The historic rose garden at Rosecliff (1902) has been restored with the help of two generous gifts totaling $95,000 from the V.J. Palmieri Charitable Trust.
“We are very grateful to the V.J. Palmieri Trust for its generous funding of this project,” said Preservation Society CEO and Executive Director Trudy Coxe. “Preserving the landscapes of our historic properties is equally as important as preserving the buildings. Rosecliff’s garden is especially precious because of its horticultural history, and because of its role as the site of the annual Newport Flower Show.”
Theresa and Herman Oelrichs purchased the property and its original house named Rosecliff in 1891 from the estate of historian, diplomat and noted 19th century rosarian George Bancroft, who had developed extensive rose gardens on the site. The Oelrichs’ retained the name after commissioning architect Stanford White to build them a new house that was completed in 1902. Today, the house and the remaining rose garden on its south side are visited by more than 137,000 people annually.
The Preservation Society of Newport County undertook the garden restoration in October 2017. The walking paths were re-dug and set with steel edging, new multi-layered gravel paths were set to allow for drainage, and a new irrigation system and landscape lighting were installed. New wood trellises were also built, and the pergola was cleaned and reinstalled. Existing urns and statuary were conserved and returned to the garden.
Preservation Society Curator of Historic Landscapes Jim Donahue conducted extensive research, uncovering invoices from European and American nurseries for hundreds of roses that Bancroft had ordered for his Newport garden in the late 19th century. This spring, the formal garden beds were edged with new boxwood plants, and several types of roses were chosen to reflect the variety of Hybrid and Perpetual roses which Bancroft grew on the property. The new plantings include Paul Neyron, General Jacqueminot, Rosa banksias lutea, La Reine Victoria, Old Blush, Complicata, and Mutabilis.
The Preservation Society of Newport County, Rhode Island, is a non-profit organization accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and dedicated to preserving and interpreting the area’s historic architecture, landscapes, decorative arts and social history. Its 11 historic properties–seven of them National Historic Landmarks–span more than 250 years of American architectural and social development.