Elizabeth Park is one of my favorite public gardens. Managed by the Elizabeth Park Conservancy in partnership with the City of Hartford, it is one hundred and two acres of delight. Everyone talks about the Rose Garden — the first municipal rose garden in the United States — and it is magnificent in mid-June with all the roses in bloom and the warm air heavy with scent and buzzing of bees. However, the other gardens are just as worthy of adoration.
The Heritage Rose Garden contains, unsurprisingly, old varieties of garden roses including Bourbons, Chinas, and Damasks. Officially, an Old Garden Rose is a class of roses that existed before 1867. After that, we have Modern Roses — hybrid teas and floribundas you’ll find in most gardens today. Old garden roses tend to be extremely fragrant and, I am told, less fussy, but may only bloom once during the year whereas the modern rose is a prolific, showy bloomer. Granted, my own experience with roses is limited, but everything I’ve read about them makes me think OGR are superior in a home garden.
The Herb Garden, a charming space with gravel paths and stone edged beds, was installed in 1998 and is maintained by the Connecticut Unit of the American Herb Society. The garden is divided into four quadrants anchored by lavenders. Much of the garden is carpeted with a variety of creeping thymes and, on warm days, bees are everywhere. Lamb’s-ear, chives, and borage are usually plentiful, too. If you have ever thought about creating a kitchen garden or landscaping with herbs, this is the garden for you.
The Connecticut Dahlia Society and Connecticut Iris Society have display gardens bordering the Herb Garden and they are always a joy to explore in their seasons.
For more information about Elizabeth Park, checkout the podcast Grating the Nutmeg, Episode 115 “America’s First Public Rose Garden – Elizabeth Park.”