Reimagining the Rose Garden

Latest in a series of posts on the Rose Garden


If you would like to participate in this public meeting, for the zoom link please email or

Help us celebrate the anniversary of the 1931 historic Bethlehem Rose Garden as we reimagine it for the next 90 years.

Meeting agenda items include:

1. Grant details and updates
2. Possible design plans: presentation by consultant Pam Ruch
3. Feedback from meeting participants

The historic West Bethlehem Rose Garden, created in 1931, will celebrate its 90th birthday next year!

Ideas for updating and revitalizing the garden will be shared through a Zoom presentation and discussion on Tuesday, December 1 at 7PM.

A grant from Lehigh County to MANA (Mount Airy Neighborhood Assn, west Bethlehem) has enabled the development of a plan and new plant list.

Presenter Pam Ruch, a consultant for the grant, will share beautiful examples of environmentally friendly rose gardens, near and far, to inspire the work going forward.

A group discussion will follow.

Pam Ruch, a garden designer and writer based in Emmaus, maintains the gardens at the Glasbern Inn in Fogelsville and is the garden director at the Nurture Nature Center in Easton. She recently retired from managing the historic gardens at Morven Museum & Garden, in Princeton, NJ. She holds a BS in horticulture from Temple University, and presents programs throughout the region.

Postcard below dates from 1953!

Info from from the Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council and Christy Roysdon’s Facebook pages.

The Rose Garden: there was a time when “thousands” visited

logoLatest in a series of posts on the Rose Garden logo

Wednesday’s Bethlehem Press had an interesting article relative to the Rose Garden that Gadfly cannot find online to which to link for you.

Title: “Valley Rose Society ‘reblossoms.”

Gadfly will link to it later if it shows up online.

The article details the “blossoming” after 22 years of the Lehigh Valley Rose Society triggered by interim president Nate Fisher.

Fisher describes scrolling through Facebook and seeing a message about clean-up at the Rose Garden.

You’ve seen Adam Waldron’s posts here about that.

So, the “LV Rose Society members joined forces with the Mount Airy Neighborhood Association and other community volunteers to start weeding the garden beds.”

Far out — for word had reached Gadfly from several sources that the garden was run down and wondering why the City wasn’t maintaining it.

Perhaps gardening problem now solved.

You know Gadfly is interested in Bethlehem history.

And while browsing the Lehigh Valley Rose Society web site, he found some interesting material on the origin of the Rose Garden.

Such as the May 20, 1956 article from the Morning Call tracing the Society history from the founding in 1947.

Rose Garden 1

Morning Call, June 30, 1931

And a short sketch of the 1931 origin of the Rose Garden itself, it’s hey-day (“The exquisite beauty of the blooms enhanced with the sparkling background of loveliness that the city park affords has sent the many spectators away with bubbling stories of admiration which consequently have reached other ears and brought them to this garden scene of splendor”), and it’s slide down to its present fallen state.

Here’s the goal of the Society:

“It is the goal of the Lehigh Valley Rose Society (LVRS) for the Bethlehem Rose Garden to not just be a garden of beautiful roses, but a place the community can be proud of again. A place where we (LVRS) can host free, public educational demonstrations about roses (identifying, planting, fertilizing, pruning, cutting/arranging, disease/pest identification & management, etc.) for interested gardeners. A space to encourage people to get outdoors where they can walk along the paths, have picnics, and take photos amongst the flowers to mark special occasions. But also, to serve as a crucially needed habitat for pollinating insects.”


But “Funds are needed to purchase roses, additional plants (native pollinator plants and wildflowers are being discussed), organic fertilizer, and organic sprays (such as copper fungicide and neem oil), etc.”

Funds are needed.

Gadfly hopes that followers familiar with this endeavor will provide information about how to donate.

We look forward to new beginnings at the Rose Garden!

The Rose Garden Farmer’s Market blossoms tomorrow — and a work party is forming: a beautiful day to feed and weed

logo Latest in a series of posts on the Rose Garden logo


I wanted to put on your radar the first day of the Mount Airy Neighborhood Association West Side Farmers Market starts tomorrow morning. The time is from 9 AM till 1 PM at the south-east corner of the Rose Garden. It will feature local vendors and farmers selling products.

I am also organizing an effort to clean up the rose beds at the garden. Starting at 8 AM. Calling all volunteers to help in efforts to weed the rose garden beds.

Social distancing and mask wearing is required at the market and the volunteer effort.

Adam Waldron

West Bethlehem history in Rose Garden memorial

logo Latest in a series of posts on local color and Bethlehem Moments logo

Jason Rehm, “History – Rose Garden’s memorial explained.” Bethlehem Press, December 4, 2019.

Rose Garden
photo credit Jason Rehm

“In honor of the men and women of West Bethlehem who served in World War II.”


Followers know Gadfly’s interest in local history and his Bethlehem Moments project, so he is pleased to pass on a link to the latest work by Jason Rehm appearing in the Bethlehem Press. Reach Jason at

“The Rose Garden is the centerpiece of West Bethlehem”

logo Latest in a series of posts on the Rose Garden logo

Press Release from State Rep. Jeanne McNeill:

BETHLEHEM, Nov. 14 – State Rep. Jeanne McNeill, D-Lehigh, has announced that a $210,000 state grant has been awarded to the Rose Garden Park in Bethlehem to renovate the facility.

The Rose Garden Park is an eclectic park that has a play area and has a replica of the first home in Bethlehem and a Civil War monument. The garden features more than 100 variety of flowers.

“The Rose Garden is the centerpiece of West Bethlehem,” McNeill said.  “The park will undergo some improvements that all can enjoy including walking and biking paths, a picnic area, and additional shade in front of the bandshell for concertgoers.  I was very happy to work with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to secure the funding for this treasured park in my district.”

The grant was awarded through DCNR’s Community Conservation and Partnerships Program, which provides financial and technical assistance to local governments, river and trail organizations, and trusts, and other nonprofits for planning, acquisition and development of park, recreation, conservation and greenway project.


An email from the Mount Airy Neighborhood Association spreading the good news contained this litany of thanks:

Lots of thanks are needed for this wonderful support for our Rose Garden Project.
Thank you, Jeanne for getting this through the State.
Thank you to Amy Zanelli and Phil Armstrong in Lehigh County.
Thank you to Mayor Donchez and our City Council members who voted unanimously to give us $!00 k in matching funds so this project could go forward.
Thank you to Darlene Heller (City planner), Cindy Smith (former City arborist), Chris (from public works) for putting the details in the plans. And I’m sure there are others .



The Penultimate Budget Meeting (3)

(3rd in a series of posts on the Budget)

Here’s the proposed 2019 budget

Nicole Radzievich, “What Bethlehem taxpayers can expect from next year’s budget?” Morning Call, December 10, 2018.

Council President Waldron quipped about the full house at Town Hall on the 2 W. Market meetings compared to the 1 spectator at a $78m budget hearing.

So it goes. (Who recognizes that Kurt Vonnegut is still on Gadfly’s mind?)

There were five scheduled meetings of the Administration and City Council to discuss the 2019 budget.  One was snowed out. The last meeting was last night, and the sequence is well reported on in the above article by Nicole. Penultimate tinkering was done last night. The final, official budget will be voted on next Council meeting December 18. Some changes could occur before the vote. Here are some bullet points Gadfly plucked from Nicole’s article

  • $78m budget
  • 3.8% increase
  • + $34 for the average homeowner
  • a non-emergency call center will replace 911 service taken over by the county
  • city work force is down but pension payments rising
  • more road work will be done than in previous years
  • makeover at Memorial Pool
  • improvements to the Rose Garden
  • possible contribution to a feasibility study for a pedestrian bridge
  • uncertain amount but a one-time large tax income from Casino sale on the horizon
  • new fiscal plans for the Golf Course

Ho, hum, some people would say. But Gadfly found his very first experience with budget hearings very interesting. Here are a couple quick notes:

  • the interchanges were not only civil, but light and even humorous
  • no hassles like we hear about, for instance, in Allentown
  • it was good to hear and “recognize” department heads, people before mainly faceless
  • you can learn a lot when ideas are or have to be linked with money
  • neat seeing resident-based requests got into the budget

Gadfly’s antennae (he thinks he has more than one) were especially attuned to this last point. CM Reynolds introduced a request for Rose Garden money. CM Callahan pushed to increase it and to add funds for a pedestrian bridge feasibility study (funds for that seem to be imminently possible from the county and another granting agency as well). Rose Garden money was proposed out of the city budget, and additional money for the Rose Garden plus money for the bridge study were put on the list for consideration when that Casino tax income is definite. All of Council, as far as Gadfly could tell, were supportive of both the Rose Garden improvements and moving forward on study of the pedestrian bridge.

But what do the budget hearings look like? How does the process work?

Gadfly videographer Owen Gallagher took some video. We don’t have video editing software, so the following three clips are not focused on key moments or highlights but simply present the routine linear process (which had many twists and turns) monitored by President Waldron on the Rose Garden insertion into the budget. You can see CM Reynolds introduce the idea, then CM Callahan move to augment the idea. During the process you can see the mayor, especially Public Works head Mike Alkhal, and other Council members interact.

It would take NFL films to make this visually “exciting,” but exciting things are happening nonetheless.

Proponents of the Rose Garden should get a thrill. Looks like $$$$ flowing your way.

Pedestrian bridge is also on the radar.

Here’s your local government operating in perhaps the most important thing they do.

Budget Hearing 12=4=-18 Rose Garden 1
Budget Hearing 12=4=-18 Rose Garden 2
Budget Hearing 12=4=-18 Rose Garden 3

As Gadfly wrote in post #1, there is a feeling among Council that the City is doing a good budget job (A+ credit rating), and that was reflected in final comments last night. Shown here is CM Reynolds’s offering of appreciation to the City, which were followed by equally gracious remarks by President Waldron that unfortunately we didn’t film.

The Rose Garden in Bloom (1)

(1st in a series of posts on the Rose Garden)

(see the Northside 2027 and Neighborhoods threads as well)

Mount Airy Neighborhood Association

Rose Garden masterplan

Rose Garden Toulouse

Gadfly has been buzzing only for about six weeks now, but one of the topics drawing his interest almost right away is Bethlehem’s neighborhoods.

He said recently that he’s aware that when he thinks of “Bethlehem,” he tends to think of downtown, especially the Northside downtown.

Not fair. Not right.

Lots going on out on the frontier.

Northside 2027. Streetscaping on the Southside. Now Gadfly would like to add the West Side and specifically the Rose Garden to the line-up here.

Back in his first post in the Neighborhood series (Oct. 18), Gadfly lays out the cluster of bullet points that he realized added up to his own awareness of the neighborhood pulses and his own almost subconscious yearnings for a greater feeling of “neighborhoodliness.”

Let me add to that cluster Senator Ben Sasse’s new book Them: Why We Hate Each Other and How to Heal.  I didn’t really know Sasse except as an occasional bright, articulate talking head on tv news. Turns out he’s a PhD from Yale. (Ha! Big whoop, some of you will say!) Anyway, he was on the morning news shows pitching the book. And talked about neighborhoods, which piqued my interest, especially with all going on in our town. I’m not far into the book yet, but here’s a few early bullet points:

  • loneliness is killing us
  • there’s a loneliness epidemic
  • people yearn to belong, and when healthy forms of belonging vanish, people will turn to more troubling forms of tribalism (and you all know what he’s talking about!)
  • lots of us miss the “hometown-gym-on-a-Friday-night” feeling

Enter the Rose Garden as a space for healthy forms of belonging.

Take a few minutes to digest Rose Garden Toulouse and the Rose Garden masterplan.

And we’ll come back and talk more later.

(Whom should we be reading about urban quality of life these days? I saw Jane Jacobs’ name on several stickies at Streetscape – she still the guru?)