Our Piedmont Recreation Department's Walking on Wednesdays group met at the Exedra last Wednesday for our weekly walk. Thirty five walkers were there on a cool, cloudy morning. It was the Wednesday before Mother's Day, so flowers were on our minds, and time to make our annual visit to the Morcom Rose Garden. It is located on Jean Street in Oakland, just across Grand Avenue and the Piedmont border. However, before we got started Nancy shared some unhappy news. Sherry was one of two people mugged last weekend in Piedmont. Nancy said Sherry is recovering, but would like us to stop by her home on the way to the rose garden. We went down to Sherry's home. Nancy rang the doorbell, and Sherry came out. She said she expects to be back with us in a few weeks. We gave her a round of applause, said we would be back. We continued down to Wildwood and Grand Avenues. Along the way we saw six homes under construction. A general contractor was at one of them. He said one bundle of shingles, about enough to fill a fireplace, now costs $320, and the total cost of shingling the house was $40,000. We crossed Grand Avenue and went up Jean Street to the entrance of the rose garden. It is in a natural bowl on a 7.5 acre site that was purchased by the City of Oakland in 1915 and named the Linda Vista Park. Its conversion to a rose garden was a project of the Oakland Businessmen's Garden Club in 1930 with the support of the city. Work began on the garden in 1931 or 1932, and it officially opened in 1934. Presumably, work finished in 1935. The New Deal and the State Employment Relief Administration played vital roles in its funding. Its name was changed in 1954 to honor former Oakland Mayor Fred Morcom, who was mayor from 1931 to 1933 when the garden was built. The park has been refurbished at least twice, in the 1950s and 1990s. The garden has over 2,400 rose bushes, winding walkways, a reflecting pool, and a cascading fountain. The design was inspired by the gardens of Italy. The garden has three sections. The Jean Street entrance has a classical, curved colonnade, backed by stone walls, and a rose-lined walkway. The middle section features a reflecting pool encircled by rose beds and an elegant 14-step cascade down the hillside to the west. Above the cascade is an octagonal wedding terrace in stone and more rose beds. Facing the pool and cascade from the east is a Mediterranean style loggia. A large Florentine oval garden at the north end has terraced flower beds rising on all sides.
Meghan Bennett had more information from her research, https://www.oaklandrose.com/. It was once proposed the park be converted into a zoo. A large number of animal offers were made, and F. M. "Borax" Smith offered llamas to the city from his large herd of the South American animals on his estate in East Oakland. It never happened. We entered the garden, walked up the main path to the reflecting pool, and admired the many, different roses that were in full bloom. The steps up to the octagonal wedding terrace provided a lovely spot for the attached group photo. In the early 2000s "The Mother's Walk," was created from the reflecting pool to the Florentine garden. There are brass plaques in the ground with the names of women honored each year in an annual ceremony for Mother's Day. In the early 2000s, the hours of Oakland city workers to maintain the irrigation lines, weed, deadhead, and prune the roses were reduced. A group of volunteers, the "Dedicated Deadheaders," was organized to keep the garden beautiful. They work every Wednesday and the walkers came upon two of them. One was regular walker Jennifer P. The Deadheaders' website is https://friendsofoaklandrose.org/ with information on ways to volunteer. Walkers splintered off on the paths, going to see different sections of the garden. It was decided we would take our time, return to the Exedra at our own paces, and as Mark Davis said "unchaperoned."