Roses in Renzie

Arboretum & public garden features roses

By Susan Biddle ©2012
Penn State Master Gardener

Renziehausen Park is a city park of 258 acres featuring a rose garden and arboretum.  Located on Eden Park Boulevard off Walnut Street in McKeesport, it originated at a time when steel was king and money could be put into a garden of this type.  The public garden and arboretum was started in 1938 when most of the stonework was done by the Work Projects Administration (WPA).

Renziehausen Park, or as locals call it, “Renzie”, is located near McKeesport Area High School and the Penn State University Greater Allegheny Campus.  The park, originally known as “5 Fields” at the beginning of the 20th century, was donated by the Renziehausen family to the city with the stipulation that it be used as a park and to never be sold.  In addition to the gardens, the park also includes a bandshell, baseball fields, exercise trails, a fishing pond, picnic pavilions, tennis courts, and restrooms.


In the mid-1800’s the Renziehausen family settled in the McKeesport area.  Gottlieb Renziehausen emigrated from Germany along with his wife Sophia Evert.  They had four children: Louisa, Frederjck, Henry, and Emilie.  Gottlieb owned and operated a haberdashery in McKeesport, until his death in 1865.  His son Henry took over the business.  The eldest son, Frederjck, who had diabetes, ran a successful distillery and bottled the “Large” brand of whiskey from its location in Large, Pennsylvania.  Profits from the distillery became the basis for the family fortune, much of which was left to Emilie Renziehausen.  Emilie helped to establish a ward at Children’s Hospital in 1937 and also donated a family home on the distillery property to be used as a convalescent center for diabetics.  The Renziehausens left the remainder of the family fortune to the city of Pittsburgh.  The park features a lake named after Emilie Renziehausen. 

rose blossom

Although not well known, Renziehausen Park Rose Garden is the second largest in the state, the first being the Hershey Gardens in Hershey, Pennsylvania.   The garden contains over 1,800 roses.  It has been named one of the ten top favorites by the All-American Rose Selection Organization.


The Rose Garden is maintained by the Garden Club of McKeesport.  The garden club was founded in 1933 and the arboretum was established in 1938. Through hard work, generous donations, and countless plant and craft sales, the Garden Club of McKeesport has brought the arboretum up to the standard of national recognition.  There are approximately 40 to 50 members who maintain the 3-1/2 acres of roses, perennials, water pond, herb garden and a newly planted butterfly garden.  Their work begins in April pruning roses and continues throughout the garden until mid-November.  The garden club also maintains a two-story clubhouse where they have meetings, workshops, luncheons and teas.

Volunteers Donate Hours

According to Frances Zalac, President of the Garden Club of McKeesport, “during the summer the club averages 600 volunteer hours a month weeding, deadheading and maintaining the rose beds.  Along with all the work comes the pleasure of a bloom that lasts from early spring into the fall.” 

A rose is a woody perennial of which there are over 100 species.  They may be in the form of shrubs and climbing or trailing plants.  The flowers are large and showy and range in color from white through yellow and reds.  Along the stem of the rose are sharp prickles that can be likened to very coarse hairs that arise from the outer skin of the cane; not thorns, they are modified branches or stems.  Roses range in size from compact, miniature roses, to climbers that can reach eight feet in height.  Roses are grown for their beauty and fragrance.  They are easily hybridized to develop a wide range of garden rose varieties.



·         Fourth of July Rose, a climbing striped red and white bush with ruffled blooms, is an excellent repeat bloomer with stunning sprays of color reaching a height of 10-14 feet all season long.  It is cold hardy and very disease resistant.

·         Julia Child Rose, personally chosen by the celebrity chef, is a 2006 AARS Winner.  The rose is also known in the UK as the Absolutely Fabulous rose after the popular TV show.  It is a golden butter floribunda rose producing clusters of repeating blooms all season long.  It is a popular landscaping plant with its bright yellow color, disease resistance, constant bloom and sweet licorice fragrance.

·         Mr. Lincoln Rose, a 1965 AARS Winner, this velvety, deep red hybrid tea rose is one of the most popular garden roses.  The blossoms are strongly scented and have very strong, upright stems.  This rose is ideal for a long stemmed red rose bouquet.  The bushes grow four to five feet tall and two feet across.

·         Knock Out Rose, introduced in 2000 and winner of the AARS Award, this rose is cold hardy, heat tolerant, disease resistant and very floriferous.  They come in a wide range of colors from cherry red to creamy yellow.  They grow four feet tall and three feet wide.  They are ideal for growing in containers or along borders and can be easily maintained at a smaller size by pruning. 

·         Queen Elizabeth Rose, a beautiful pink grandiflora rose hybridized in 1954, is a favorite among rose breeders around the world.  The bloom of the flower is four inches, fragrant and profuse.  The bush has a height of five to seven feet and a width of three to four feet.


  • Plant in well drained, fertile soil in full sun.

  • Space four feet apart to allow for good air circulation and growth.

  • Water slowly and thoroughly.  Avoid wetting the foliage as this can spread diseases.

  • Fertilize when the bush first leafs out and after each flush of bloom. Stop fertilizing after July.

  • Mulch to minimize weeds and maintain soil moisture.

  • Prune to control the size and shape of rose plants and to encourage blooms.  Most roses should be pruned in late winter or early spring while the plant is dormant.  Remove any dead or damaged wood.

yellow rose

In the rose beds of Renzie Park, the garden club members maintain their beautiful blooms by feeding a number of times during the season with a 10-10-10 fertilizer, alfalfa pellets and Epsom salts.  They treat and spray for black spot, midge and Japanese beetles.  The roses are kept well-watered by use of a sprinkler system.

The park is open to the public year round and a tour of the garden is free.  The best time to view the roses is during the last week of May, the month of June and the month of September.


What the color of a rose means when given as a gift

Rose Rosette Disease

Photos of Roses


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