July 03, 2017

An Afternoon With Rockford's Roses

rose garden 1

On a recent picture-perfect Midwestern day, I needed some rose therapy. I headed down to Rockford, Illinois, to Sinnissippi Gardens--a little over an hour’s drive from my house.

Because of the perfect weather, and the fact that it was a Friday afternoon, many people were walking dogs, jogging, and sightseeing along the Rock River, which borders the gardens.

Sinnissippi Gardens features an All-American Rose Selection (AARS) accredited rose garden with about 2,000 rose plants of 62 varieties, including the year’s newest award-winners. (Since AARS is now gone, the new roses are trialed by the American Rose Trials for Sustainability (A.R.T.S.) and Earh-Kind. See Pat's--The Common Weeder--comment at the end. Thanks, Pat!)

The rose garden adjoins the Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens complex, which I’ll share in a later post.


light show sign

light show river

This summer, the gardens have an installed light show. I didn’t stick around to see it at night, but you can see highlights from their Instagram feed.

rose garden 3

As you walk from the conservatory toward the rose garden, the views are grand.

view from rose garden

As are the views from the rose garden back to the conservatory.


The trellis is the focal point of the rose garden and gives the entire area simple architectural interest.


A 32-foot floral clock planted with annuals changes every season.

The highlight this time, for me, was the roses, and I lost myself in the beauty for a few hours. Here’s a sampling of the roses, in no particular order:

winnepeg parks
'Winnepeg Parks' Canadian Shrub Rose

wild ginger
'Wild Ginger' Griffith Buck Shrub Rose

Unmarked Floribunda

sweet fragrance
'Sweet Fragrance' Grandiflora

sunshine daydream
'Sunshine Daydream' Grandiflora

strike it rich
'Strike It Rich' Grandiflora

'Serendipity' Griffith Buck Shrub Rose

rainbow sorbet
'Rainbow Sorbet' Floribunda

queen elizabeth
'Queen Elizabeth' Grandiflora

prairie clogger
'Prairie Clogger' Griffith Buck Shrub Rose

nearly wild
'Nearly Wild' Floribunda

modern fireglow
'Modern Fireglow' Canadian Shrub Rose

'Honeysweet' Griffith Buck Shrub Rose

flamingo kolorscape
'Flamingo Kolorscape' Shrub Rose

easy does it
'Easy Does It' Floribunda

prairie star
'Prairie Star' Canadian Shrub Rose

double knockout
'Double Knockout' Shrub Rose

hawkeye belle
'Hawkeye Belle' Griffith Buck Shrub Rose

dick clark
'Dick Clark' Grandiflora

cinco de mayo
'Cinco de Mayo' Floribunda

mordon blush
'Morden Blush' Canadian Shrub Rose

cherry parfait
'Cherry Parfait' Grandiflora

glowing peace
'Glowing Peace' Grandiflora

'Champlain' Canadian Shrub Rose

carefree beauty
'Carefree Beauty' Shrub Rose

aunt honey
'Aunt Honey' Griffith Buck Shrub Rose

winter sunset
'Winter Sunset' Griffith Buck Shrub Rose

all the rage
'All the Rage' Shrub Rose

'Quietness' Griffith Buck Shrub Rose

rose garden 2

If you live near Rockford or you're planning a visit nearby, it’s definitely worth a trip to Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens. In the summertime, be sure to check out the rose garden.


Happy Independence Day to friends and gardeners in the U.S.! And to everyone: Peace be with you.


  1. Hi Beth, today is one of those days where I could need some rose therapy, too, so I was very excited to see a post about roses on your blog! And the most interesting thing for me is, that I don't grow any of the rose varieties that you are featuring, I do know some by name or have seen them in other people's gardens, though. Still there are many that I have never had the pleasure to meet in person. I do think the reason is that they selected roses that are doing well in cold climates, which is not a big surprise, but not necessarily in warm climates like mine.
    Thanks for sharing and happy 4th of July to you!
    Warm regards,

    1. Hi Christina: Wow, that is surprising, though as you say the climates are entirely different. I had a great 4th (sorry I'm just getting back to your comment now). I hope you did, too? I'm glad you enjoyed the rose therapy. ;-)

  2. Interesting! Thank you for sharing!

    1. You are very welcome, Endah! I'm guessing the roses that grow well in your climate are entirely different?

  3. What a gorgeous display. It certainly would be worth the trip back there to see the rose garden in all it's glory. I always think it is amazing at all the colors and forms of roses. I see that they also have trouble with Japanese Beetles.

    1. I agree, re: all the forms, colors, and sizes of roses. They're all luscious! Yes, there were some Japanese beetles in the gardens: Aren't they everywhere right now? I wish there was an organic treatment or natural repellent that would work for them. Someone mentioned that they're voracious for Four-O-Clocks, and then the Four-O-Clocks kill them: I wonder if that works... But then you'd be attracting more to the garden!

  4. Seems well worth an hour's drive to see this collection Beth. Your photos are so lovely and swept me right up into imaging the scents and feelings of the place. Happy Fourth!

    1. Yes, for sure. Thank you for your kind words. We had a lovely 4th--I hope you did, too!

  5. So beautiful . . .
    I had a chance to visit here a few years back.
    Lovely indeed . . .
    Enjoyed your Rose pictures . . ,

    1. Thanks, Lynne. Well, I guess you know how picturesque it is, then! :) I hope you're having a pleasant time with the family this summer!

  6. Replies
    1. Thank you, Aaron! We had a lovely 4th--I hope you did, too!

  7. 'All the Rage' certainly does it for me! Gorgeous roses, the scent is almost wafting through the screen.
    I saw the Field of Light installation in Australia earlier this year. It is incredible. If you get a chance to see it after dark do go!
    Happy 4th July.

    1. Ah, I liked that one, too. But there are so many amazing ones. I think I have different favorites on different days. ;-) I might have to head back down to Rockford in the evening to see the show before it's done. It looks nifty even during the day.

  8. I just heard about this garden recently. Looks lovely.

    1. It's wonderful! And not too far away for us. I love our botanical gardens here in Madison, too, but sometimes it's fun to take a short road trip.

  9. Gorgeous garden and great to see so many superb Buck roses. Carefree Beauty is one of the best for our area.

    1. Yes, I had heard about this garden for years, and I should have checked it out long ago. It really is beautiful. 'Carefree Beauty' is a sweet one, and the bees were all over it!

  10. I like the lights along the railroad area, they look like dandelion heads at first. ;-) I peeked at the evening photos. WOW, beautiful.
    Rainbow Sorbet is my favorite you featured in this post.

    1. Yes, the scale of the light show caught my attention. I'm sure it's pretty dramatic at night--it's nice to see the photos people have shared. 'Rainbow Sorbet' is soft and flowy. There were only a few roses that I felt were "meh": The rest were incredible!

  11. I remember this garden! There weren't many roses in bloom when we were there last year, were there? Some real winners there - I especially love 'Glowing Peace', 'Cinco de Mayo', and 'Morning Sunshine'.

    1. No, although I don't think we walked all the way back. And it was super hot and humid--maybe in the mid 90s? We were all melting, and I think that's about the time we took off for the shady Japanese garden. Rockford has some lovely gardens, doesn't it?

  12. You picked the perfect time to visit this garden! Beckie and I were there in August the year before we all met here, and there were more roses blooming then than during our September visit. But I'm sure July is a much better time to see them at the height of their glory. Seeing all these makes me want to start a rose garden!

    1. I just checked back: It looks like we went to Rockford in August (two years ago), and Madison in September (last year). I was at the Rockford garden in June, and the roses were glorious! I imagine with the variety they have there, there's always some type of rose blooming (until frost). I love roses, but it's fun to see them in other people's gardens, too. I only have a few here.

  13. Oh, how beautiful! Each year I always seem to miss the high time for roses at the Royal Botanical Gardens by a couple of weeks or so. They are actually in the process of a compete overhaul of the rose garden now, focusing on disease resistant, cold hardy varieties. Hopefully there will also be a lot of repeat bloomers incorporated. I was so happy to hear about their plans as the old garden was in it's glory only for a few short weeks and then it was rather dismal. Can't wait for the grand reveal next year.

    1. Nice! That will be a great resource/playground for you when it's done! It does seem like rose gardens these days plan for repeat bloomers, although it seems like the prettiest time for rose gardens anyway is in early to high summer. Or, maybe that's when I traditionally enjoy them the most. :)

  14. Beth - What a great post. You did such a good job of naming the roses you saw. I am a big fan of Griffith Buck roses and had a number of them in Heath. Now I only have one, Folksinger. It's Sad that AARS is no longer with us, but good to know that we now have new Earth-Kind trials, and American Roses Trials for Sustainability. I hope you saw my recent post about these. Very exciting development.

    1. Hi Pat: I confess I didn't know about the AARS split to Earth-Kind and American Roses. Good to know. I see your post, and I will stop by for a visit tonight. Thanks! I only have a few roses, but I love them. And I so enjoy visiting them at fully stocked rose gardens/botanical gardens!

  15. So many gorgeous roses!! I'll bet the light show is pretty amazing too. I am rather surprised that they did not have climbing roses on that trellis, but I guess that would obscure its bold focal point (and if they trial roses, they would have to keep taking them out.)

    1. I would like to see the light show, too. That would be fun to see with a group--I might have to arrange that. ;-) Yeah, I think the trellis is a powerful focal point. It seems simplistic or spartan, but it really works. The roses are arranged nicely in the space adjacent to the trellis, too.

  16. On a beautiful summer day it's a joy to walk through the lovely garden and watch as many roses and smell them. Regards.

    1. Yes, I know you appreciate those kinds of days, too, Giga. I think we have similar climates. :) Warm summer days are special.

  17. Hi Beth! You really helped me with this post. I received Sunshine Daydream as a tiny test plant years ago and lost its tag. When I saw your photo, I went and checked, and this is my yellow rose. It's a beauty. It requires no spraying, grows huge and is a wonder.

    On another note, I love all of the Griffith Buck roses. I grew Aunt Honey and Prairie Clogger at one time. ~~Dee

    1. Hi Dee: Oh good! I'm glad the post helped! That's a beautiful rose. Good to know it doesn't need spraying--I might have to look into getting one! I love the Griffith Buck roses, too. Most of the roses at Sinnissippi bowled me over, though.

  18. Wow what a place all those roses, they look wonderful, great photos to.
    Amanda xx

    1. Thanks, Amanda. Yes, it's a beautiful garden. It's so near my home and I had never been through the rose garden part before. Just lovely.

  19. How can one not love a rose? I could almost smell yours in the pictures. Glorious!

    1. I agree. There's just something about them. I don't grow many myself, but I certainly enjoy seeing them in a botanical garden. :)

  20. These are so very beautiful. If i were in those parts of the world i wouldn't mind long drives. I can even smell them here. You seem to have documented lots of them. That is what is great in advance countries, they can favorably maintain gardens that wide.

    1. True, we are very fortunate here to have the space and the ability to care for them! The nice thing is that anyone can visit them. There is no fee to walk through this part of the garden!

  21. Replies
    1. Yes, I think I need to visit another rose garden yet this summer. They make me happy.


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