I’ve lived in Shreveport-Bossier for more than 15 years, but somehow I had not experienced the Gardens of the American Rose Center during peak bloom until recently. A visiting travel writer, passing through Shreveport-Bossier on a statewide tour, asked for me to arrange a visit to the gardens. I accompanied him as he explored the 118-acre park, which is America’s largest park dedicated to roses. Now that I’ve seen (and smelled) what peak blooming season is like at the Gardens of the American Rose Center, I’m telling everyone: If you haven’t visited these gardens while they’re in peak bloom, you haven’t really visited them at all. If you’re reading this blog around the time of its original posting (May 5, 2015), now is a great time to visit.
The Gardens of the American Rose Center consist of 73 individual gardens containing thousands of roses, ranging from common to extremely rare. Though the American Rose Society (whose headquarters are located on the same grounds as the gardens) lists admission fees on their website, admission to the gardens is currently “by donation” – there are no set entry fees. Exploring the entire park on foot takes about 90 minutes. For me, highlights included: seeing the Shreveport rose (this is the only place that it can be seen), smelling the intense scents of the Old Garden Roses (classes that existed prior to 1867) and enjoying isolated, quiet spaces like the Sawyer Memorial Prayer Garden.
Beth Smiley, an American Rose Society staff member, advises visitors looking for the ideal experience to plan a morning visit, as the scent of roses fades throughout the day. Garden hours are currently 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 1-5 p.m. on Sunday.
Due to a bridge closure near I-20 Exit #5 (the exit that is closest to the gardens), the American Rose Society encourages visitors to use Exit #8. For more detailed driving directions and information on planning a visit to the Gardens of the American Rose Center, visit their website or “Like” the American Rose Society on Facebook.