Every Wednesday morning from April to November, as the earliest rays of sun filter over the Syracuse University Hill, members of the Syracuse Rose Society arrive at Thornden Park’s E.M. Mills Memorial Rose Garden.
As the sun extends higher in its arc, the Rosarians move through the rows of rose bushes, weeding, planting, pruning, pausing only to share bits of gardening advice.
The Rose Society, a 100-year-old organization, has maintained the Thornden Park rose garden for the city of Syracuse, free of charge, since 1970, said Dan Magaro, coordinator of the rose garden.
“Dr. E.M. Mills with the Rose Society got with the city and made a deal that we would take care of the garden — we do all the work — and they would furnish the materials. And they do.” Magaro said.
Since coming under the society’s care, the garden has truly blossomed. In 2010, the garden was named the second most beautiful garden in America by All-America Rose Selections, a nonprofit association of rose growers. Throughout the year, inspectors from AARS visit the garden. Magaro says these visits are done in secret and without notice.
Jim Wagner, a rose society member and volunteer, says the Syracuse Rose Society has approximately 200 registered members.
“There’s probably about 200 people, but the average meeting is about 35 to 40 people, most of them the same,” Wagner said.
The garden’s weekly crew of volunteers is also made up of familiar faces, Magaro says.
“I always say it’s not a society, it’s a family affair. Everybody comes up here; we have our coffee at 10 o’clock,” Magaro said. “We sit here, we talk, and nobody talks about money or anything. It’s all about the garden, the roses.”
The Syracuse Rose Society meets at 7 p.m. every third Thursday at the Reform Church, located at 1228 Teall Ave.