This year, the American Rose Society is commemorating its 125th anniversary. In the midst of the celebration, it is important to recognize that some of the most valuable assets of the Society—in addition to our members, of course—are the property that is the American Rose Center with all its buildings and garden elements, and the ARC Maintenance Endowment Trust Fund that helps to sustain the gardens and the buildings that are the ARC.


     The 118 acres that make up our property at Shreveport, Louisiana were donated to the Society by a local resident in 1970. By 1972, a Master Plan included a well-designed administration building for the organization and the gardens. By 1974, the Society had made the move to Shreveport from Columbus, Ohio, and the gardens were opened; and along the way they acquired the name Gardens of the American Rose Center.


     Other structures were added by generous local donors in addition to the Thigpen-Herold Administration Building, named in recognition of the family that donated the property. Windsounds Carillon Tower was part of the original plan; local funds were raised to construct it. Today, it is recognized as our signature emblem, “rising high into the native pines; its chimes are a welcome “voice” in the woodland setting.” The Asian Tea House and surrounding gardens, with stone elements, sculpture, a water feature and bridge have been a favorite destination for many visitors. Jane Owen Hardtner contributed a lovely chapel in memory of her husband Quintin T. Hardtner; the Chapel, supported through the years by the extended Hardtner Family, is enjoyed as a quiet place for meditation and memorial services, and for many years has been the site of joyful weddings.




     Two major bequests brought major changes to the gardens in the first ten years of this century. A tremendous gift—the entire estate of former ARS President Emeritus Joseph Klima and his wife Marion, together with additional generous gifts by ARS member-families Whitaker, Hering, Hartley, Dickman, Macon, Schorr and Wellan; and Shreveport supporters Hardtner (again), Beaird, Shehee, Caruthers (who chaired a successful local drive to fund the Endowment in the 80s), Whitikin, Nelson, the Norton Foundation, the Shreveport-Bossier Community Foundation, and many smaller donors all funded the much-utilized  and wonderfully spacious, 10,000 square foot Klima Education & Visitor Center, or Klima Rose Hall, completed in 2005 just in time to host a National ARS Convention.


     The second large bequest by ARS member Dudley Watkins fully funded an impressive 40’ x 80’ reflection pool that provides a spectacular second impression for visitors, and is helping us attract weddings and other revenue-producing events to the gardens.


     These are remarkable assets, all debt free, that contribute greatly to the value that is the American Rose Society.


     But we have found ourselves in an uncomfortable place as a rose garden—our roses are suffering from worn-out soil, too much shade, too many tree roots, and too many deer. Through the years, our investment has gone to structures and maintenance, and not much has been invested in the gardens. The trees that were young and unobtrusive almost 45 years ago grew to massive heights, and cast enveloping shade and evermore invasive tree roots. Deer multiplied and became more emboldened. And, the original scheme for 70-plus small garden spots throughout the acreage is not working for us anymore. The initial installations are now old and in need of repair; maintenance is difficult and costly.


     This year, we have begun a bold new project of total restoration of the gardens. We have given ourselves five years —to 2022—to significantly complete the task, at which time we will celebrate the gardens’ 50th anniversary. Obviously, we need to have a lot to show for these years of effort.


     On a visit to the gardens in 2016, American Rose Society President Pat Shanley recognized a need for drastic measures, and she immediately put out a call for action. The American Rose Center Committee took on the challenge. A Master Plan was developed and unanimously approved by the ARC Committee and the ARS Board of Directors. The Master Plan calls for a reduction in the number of gardens, and consolidation of our efforts to a “core garden” with visible impact and close proximity to Klima Rose Hall and the Watkins Reflection Pool. The list of goals in the Master Plan is extensive. Here are a few:


CONSOLIDATION. The plan began with a decision to consolidate, abandon, or repurpose many of the existing gardens, and create a “core garden” with impact.


CLEARING OF TREES. At this writing, over 100 massive pine trees have been harvested; clearing of brush and stump removal is underway.  We hope you won’t be shocked by the recent aerial photo of our “core garden.” Envision the naked garden as we do—it is a clean slate where a well-planned and beautiful rose garden will emerge.


DEER CONTROL. We have raised half the money for recommended deer fencing from Gulf District members, and now that the trees are down, we will set out to raise the additional funds needed.


ENTRANCE SIGN. We have a new entrance sign, thanks to our always generous donor Ann Harder; it was created from a massive slab of natural stone. The original sign was destroyed by a hit-and-run truck. The entrance also sports new flags and lighting donated by generous ARS members.


PLANT REGISTER. We have approved uniform labeling for the gardens, and are engaged in developing a database that will serve as a register for every plant on the property.  Our goal is to be a Botanic Garden, and when our goals are met, we hope to comply with the five criteria for gaining Botanic Garden status, one of which is the plant inventory.


WALKWAYS. We have been approved for over $70,000 in new walkways by the Louisiana State Tourism Bureau. That is in addition to a like amount of new walkways and paths that were installed in 2014.


SOIL. The soil has been tested in all areas of the garden, and corrective measures taken. We are creating our own mulch, but also seeking additional sources, donors or discounts.


CHILDREN’S GARDEN. Four of the outlying gardens in the area of the existing playground equipment are targeted for repurposing as a new Children’s Garden. Developing this part of the Master Plan, as well as identifying donors or a sponsor, will be a top priority.


VISUAL IMPACT. The area around the reflection pool has purposefully remained undeveloped until now, but recent efforts to enhance that area are proving to be successful. The Gulf District Garden of David Austin roses has been completely restored and replanted, thanks to all new roses from Michael Marriott and David Austin. The ARS Committee approved the planting this fall of 15 special variety Ginkgo trees to create an alee along both lengths of the pool. The extravagant color display that will be produced by these trees will be an annual event not to be missed. A Garden of Louisiana Native Trees and Plants will further enhance the area along the road, and provide an educational aspect as well.


NEAR KLIMA. The Terrace seating and bride’s walk at the back of Klima Rose Hall is now complete, providing a grand replacement for the hastily installed wooden stairway. Nearby, a plan for a handicap ramp that will transition down from the Terrace to ground level is in the works. The area is being designed with a carefully chosen selection of plants that will create a sensory garden. An area civic organization is proposing this site as their state-wide “centennial project,” and they have a landscape nursery and design firm that would like to undertake this project with them. Needless to say, this will be a great enhancement to the gardens, and will fill a great need. A stately pavilion is being planned on the walk just past the pool; it will serve as our “gate to the rose garden”.


      There is so much more on our list of goals: Irrigation, Lighting, Areas of year-round interest, Research, a Friends of the Garden group, Increased garden visitation; and, very important to our mission: Educational Programming. In 2022, the garden’s 50th year, the Society will be eligible to apply to the National Parks Service for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. And, within five years, we would like to institute National Rose Trials. These goals, along with status as a Botanic Garden, will provide prestige, marketing message, and opportunities for grants and other resources. Coincidentally, the Society will celebrate its 130th anniversary in that year!


     In the 1935 American Rose Annual, then ARS President Emeritus J. Horace McFarland called for a National Rosarium of the American Rose Society. “To those who think our Rosarium project is too idealistic and its benefits too far in the future, we endorse the words of great Municipal Designer, D. H. Burnham: ‘Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high and hope and work; remembering that a noble, logical design once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with ever growing insistency.’”


     Yes, our Master Plan is an ambitious undertaking.  We are “making no little plans;” we are “making big plans”! But, most agree this restoration is absolutely necessary. Our Master Plan recognizes and addresses the crucial need for bold and immediate action, to not only restore the gardens in areas which have been overcome by nature and time, but also to develop the gardens beyond any vision of beautiful gardens we have held to this date.


    We have been prudent and responsible caretakers of these gardens through the years. It is with that same sense of responsibility that we embark on this bold new plan to completely restore the gardens and elevate the overall operation to a new level, equal to botanic garden status. We feel the time is right to take this giant step, to reorder, restore and renew every part of the garden, and to fulfill the promise the gardens offered so many years ago.


     Major investments have been made at the Gardens of the American Rose Center: when we needed to build an administration building; when we thought it advantageous to have an education & visitor center; when we had an opportunity to install a reflection pool, provide a chapel, and place an impressive and inspiring sculpture that is the Windsounds Carillon Tower, ARS members and members of the Shreveport community have believed in and have supported our “American Rose Society Rosarium.” I have no doubt that will be the case as we set out to create an incredible garden that we can be proud of.









A drone’s eye view of the area of ARC’s new “Core Garden.” The reader is asked to “envision the naked garden as we do—it is a clean slate where a well-planned and beautiful rose garden will emerge. “ Over 100 giant pines have recently been removed from this area because of too much shade and encroaching roots.  (photos by Kris Kelley, Louisiana Signs & Designs)
















The area around Klima Rose Hall was not spared from the massive tree harvest. Over 40 trees were removed from the area behind the David Austin Rose Garden to allow more sunlight. See also the 90’ wide tiers of theatre style seating added to the back Terrace at Klima, also providing a central stair that we like to call the ‘bride’s walk.’






     The Master Plan can be transmitted to you via e-mail if you wish to review our plans, and we encourage you to share it with someone you know who might want to help.


     There are naming opportunities for all sizes of donations;  names of donors of $1,000 or more will be inscribed on large stone tiles in Klima Rose Hall. We welcome your inquiries about sponsorships of gardens  and garden elements. Contact Jon Corkern, or e-mail me directly, as Master Plan Project Coordinator at



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