ROSE GARDENS Rapperswil-Jona
Two roses in its coat of arms, four rose gardens - The City of Roses on Lake Zurich
In 1958 the city's Tourism Association set itself the following objective: 'More roses in the City of Roses so that the City of Roses really does become a City of Roses'.
The first garden in the vineyard
The first cornerstone was laid in 1965. The Curti family (Schlossberg property) transferred ownership of the section of the garden by the Capuchin Monastery (some 500 square metres) bordering directly with the vineyard to the Rapperswil-Jona Tourism Association (VVRJ) in order to create a rose garden in return for a modest leasehold rent. It comprises around 3000 plants from 150 varieties. The costs of designing this initial municipal rose garden were borne by the VVRJ using monies taken from the Rosentaler Fund. The roses were a gift from the women of Rapperswil. Polyantha roses were planted in the northern part and bed roses (hybrid tea) in the middle. The regional poet Pius Rickenmann (pseudonym for Karl Blöchlinger) composed a verse for inscription on the sandstone: 'O fellow human beings we announce unto you: grow, tarry and wither away, to each being a merry blossoming, to each death a resurrection.' The fountain consists of an earlier memorial stone for August Baumann, the creator of the first rose gardens in Rapperswil. The bronze great crested grebe is a work by the sculptor Ernst Ghenzi which was financed by the Knie family. The wrought iron gate is a loan from the municipality of Rapperswil (it comes from the Curti estate next to the Hochschule and was stored for a long time in the Heimatmuseum). There is a fig tree next to the steps leading to the monastery - a friendly-neighbourly gift from the city of Baden-Baden (director Walter Rieger).
The rose garden at the Einsiedlerhaus (Capuchin Monastery)
In 1974 the rose garden was extended with another section in the former orchard at the Einsiedlerhaus. The Capuchin monks receive compensation from the VVRJ for the loss of fruit. The garden is divided into four large beds by four intersecting paths and is bordered on all four sides by corner flower beds. An old tiered fountain stands in the middle. It was planted with older bed roses and a few standard rose bushes.
Fragrant rose garden for the visually impaired and the disabled
In 1984 another rose garden was created on the roof of the municipal car park Schanz set aside for a very special purpose: the first rose garden for the blind in Switzerland - on three private plots - contains 1522 plants from 75 fragrant varieties, which are all labelled with embossed letters (Braille) and normal lettering. 75 volunteers (including visually impaired persons) worked together on the garden in October 1984. 33 types of rose bush, 20 types of climbing roses and 6 shrub roses with particularly strong fragrances were chosen. The well-known Lucerne artist Hans Erni designed a decorative fountain for the blind that was financed by Knie Circus. The Rapperswil-Jona fragrant roses blossom earlier than at most other rose gardens in Switzerland. Thanks to the heated underground garage there is practically never any frost in the garden. The first fragrant roses blossom as early as May, in the other gardens this takes place in June. The very first blossoming roses can be found at the Stadtpfarrkirche St. Johann in Rapperswil (sandstone walls exposed to the sun).
Rose points for the City of Roses
The City of Roses has every right to refer to itself as such. It displays blossoming roses in large numbers. In the Old Town, which has been almost completely overbuilt and in its western section (from the main square) in which there is no street or square less than 400 years old it is difficult to find place for rose gardens. And yet this has proven possible over the last four hundred years. Rapperswil women do not select their roses from catalogues. They have living samples to choose from in the rose gardens. Thanks to the differing weather conditions different roses are the first to blossom each year.
A look back - the first rose gardens in Rapperswil
Visitors to the City of Roses only encountered blossoming coats of arms for the first time from 1913 onwards. The 'Association for Tourism and the Beautification of Rapperswil and the Surrounding Area' which existed at the time set out to adorn the harbour area and planted the first rose bed near the old pergola. This was followed by the creation by the municipality of other gardens at the lake's harbour at the beginning of the 20s and finally on streets and squares. All the rose gardens are the work of Dietrich Woessener, the founder (1959) and honorary president of the Society of the Swiss Friends of Roses. He single-handedly selected the rose varieties and planted most of the roses.
Fragrant roses as a speciality of Rapperswil-Jona
Nowhere in Europe are fragrant roses so keenly promoted as in Rapperswil-Jona. This fact received public confirmation at the large commemorative rose festival in Rosendorf Nöggenschwiel in the southern Black Forest in July 1999 when leading German experts (Mayor Jürgen Lambert from Zweibrücken, garden curator Bernd Weigel from Baden-Baden, the Chairman of the Society of German Friends of Roses (VDR), Josef Raff, the former garden curator on Mainau Island and Ria Steinhauer, the holder of the Steinfurth rose union and Vice-Chair of the VDR) recorded and acknowledged Rapperswil to be the international 'Centre of fragrant roses'.
© Hans Rathgeb, died 2001