 1960s sixteen manual staff, including a Grade 1 Head Gardener and two National Joint Council Certificated Gardeners, were based in the depot which was on the site of the present day New Rest Garden. Two gardeners were occupied full time in the Rose Garden carrying out regular dead-heading, hoeing and edging. Only the qualified Gardeners were permitted to prune the roses. Throughout the 1960s a large self-propelled sprayer was employed during the summer to spray pesticides against Aphid and Leafhopper, and a foliar feed of seaweed manure was added to each spray. In March, after pruning, a general fertiliser was applied to the beds, and the other staff, who worked mainly in the remainder of the Botanic Garden, were employed to fork all the rose beds. (At the same time there were seven men employed in the Pleasure Garden and a Groundsman and a boy in the Recreation Ground.)
When a particularly good cultivar (often more than one) was identified by the Superintendent from the R.N.R.S. Trials, the most poorly performing bed(s) would be stripped and replanted with the chosen cultivar(s). The soil was dug out to a depth of “two spits” (two spade depths) and a layer of well-rotted farmyard manure placed in the bottom, followed by fresh top soil on top. Later the farmyard manure was replaced with the contents of used growbags made available free of charge from a local commercial tomato producer. Later still this whole process was replaced with the cheaper, but less effective, process of chemical soil sterilisation of the beds.
In recent years the species roses have died and been removed from the east and west borders. An attempt to re-establish the species there in the late 1990s failed due to Rose Sickness. Rose cultivars continue to occupy the beds in the central area, as shown in the leaflets reproduced below. In the 1990s there were over fifty different species and more than a hundred rose cultivars. In the present day Rose Garden there are over 60 beds and more than twenty Climbers but there are very few species roses remaining.
Below are copies of various Rose Garden leaflets. These were single sheets of paper with an introduction on the front and plan of the Rose Garden layout on the rear.
Archived Rose Garden leaflets
The 1¾ minute video clip below describing the Rose Garden when it was first established, is an excerpt from the cine film Cardiff City of Flowers, produced by the Cardiff Parks Department c.1960. (The audio on this video clip is a little distorted.)
The photograph of the Rose Garden shown below was taken from a crane which was being used to take down an old Cedar tree near the westerly toilet building in August 2008.
Sources of Information.
Much of the information on this page has been provided by Terry Davies.