Historic Rose Garden Prepares to Bloom
The L&C Rose Garden Restoration Club is undertaking the work of returning a hidden gem of the Lewis & Clark campus to its former glory.
by David Oehler BA ʼ14
On clear days, visitors to the Frank Manor House are sure to be awed by the sight of Mount Hood, framed by the meticulously landscaped gardens that extend east and are mirrored in the reflecting pool. What they might not realize, just out of sight beyond Great Plat Field and the outdoor swimming pool, lies a rose garden that has been part of the estate since it was first built in the late 1920s.
This garden was once home to 17,000 roses and produced several Rose Festival grand prize-winning roses. It was maintained for many years, and is remembered fondly by alumni as one of many beautiful spots on campus. But in recent years, the garden has fallen into disrepair.
A big reason for this, says Sophie Abbassian BA ’25, a founder of the L&C Rose Garden Restoration Club, is the retirement of Joanie Green, a staff member who used to tend the area. Another reason is the local deer, which eat roses.
“Actually, deer are my favorite animal,” says Abbassian, “but lots of rose enthusiasts really hate deer.” While this is an obstacle, the club has taken precautions by planting donated lavender bushes, the smell of which repels deer. They’ve also budgeted for additional deer repellents should they be needed.
Before the club officially formed, Abbassian, along with Isaac Blake BA ’23, Alex Chapelle BA ’24, and Max Reeser BA ’22, started communicating with the facilities office, investigating how best to fund the work. They also met with other students who were interested in helping out.
Currently, the Rose Garden Restoration Club is entirely student run, with alumni advisors and helpers (including Abbassian’s mother, Jennifer Huenink BA ’91, JD ’94). While the desire to refurbish the area has existed for years, the effort really took shape once a club was formed and received funding from Student Engagement.
In April 2023, “we had our first volunteer event in honor of Earth Day,” says Abbassian. She recalls being inspired to start the project early in her first year at Lewis & Clark, back in 2021. Much of that initial time was spent speaking to the facilities office, investigating a means for funding the work, and meeting fellow students who were interested in helping out.
Rose Garden Restoration Club
Now the physical work is underway. A large portion of the central garden has been repopulated with dozens of roses, and the club has moved on to the other beds. But the work is significant. Sourcing further roses, preventing the proliferation of weeds, recobbling the edges of the beds, and increasing awareness of the project are all high priorities. Abbassian is also interested in working with Watzek Library to research the garden’s history, with the goal of making it accessible to potential visitors. The Rose Garden Restoration Club plans to continue inviting student and alumni volunteers for weekend work.
Though there’s much to be done, Abbassian remains hopeful. “Roses are actually stronger than a lot of people might think,” she says. “When we first started, we found about 20 or so roses. They were probably decades old, but they were still down there and still alive.”
Interested potential volunteers are encouraged to reach out to the Rose Garden Restoration Club at firstname.lastname@example.org, while financial gifts can be made here. Local alumni are also welcome to join the Portland and Southwest Washington Alumni Chapter on Facebook for updates on volunteer opportunities. You can also follow along with the club’s progress on their Instagram.