Rose Garden in Brookdale Park

The rose not even Hurricane Katrina could wipe out blooms at the Brookdale Park Rose Garden.

The Katrina Survivor Rose. Photo by Kate Van Frank.
The Katrina Survivor Rose. Photo by Kate Van Frank.

Brookdale Park Rose Garden determines the sweetest-smelling rose.

The Brookdale Park Rose Garden (BPRG) has planted a new rose bush that tells an especially inspiring story: the Katrina Survivor Rose. This is just one of the 120 different rose varieties rooted in the garden that packs over 700 roses altogether. BPRG’s upkeep is the result of a partnership between the Essex County Master Gardeners and the Brookdale Park Conservancy. Established in 1959, it has been restored several times and continues to thrive thanks to the efforts of volunteers like Susan Jankolovits, whom was tagging plants when we met.

The Katrina Survivor Rose is a soft pink, it’s grounds are backed by a large, flat-iron trellis in the north west corner of the garden. She is a perennial thornless rambler and, in growing, will creep and weave around the iron trellis. Officially named the Peggy Martin Rose, she originated in the garden of Mrs. Peggy Martin in New Orleans. The entirety of Martin’s garden was destroyed during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, however this special rose survived the flood of salt water and debris. Cuttings have been spread along the Gulf Coast in a regional campaign to restore gardens destroyed in the hurricane. Montclair and Brookdale Park Rose Garden are now proudly part of this historical initiative, which was started by Dr. Bill Welch of Texas A&M University. The extraordinary rose will bloom heavily during spring, intermittently in summer, and return again in the fall.

Jankolovits is an Essex County Master Gardener from Montclair and has been a volunteer for the past ten years. “I was drawn to the people,” she says. That’s why Jankolovits has devoted so much of her time to Brookdale Park Rose Garden and other Essex County gardens. The dedication and consistency of the caretakers is reflected in the bright health of the flowers. The roses bloom proudly in vibrant pinks, reds, yellows, and purples. Their perfume infuses the air, calms the mind, and refreshes the heart.

Rose Garden volunteers also conduct tests to determine the sweetest-smelling plants. First Place is currently held by Chrysler Imperial. Second goes to Mister Lincoln. Coming in at Third is William Shakespeare. Twenty rose bushes are added to the garden each year after careful selection based on color, fragrance, and endurance.

Jankolovits says, “There is always something blooming here, from Memorial Day through Thanksgiving.” People picnic in the garden, sit and read, or play instruments. Weddings, too, are held at BPRG. Every Thursday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., the volunteers are in the garden, answering gardening questions of all sorts and registering new volunteers. No gardening knowhow is required to participate. “We are always thankful for the help,” says Jankolovits; she made it clear they have a lot of fun working together in the garden.

If you would like to support the Brookdale Park Rose Garden, stop by BPRG on a Thursday from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m., or visit

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