Roses, Roses, Roses at Woodlake Botanical Gardens

As many of you know, WBG has held a couple of meetings to brainstorm about the triage needed to save the trees and other plants at the Woodlake Botanical Gardens since the previous agreements between Woodlake Pride, Inc. and the City were officially nullified on August 14, 2017.

Chuck House’s Speech at August 23rd Meeting

Most of the following article is a statement we heard at the August 23, 2017, meeting in which business and government agency representatives met to brainstorm how they might save the gardens.

I am Chuck House, co-owner of Sequoia Hills Stables in Elderwood, in its 6th year.

I am here to speak about the Woodlake Botanical Rose Garden with 3,400 roses.

I KNOW ROSES. I began working for Monrovia Nurseries 60 years ago.  I’ve owned two nurseries, grown and sold 30,0000 roses, Using WBG’s varieties, I’ve planted 425 roses at Sequoia Hills

I KNOW PUBLIC GARDENS.  I was a founding member of the El Paso County Park district, and the Denver Botanic Gardens, the jewel garden between Chicago and the West Coast.  And I was President of the Colorado Springs Horticultural Society and the CS Nurserymen’s Association.

The Woodlake Botanical Rose Garden is extraordinary.  There are 168 official Rose Gardens in America, and only ten have more roses and varieties than ours.  It is larger than any in San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago or St. Louis to name a few cities.

While our Woodlake Botanical Rose Garden is scarcely known outside our county (or even within the county), it is a treasure that EXISTS, here and now, thanks to the generosity and dedication of its founders and caretakers, Manuel and Olga Jimenez, for all these years. It is properly a tourist attraction and potential economic boon for the city and the county, if we did a few things for it—including labeling and advertising!

To put it in economic terms, the roses alone would cost a third of a million dollars to replace with equivalent plants (if they were available). Planting them would double that.  This is twice as much investment as all 31 murals in Exeter, for example.  All ‘free’ to date for Woodlake thanks to the generous donations of many nurseries and the efforts of Manuel and Olga Jimenez and the many Woodlake Pride volunteers.

Maintenance of such a garden is not easy.  Winter pruning alone—at fifteen minutes per plant—takes 850 hours, which is 42 full-time work weeks.  Dead heading after the spring bloom is another 20 work weeks, followed by 10 work weeks in late summer.  Add in weed control, fertilizer or disease/insect damage, plus labeling and public interpretation—and it is a LOT OF WORK.

It takes a trained horticulturist, as well as a labor crew and supervisor.  Unfortunately, there are a few very busy times when WBG needs four to six full-time workers.

How do you pay for all this?  To date, we’ve been fortunate, with total volunteer contributions, but the founders are not able to sustain their heavy time investment of the past.  WBG needs trained workers and volunteers. Right now is the time for the first pruning. WBG needs hand weeding every month. Heavy doses of Roundup may kill the weeds, but it also damages the roses.

 

WBG is also reaching out to the volunteer group of Master Gardeners trained at local colleges, with interns from high school programs.  If advertised and operated as a county program, we could draw from a wider volunteer audience. They want to serve as docents.

For lack of city or county support, we lost the Porterville Iris Gardens a few years ago.

We do not want to LOSE THIS TREASURE, TOO!

IN CONCLUSION, WE NEED TO KEEP THE GARDENS, IMPROVE THEM, CHERISH THEM, and MAKE THEM MUCH MORE WELL-KNOWN by:

  1. Raising an endowment and operating funds
  2. Preparing an audio ‘signage’ and website
  3. Hiring necessary horticulturists
  4. Revisiting the agreements with the City of Woodlake for the land and utilities
  5. Developing a cadre of Master Gardeners and Service Youth for seasonal help

Thank you, Chuck House.

Update on Work Done on Behalf of WBG

Chuck mentioned volunteer hours. Based on the number of hours that San Francisco Botanical Gardens receive, 45,306 hours for 55 acres of gardens, Woodlake would need about 11,532 volunteer hours of labor in addition to all the skilled work of trained horticulturists. In real-time that works out to 221 hours per week or the equivalent of 5.5 full-time people per week. That means that if almost everyone in Woodlake would volunteer only two hours per year, we could do it! That’s what it would take to sustain and maintain Woodlake Botanical Gardens every year.

I could do my 2+ hours in the gardens. What about you? We have scheduled two community work days, September 30 and October 7.

In addition, WBG will have to raise funds of about $250,000 a year to run the garden without the constant volunteer labor of Manuel and Olga Jimenez and to buy necessary equipment and update and replace other items in the gardens. Some of this will come from the City of Woodlake, and we will try to get funds from the county and other grants as well.

Some of this will come from the City of Woodlake, and we will try to get funds from the county and other grants as well.

We can not count on Measure R funds as we first thought we might because those funds have to last 30 years. That leaves the City only $33,333.00 per year to do all the beautification for the entire city. That is less than the wages and benefits of one garden worker per year.

However, most Botanical Gardens receive 70% or more of their funding from private sources. The value of what the City provides 2/5 of one worker or $14,000, plus other in-kind donations. If we estimate the value of all this at $50,000, we still need to raise $200,000 in grants and donations.

Woodlake Pride has entered into an agreement with Proteus to act as our non-profit broker until such time as the 501(c) (3) reinstated. In the meantime, governments can give as well as private donors who do not need or care about a tax benefit can donate.

There is still much work to do every day. Watering is the biggest chore in this heat. There are no automatic sprinklers, and the work takes hours. It will cost about $5,000 to buy the individual solar or battery-powered sprinkler boxes to make sure that the trees, many of which are rare, are not stressed or don’t die.

If you want to help in any way, large or small, please contact me, Marsha Ingrao at tchistorygal@gmail.com. Donations may be made through Proteus.

What about the gardens is most important to you?

 

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