The Helen S Kaman Rose Garden within Elizabeth Park in Hartford, Connecticut, is the nation’s oldest public rose garden and is the third-largest rose garden in the United States. In 1983 the entirety of Elizabeth Park, including the Helen S Kaman Rose Garden, was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Strolling through this spectacular rose garden filled with more than 800 different varieties of roses made me feel like Alice in Wonderland discovering new and unusual plants and garden decor in a whimsical botanical garden. We had a magnificent time strolling these gardens, and in my opinion, they are certainly worthy of a visit. Here’s everything you’ll need to know to plan your visit to this lovely, free-to-visit garden.
Helen S Kaman Rose Garden in Elizabeth Park
Location: Hartford, Connecticut
Address: 1561 Asylum Ave
Hartford, CT 06105
Hours: Sunrise – Sunset
Parking: Free parking on site
Handicap Accessible: Yes
History of the Gardens
Designed in 1903 by a man named Theodore Wirth, now named for the first president of the park’s conservancy group, Helen S Kaman. The park itself, Elizabeth Park, in which the rose garden rests, was named after the wife of the man who donated the land the park and rose gardens now occupy the city of Hartford. Mr. Wirth’s original goal with this rose garden was to simply bring joy to the public, an objective we don’t often see in the 21st century.
Over the last century, the park has been not only a place for the public to enjoy nature and learn more about horticulture, but it is also a popular place for weddings, portrait photography, and events. It has also been the site of numerous horticultural experiments and hybrid rose breeding programs, and it’s a wonderful place for those interested in learning more about roses to visit in order to better understand one of the world’s most celebrated varieties of flora.
Today, the Helen S Kaman Rose Garden contains more than 15,000 plants, along with a red cedar gazebo (called the “Rustic Summer House”) covered in Virginia Creeper, along with 8 long rows of concentric arches covered in roses. Below is an aerial view & map of the gardens, as listed on a sign at the Helen S Kaman Rose Garden.
When to Visit
The rose garden is in peak bloom from mid-June to early July, so an early summer visit would be the perfect timing for a visit. While the majority of roses are in peak bloom during this time, a variety of other flowers bloom throughout the garden in the spring and summer, and some varieties of roses bloom until the end of autumn.
There is a full garden of tulips within the Robert A. Prill Tulip Garden inside Elizabeth Park in the springtime, which I hope to visit next year.
The rose gardens trellises, arches, and gazebo are blanketed under crisp, white snow even in winter. While we haven’t had the chance to visit the capital garden in the wintertime, I hope to do so once the temperatures drop.
What to Do at the Gardens
First and foremost, I recommend setting aside at least an hour to wander the gardens and appreciate the gorgeous blooms when they are in peak bloom. I think one of the most romantic ways to spend an early-summer morning in the area would be to watch the sunrise over the rose garden.
If you plan to photograph the parks, aim to arrive early in the morning before other visitors arrive or around golden hour for the best light.
Picnics are welcome within the rose garden. However, visitors are neither allowed to build fires nor grill or barbeque anything, so be sure to pack a simple lunch that doesn’t require much prep work. I recommend packing a picnic basket filled with finger sandwiches, fresh fruit, granola and/or nuts, drinks of your choosing, and 1-4 side dishes depending upon how many people you’ll be picnicking with. Keep an eye out for more upcoming picnic-essentials post, which will contain everything you’ll need to have a simple yet memorable picnic in your favorite garden or even your own backyard.
Also within Elizabeth Park is a rock garden, an adjacent glasshouse, herb gardens, annual gardens, the Pond House Café, and more. It’s a lovely place to go for a stroll, admire nature, read, paint, do yoga, go for a run, or practice photography.
How to Get Involved at The Helen S Kaman Rose Garden
There are plenty of volunteer positions at the Elizabeth Park Rose Garden all year long for all gardening skill levels, provided the volunteer is over the age of 18 and can volunteer at least 10 days each year. To learn more about the volunteer opportunities within the park and garden and for information about who to contact for more information about volunteering, please click here.
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