T he calendar tells us it’s fall. So do scattered batches of leaves turning red and orange and yellow and weather map temperatures dipping into green and blue.
Thousands of flowering bushes in the Pardee Rose Garden don’t exactly disagree with the thrust of all of that—especially the varied color palette—yet they don’t quite agree, either. Some of their buds have yet to bloom, and while it seems many of the flowers that have blossomed aren’t as numerous or perky as they were earlier in the season, plenty of them are still holding on tight.
Those who want to do the same with summer, savoring these last fleeting moments before autumn pivots irretrievably away, would do well to take a stroll through the garden’s rows and patches while the illusion’s still plausible. To help, the names of some of the rose varieties there, noted on small signs sticking up out of the earth, evoke summertime leisure: Carefree Delight, Cherry Parfait, Walking on Sunshine, Dream Come True, Easy Does It.
Leisure-seekers have been enjoying the garden, now free and open to the public every day between sunrise and sunset, for more than 90 years. Built on the site of a former farm, it was created in 1922 through a bequest of William Scranton Pardee, who wanted to create a lasting memorial to honor his late mother, Nancy Maria English Pardee. A greenhouse, since restored, was added in 1930.
Matthew Naab, Pardee’s curator and resident horticulturist, has tended the two-acre garden for 20 years now. Today, he and a staff of four (including Brooke Ruggio, pictured third above with Naab) keep things going. Despite being located in Hamden, at 180 Park Road, a jurisdictional quirk puts the garden in the hands of the city of New Haven: since it’s technically a part of East Rock Park, it therefore falls under the purview of the New Haven Department of Parks, Recreation and Trees.
Pardee’s not all roses—tulips and daffodils are there, too, for starters—but for those most interested in seeing the headline attractions, it turns out there’s still plenty of time. Naab says the peak times to view various roses in bloom are the month of June and the period spanning August and October. He says he’s especially proud of some of the “old-fashioned” types that grow there, like the Belinda, a large pink rose introduced in 1937; the cascading Sea Foam; the red, climbing Dublin; and the yellow Julia Child. This isn’t even getting into the hard-to-find Hot Cocoa, Home Run, Fashion and Snow Owl varieties.
Those wanting a break from stopping and smelling the roses can “stop and smell the roses” on any of several shaded benches and picnic tables lining the garden’s edges. At one end, set straight ahead on a central pathway, is a circular, tiered brick structure—as Naab describes it, “built in the shape of a wedding cake.” Its upper platform rests beneath a canopy of leafy green growth, which, when the season’s right, is dotted with white roses. Brides and grooms standing there look as if they’re atop a wedding cake, he says, helping make it a coveted spot for wedding ceremonies and photos. (Doing either requires a park permit, by the way.)
While it hosts its share of amusement and celebration, the garden serves an explicit educational purpose as well. The Sound School, a waterside vocational aquaculture high school in City Point, has a satellite campus at the garden. Students come to study and work in the greenhouse, learning the ins and outs of horticulture, says Naab. He hopes some of them eventually consider a career in the field.
Like a laid-back museum of living things, the Pardee Rose Garden offers a lot to learn and enjoy. And for the next month or so, at least, it’s a comforting place for those in denial that cold weather’s on the horizon. Standing among green grass, bright flowers and buzzing bees, it’s easier to believe summer hasn’t yet fallen.
Pardee Rose Garden
180 Park Rd, Hamden (map)
Open daily, sunrise to sunset
Written by Cara Rosner. Photo #1 by Cara Rosner; photos #2-6 by Dan Mims.