Making a Difference: The All American Rose Garden - - The News for South Mississippi

Walt's Look Around: The All American Rose Garden

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HATTIESBURG, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Many homes and businesses and buildings in Hattiesburg and on the campus of the University of Southern Mississippi were damaged or destroyed February 12th. One of the landmarks on the USM campus that took a direct hit wasn't a building, but the All-American Rose Garden.  

The rose garden was dedicated in 1974 and for 39 years now has been a showplace of color and beauty every spring through fall in Hattiesburg.

Well, the tornado of February 12 this year centered the rose garden, not only pulling rose bushes out of the ground and sending them who knows where, but piling debris on top of the plants that were left, splitting and breaking many of them.  

Loren Erickson is the Superintendent of Landscapes and Grounds at USM and says he was kind of shocked when he saw the condition of the plants after the storm.

"It was pretty bad," said Erickson. "Actually I likened it to a crop circle. I really think it is the closest description. You could actually see the rotation through here at one point. And all the debris piled up."  

The students at USM were the major factor in clearing the debris off the roses. But the landscape of the whole area was changed.

Ninety-year-old oaks that had lined Hardy Avenue adjacent to the roses were blown over. And once the area had been cleared, that's when it became apparent the extent of the damage.

"You can see there's a few bare spots still," said Erickson.  

But not as many bare spots as there were thanks to the generosity of a couple of rose growers.

"I reached out to a man in Buckatunna. He is Mr. James Mills. He runs K and M Roses, and he grew for a lot of the big companies that have now bought each other and cannibalized and collapsed, said Erickson. "But Mr. James Mills donated the roses that you see behind me here, the ones currently blooming. I was looking for a variety to fill in here, the ones that got sucked out of the ground and I got a hold of the man who owns the patent on knockout rose and drift rose. And by the time the conversation ended after some back and forth he sent us over 500 and it was at no cost and no freight and it was a wonderful gift."  

Erickson says give the garden a month or six weeks and it will be well along to becoming the showplace it always has been in spite of the tornado, thanks to the help of some friends.

And you should have no problem enjoying the view as you zip by on Hardy now.  

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