Betty Hubbard looks out over the Fayetteville Rose Garden with all its splendid and colorful roses, and she just marvels.
She can see in her mind’s eye the late Augusta Knight designing the garden.
“I’m very, very proud of it,” says Hubbard, 91. “I think it’s the crown jewel of Fayetteville.”
She knows its beauty.
She knows its history.
You can’t think of the Fayetteville Rose Garden today without thinking back to its origins with the city of Fayetteville, the first Fayetteville Beautiful, the Garden Club Council, the Fayetteville Rose Society, and, of course, Fayetteville Technical Community College, where the roses bloom.
“Everybody was just growing roses at their homes and businesses,” says Nancy Mabes, president of the Fayetteville Rose Society and daughter of Betty Hubbard.
The society was chartered in 1962, according to Mabes. An organizational meeting on May 4 that year would bring together charter members Fred and Betty Atkinson, Mr. and Mrs. Neil Thaggard, Mr. and Mrs. Joe Biggs, Mrs. Donald Hill and Eunice G. Holmes. Fred Atkinson was the society’s first president; Neil Thaggard was vice president; Eunice Holmes, the secretary; Dr. Timothy Gridley, the treasurer; and Sarah Rackley, the correspondence secretary.
Others who supported the society were Sanford Rackley, Elliott and Doris Murphy Harris, and Willard and Helena Slappey.
“We were approached by Fayetteville Beautiful and the Garden Club Council in 1970,” Hubbard says about the garden that is affiliated with the American Rose Society.
Julia Reaves worked with the city and Fayetteville Beautiful.
“She had a lot to do with starting the rose garden,” Mabes says.
When it came to designing the garden, all involved turned to Augusta Knight, who lived on McFadyen Road when it was just a few homes in a wooded area that is known today as the Devonwood subdivision.
Augusta Knight was a woman with a creative way, no matter the craft or creation.
“They wanted her to design it because they knew she was capable of doing it,” Hubbard says. “She had roses and perennials or flowers and all kinds of plants at her home, and miniature roses, too. She had a formal rose garden by her house.”
FTCC, then known as Fayetteville Technical Institute, donated the land, Hubbard says, and agreed to maintain the garden that sits gently at the intersection of Hull Road and Devers Street on the college campus.
“They broke ground Jan. 20, 1971,” Mabes says, “and they got the garden started.”
“We knew it had to be done in steps,” says Hubbard, who joined the society in 1968. “The first phase of the garden was complete, but something was wrong. The roses weren’t flourishing, and we knew there was a problem. There was a problem with sludge from city water treatment used to amend the soil. It proved to be toxic, and we had to start over. Nearly 400 roses had to be dug up, and contaminated soil had to be removed and new soil brought in.
“And that’s when I really got involved,” she says.
“Augusta needed some help laying out the new beds,” Hubbard says. “We didn’t do any digging. We helped by driving stakes and pulling string. The beds were done under the direction of Julia Reaves and city employees. It all was a joint effort with FTI, the city, Fayetteville Beautiful and the Fayetteville Rose Society.”
Mabes describes problems with the soil as a “huge setback,” but Julia Reaves and Augusta Knight and others, including her mother, would not be deterred.
“They got past it,” Mabes says.
By September 1971, the garden again was a work in progress.
“We expect to work on this garden for several years,” said Mrs. William C. Miller Jr., chairwoman of the Fayetteville Beautiful board of directors, “and look forward to enjoying the fruits of our labor for many years to come.”
Miller was true to her word.
“It was dedicated and presented to the citizens of Fayetteville in May of 1974,” Mabes says, “and Beth Finch, the mayor pro tem, was there.”
Betty Hubbard recalls the dedication.
“It was a nice size group of people,” she says. “Joyce Patton was the president of the Fayetteville Rose Society that year, and she made remarks. It was ceremonial with a ribbon cutting. Fayetteville Tech people were involved, too. The fountain was in place by then, and we had all colors of roses in full bloom. It was a popular thing at the time, and people were excited. Garden clubs were invited. There were 75 or 100 people there for the dedication. Jackson & Perkins, a major rose grower at the time, donated the roses.”
Mabes is a student of the garden’s history.
“I think it was 840 roses, I read somewhere,” she says.
The FTCC Foundation and the Fayetteville Rose Society celebrated the 50th anniversary of the garden on May 21 with a paint-out among the roses featuring local artists creating rose-inspired paintings and garden tours. There was a Roses & Music in the Garden celebration on June 9, when the garden roses were near their peak bloom. Members of the Fayetteville Rose Society were there to answer questions about the garden and its history. A June 10 luncheon and art show benefited the Fayetteville Rose Society Scholarship at FTCC.
“It’s a true public garden,” Mabes says. “A lot of people get married there, and there are no fees. Prom pictures are taken there.”
High school and college graduates pose for photographs in the garden, and families have portraits taken there.
“I’m in the Fayetteville Rose Society because of my mom, Augusta Knight, and Gladys Guydes,” Nancy Mabes says. “And now I am totally hooked. It has been a real treat to look through all the slides and newspaper clippings. We are the archivists.”
Betty Hubbard recently joined her daughter on a late spring afternoon to view the Fayetteville Rose Garden, when the approximately 700 roses from miniatures to grandifloras to shrub roses to hybrid teas of all colors bloomed in the twilight. More than 100 of the roses were a part of the original garden.
“I’m very, very proud of it,” Betty Hubbard says. “It’s a real asset. I think a lot of people enjoy it. It’s there for everybody’s enjoyment. Roses are my favorite flower. I think it’s the crown jewel of Fayetteville.”