What is Friends about?
Friends of Oakland Rose Garden is an Oakland-based grassroots group of volunteers committed to making it easy and fun for people to connect with the Morcom Rose Garden. Our goal is to help care for the roses while building the community around the Garden. You’ll see that there are lots of people who get a lot from this garden and many of them also give back.
Some history of the Morcom Rose Garden
The Morcom Rose garden was originally called the Morcom Amphitheater of Roses, reflecting one of the key design elements conceived by Arthur Cobbledick, the Landscape Architect who created the garden plan in the 1930s. Fortunately Arthur’s son Bruce Cobbledick, a garden activist in Oakland, donated the original garden drawings and his knowledge of the garden to fill out the garden’s history.
Beginning in 1932, as an inspiration of the Businessmen’s Breakfast Club, Oakland’s Morcom Rose Garden has a history of cooperation and partnership. In response to a culture shaped by The Depression, the garden was designed to highlight the extravagant roses in formal gardens surrounded by a rugged natural setting. Mayor Frank Morcom planted the first rose in 1933. And for nearly nine decades the Morcom Rose Garden has offered Oakland a stimulating and restful place.
Here is a brief history of this garden’s design and modifications. A review of the documents available to The Friends reveals a relatively simple evolution of the garden. Key facts include the following:
- 1911-1915: Land identified and acquired by the City of Oakland used as open space.
- 1932: Inspiration for the Rose Garden from the Businessmen’s Garden Club, Dr. Charles Vernon Covell (president) and Arthur Cobbledick (club member and Landscape Architect), with color design from James Cobbledick (decorator) and Professor F.H. Meyer of the California School of Arts and Crafts, now California College of the Arts (CCA).
- 1933: First rose planted by Mayor Frank Morcom.
- 1948: First modifications were made in a re-work by Parks Director William Penn Mott to remove lawn walks in the Florentine oval to streamline maintenance. The 1948 plan for this work has not been located.
- 1954: Two walks were added: the Pioneer Walk along the top of the Florentine oval and the Mothers Walk between the reflecting pool and the Florentine oval. There were 125 climbing roses installed on the Pioneer Walk along a chain around the top of the overlook — none of these roses appear to remain. It isn’t clear from the documentation what constituted the Mothers Walk plantings. Today there are also tree roses along the Mothers Walk.
- 50’s: Pride of Oakland roses, a commercial test rose, were planted at the Wedding Terrace by Head gardener George Shiraki. The Pride of Oakland roses line both sided of the lower Cascade as well.
- 1995: A major refurbishment and replanting was undertaken, guided by the East Bay Rose Society and Ed Wilkinson, a part-time parks employee and Rosarian. This work was accomplished with great respect for the original design.
The essential design of the rose garden has changed very little in its history of nearly 90 years. What has changed is the City of Oakland’s ability to care for this garden, the aging infrastructure, the roses themselves, and the surrounding natural background.