Old City Cemetery is home to the largest public collection of heirloom roses in the Commonwealth of Virginia. There are over 250 different varieties planted throughout the grounds, representing all classes, habits, colors and fragrances of antique roses (or “Old Garden Roses”). An “Old Garden Rose” (or heirloom rose) belongs to a class of roses that existed before 1867, when the first Hybrid Tea rose was introduced into commerce.
The peak of rose bloom at Old City Cemetery is in May, but visitors will find continuous scattered bloom throughout the summer until late fall frosts. Even in winter months, the great diversity of form and structural beauty of the many species is of horticultural interest. Irrigation and weekly maintenance are provided as needed in season.
The original antique rose collection was planted in 1986 along the 800-foot remains of the Cemetery’s old 1860’s brick boundary wall. The original 60 varieties were chosen by famous rosarian Carl Cato to represent rose history from before 1581 through the 19th century, and to include the full range of classes and colors exhibited by these ancestors of modern day roses. The plants were gathered from all over the United States and Canada, as well as local gardens.
Since 1986 many other varieties of antique roses have been planted throughout the 26-acre cemetery. Former Restoration Chairman and Cemetery Director Jane Baber White personally planted an heirloom rose beside every gravestone on which a rose was carved. Most roses are botanically labeled at the site. The larger groupings include the following areas:
Old Brick Wall (both sides)
Carl Cato Garden
Pest House Garden
Fourth Street Fence
Original Antique Rose Collection
This is the original list of roses planted inside the Confederate Section in 1986 by Carl Cato and Jane Baber White. They were planted in chronological order by their date of introduction.