The Rich History of the Loose Park Rose Garden


by Tierney Flavin, Social Media Team

Hundreds of teenagers crowd around rows upon rows of roses at dusk—all trying to snap the perfect picture.

Homecoming, Sweetheart, Prom and Junior Ring pictures: group photos, date photos and solo photos taken in someone’s backyard, the lawn at the Nelson and right down 55th St. from STA, the Loose Park Rose Garden. 

Officially named the Laura Conyers Smith Municipal Rose Garden, this popular photo backdrop has been a staple in Kansas City Parks and Recreation scene since its establishment by the Kansas City Rose Society in 1931 led by Laura Conyers Smith with guidance from the American Rose Society.

“The idea of establishing municipal rose gardens was a popular one in the early 1930s.” Rose Society Committee Chair Lauren English writes in her tour of the garden. “There was a nationwide enthusiasm for rose growing… This was the Depression era and people enjoyed listening to radio “Rose Talks,” sponsored by the [American Rose Society] in New York.”

The Rose Society is still present today. English works with the volunteers who take care of the garden. 

“[The garden has] over 60 volunteers who help in the Rose Garden,” English said. “We start [grooming] usually by the end of May… The groomers prune the roses, pull weeds, catch Japanese beetles, etc.”

The Rose Society also chooses the color and arrangement of the roses in the garden along with planning events such as the Jazz in the Roses which will be held this year on Sept. 11, organized by Amy Hiles and the Rose Show in June. 

These events work to bring the people of all ages and demographics from the Kansas City area to the Garden. 

Hiles says she enjoys event planning because she believes the garden serves a vast amount of people in the Kansas City area and serves to bring them together as a community through the garden.  

This aligns with the mission statement of the Garden Society. 

“Our mission statement is to encourage an interest in roses to serve as stewards of the Laura Conyers Smith Municipal Rose Garden, Loose Park,” English said. “[And] to promote the Rose Garden as a regional attraction and demonstration garden and to provide information about roses and their care.”

The Society also raises money for the garden through these events and through their “Love Is A Rose” program. Through this program, people can purchase a rose bush for a loved one. 

“You can send just a lovely certificate for maybe someone’s birthday or holiday,” English said. “We call that a friendship rose… Then there’s a memory rose [for] when somebody has passed away.”

These roses can be purchased starting at $30 through the Kansas City Rose Society website. 

The Rose Society prides itself on the Rose Garden’s Award of Excellence from the World Federation of Rose Societies in 2018. 

“It’s just such a gift to have this internationally known and respected garden,” English said. “I feel that it doesn’t matter who you are, what walk of life [you come from, the garden is] where everyone goes… And of course there are seniors from all over the area who have their senior pictures there along with weddings and Quinceaneras… It is just such a pleasure [to be in the Society].”

Due to its close proximity to STA, many students take their photos there for school dances. ‘

“I think people are mostly pretty respectful,” English said. “Sometimes the photographers frustrate us because they’ll get into the rose beds. And that is a big no, no, because each of those bushes costs about $30, so we feel very adamant about that, that they’re really supposed to stay out of the beds.”

Hiles, though, emphasizes that students are generally respectful to the garden and as a person who is involved with the garden, loves to see a new generation of people appreciating the beauty of the roses. 

As it stands, the Laura Conyers Smith Municipal Rose Garden has about 3,000 roses of around 150 different varieties. 

The garden continues to be maintained by the Kansas City Rose Society, Kansas City Parks and Recreation and their volunteers and English refers to the Rose Garden as the “crown jewel of Kansas City’s parks system.”