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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Hardy by Their Nature: OARDC Heirloom Roses Survive Tornado

October 1, 2010

WOOSTER, Ohio — Almost all the 1,500 heirloom roses in Ohio State University’s Secrest Arboretum survived the recent tornado there.


“We technically lost maybe four roses,” Kelly King, the collection’s caretaker, said. She’s a plant materials specialist at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) in Wooster. The arboretum is part of the center.

“Many of the large roses are lying horizontal and will have to be cut back, and hopefully then will sprout back,” King said. “Some are still blooming, but they’re pretty tattered and are full of debris.”

The roses in the garden represent about 500 different kinds of heirloom roses — also called antique roses or old-fashioned roses and first developed hundreds of years ago. It’s one of the largest collections like it in the United States.

Gardeners prize heirloom roses for, among other things, their ease of care, extended bloom times and all-round hardy natures.

A tornado with winds of up to 130 mph hit the main OARDC campus and arboretum on Sept. 16, devastating buildings, greenhouses and at least 1,500 large trees.

The campus and arboretum, including what’s called the Garden of Roses of Legend and Romance, remain closed to the public until further notice.

Non-rose parts in the garden fared the worst. The tornado:

• leveled three large linden trees at the front of the garden.

• flattened eight White Angel crabapple trees at the garden’s east and west entrances.

• knocked down most of the split-rail fencing there; and

• ripped the roof from the garden’s pavilion.

Still, other parts there came out rosy.

“In the last couple of years we’ve planted numerous smaller trees in the garden, and most of them made it,” King said. “They will always be ‘the trees that made it through the 2010 tornado.’ ”

Learn more about the garden at its website,

See a slide presentation on the tornado’s damage at

Ohio State has announced a Secrest Arboretum tornado fund. Cash gifts to the fund will go directly toward the arboretum’s renewal efforts.

Go to for more information, or call 330-464-2148.

OARDC is the research arm of Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

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Caption: Heirloom roses are still in bloom in OARDC's Garden of Roses of Legend and Romance, Wooster, in this photo taken Oct 1. A tornado hit OARDC and its Secrest Arboretum on Sept. 16. Most of the garden's roses — 1,500 in all — survived. The historic Barnhart Rice Homestead, damaged by the storm but partly repaired, is visible in the background. (K.D. Chamberlain image)

Kurt Knebusch
Kelly King