Mary Lum’s Mesa backyard was a graveyard of dead rosebushes. Her sister bought her a rosebush, which died. Her friend replaced the dead rose for her birthday, but it died, too.
“I killed so many of them,” Lum says. “I didn’t know what I was doing wrong.”
Three years ago Lum heard about a volunteer program at Mesa Community College that provides practical pruning experience to new rose growers.
She went, and helped prune some of the 7,000 bushes in the garden. Now, she says, her roses are blooming and thriving.
“I’ve learned a lot,” she says, proudly adorning a “deadheaders” button on her T-shirt. “I still keep it down to a dozen (bushes), but they’re doing much better.”
Lum is one of a few hundred “deadheaders” who each pruning season help keep the garden thriving.
The rose garden began in 1974 with a few hundred bushes, as a partnership between the Mesa-East Valley Rose Society and Mesa Community College. It has grown into the largest public rose garden in the desert Southwest, with thousands of bushes in every color and variety.
With such a large garden the job of pruning is intense. Pruning season in Arizona begins in January and continues through February.
“If we don’t do this, we don’t get beautiful, blooming roses in March and April,” says Mike Cryer, a Tempe resident and deadheader volunteer. “It would keep trying to put flowers and growth out.”
Rose garden at Mesa Community College
What: Gain experience pruning roses while volunteering to help prune the 7,000 rosebushes in the campus rose garden
When: 9 a.m. to noon each Saturday through February
Where: Mesa Community College, 1833 W. Southern Ave.
Information: (480) 699-6562
• Remove all dead or decayed growth from rosebush.
• Keep branches about “pencil size”; remove branches that are smaller in size.
• Keep some shape to your garden roses; be gentle with the cuts.
• Remove crossing branches to favor stronger growth.
• Keep the center of the bush free of growth.