Mission’s roses are blooming again

The Ernest Jacobsen Rose Garden is blooming again at Fraser River Heritage Park and its caretakers are hoping a fundraiser later this month will keep it that way.

Rhona Jacobsen and Mayor James Atebe admire the rose garden at Fraser River Heritage Park.

Rhona Jacobsen and Mayor James Atebe admire the rose garden at Fraser River Heritage Park.

The Ernest Jacobsen Rose Garden is blooming again at Fraser River Heritage Park and its caretakers are hoping a fundraiser later this month will keep it that way.

The garden was established after Ernie’s death in 2001 when his family donated 300 rose bushes from his personal collection. The garden is located on the southern side of the park’s administrative building.

Ernie loved roses, said his wife, Rhona, who learned to help her husband look after all 700 bushes in their garden on Lawrence Lane. Ernie was a member of numerous rose societies around the world and won many awards for his efforts.

Their home was even a tourist attraction, Rhona recalled. Ernie’s favourite was the alpine sunset – a large, fragrant, apricot-coloured bloom.

Six of these were donated to the park, but Rhona isn’t sure if there are any still standing.

Rhona, who doesn’t drive, said she doesn’t visit the roses as often as she would like to and about a year ago the garden fell apart. It wasn’t well maintained and many bushes dwindled away.

It broke her heart to see Ernie’s precious roses struggling and eventually Sandra Zdunich came on board to help with the rose garden and other beds around the park.

Zdunich worked in gardens for the past 20 years and also loved roses. She weeded the beds and tenderly attended to each bush until roses slowly started to come back.

“I worked full-time in the rose garden for three months,” said Zdunich, who worked with other volunteers and gardening experts.

“You have to really love roses to work with them,” said Rhona, who offers her expertise whenever she visits.  “Roses can live up to 100 years.”

Zdunich still works in the garden every morning and stays for as long as she needs to.

“It’s peaceful there,” she said. “Every rose is like a piece of Rhona’s husband.”

In fact, most of the plants around the park are a part of someone in the community.

“It’s like a family here.”

While the rose bushes are improving, there’s still a lot to do and donations are always needed. Zdunich would like to see new landscaping tiles, soil, replacement bushes, and a new pathway in the garden.

The Ernest Jacobsen Rose Garden tea fundraiser will take place June 26 from 2 to 4 p.m. at Fraser River Heritage Park. There will be door prizes and draw prizes. Proceeds from the event will go toward the maintenance of the garden.

Tickets are $10 each. For more information call 604-826-0277.