Photo 1. Members of the Olympia Rose Society deadhead and tidy up
the Centennial Rose Garden weekly throughout the growing season.

Rose Gardens
The Centennial Rose Garden of the Olympia Rose Society

In the year 1889 Washington emerged from territorial status to become the forty-second state. Nearly a hundred years later, The State of Washington, in celebration of its centennial year, offered cash grants to various community organizations to undertake projects in commemoration of the Centennial. One of these grants found its way to the Olympia Rose Society (ORS) to create a rose garden on the grounds of the Schmidt House in Tumwater. The Schmidt House is owned and operated by the Olympia Tumwater Foundation (OTF) It was built in 1904 for Olympia Brewing Company founder, Leopold F. Schmidt and his wife and six children.


Photo 2. The Centennial Rose Garden continues to put on a show well into late summer.


Following several years of planning, fund raising and good old fashioned hard work by many ORS members, the garden was dedicated on June 23, 1989. Mrs. Jean Gardner, then Washington First Lady, presided over the ceremony. The dedication was held in conjunction with the 1989 American Rose Society, Pacific Northwest District convention and rose show, which were being held concurrently in Olympia. Several hundred rose enthusiasts were in attendance on that very hot afternoon.


More than twenty years have passed since the dedication ceremony, and the Garden is still growing strong. Many changes have occurred during that time – most driven by necessity. Within the first five years the Tumwater deer herd got wind of the location of the new garden and put it at the top of their list of favorite dining out spots. Repellents, trip wires, soap on strings and noise makers were tried with no avail. So in 1992 The ORS, with financial assistance from the OTF, installed an 8-foot high dark green chain link fence around the garden. While this fence didn’t add much to the attractiveness of the garden, it has kept marauding deer out for almost twenty years.


Lots of other changes have occurred. Many of the original Old Garden Roses became so large and rank that they had to be removed. A gradual removal/replacement program over the years has yielded a mostly modern rose garden. We are constantly upgrading bushes and varieties as newer, more disease resistant cultivars have become available.


The garden is actively maintained by ORS members. During the growing season a spray team continuously monitors the condition of all the bushes and applies disease prevention sprays when needed. In addition, a work party meets weekly during the growing season to deadhead, pull weeds, apply fertilizer, maintain the drip irrigation system and keep the garden looking tidy.


Every fall, ORS members meet at the garden to put the bushes to bed for winter. At that time, the bushes are pruned back, their leaves are removed, and each bush is mounded up with ground bark for winter protection. Lime is also added. In spring, the mounding is removed, bushes are carefully pruned, and bark is added where needed.


The result of this work is one of the best-kept public rose gardens in the area. It continues to appear healthy, tidy and full of blooms well into late summer and even autumn. Currently, the Centennial Garden holds about forty varieties of roses – mainly hybrid teas, floribundas, grandifloras and miniatures, with a smattering of Old Garden Roses. Each variety is represented by from 3 to 6 plants displayed in groups.


The garden is open for visitors free of charge from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm daily throughout the growing season (roughly early June through early October).


Driving Directions:

The Centennial Garden is less than one mile from Interstate 5. Coming from the north on I-5, take the 2nd Avenue exit (Exit 103) and turn immediately left onto Custer Way. Go over the freeway bridge and turn left onto Schmidt Place, where you will find ample parking. You will see the garden directly ahead on the grounds of the Schmidt Mansion. If coming up from the south on I-5, take the Trosper Road exit, turn right and then left onto Capitol Way. Go about a mile to Custer Way and turn left, then immediately right onto Schmidt place.

Don't forget to bring your camera!


Photo 3. Escapade is but one of the many varieties of floribunda roses in the Centennial Garden.