It all started with the Bush Conservatory and some dedicated volunteers…
Friends of Bush Gardens (FOBG) began in 1979 as the Bush Conservatory Gardeners. At that time Salem Art Association solicited volunteers to care for the plant collection housed in the newly rehabilitated Bush Conservatory. [Nancy Lindburg, then executive director of the Salem Art Association, had written a grant for matching funds from the State Historic Preservation Office, in response to distress from the community over the planned destruction of the dilapidated conservatory.]
During the early 1980s, the first cuts in the budget for the city parks resulted in fewer maintenance staff in Bush’s Pasture Park and the need for more volunteer involvement. In the late 1980s, The Friends began the annual mulching of the rose gardens which, at that time, had not been done for 12 years. During this time, the identification and labeling of the Tartar Old Rose Collection was begun. In 1991 in response to a threat to “pave the rose garden”, Friends of Bush Gardens was formed, and the first rose garden brochure was published. At this time the collection of hybrid tea and floribunda roses was studied, and the organization of the roses restored.
Other projects followed. In 1996 The Friends led a fundraising effort and built the Victorian-style gazebo which acts as the focal point for the rose gardens. At about this same time, involvement began in four of the five garden areas listed below, which also involved the establishment of a volunteer Tuesday Morning Gardeners program. This continuing activity includes amending the soil, redesigning and installing new plantings, and subsequent maintenance. In 1998 the historic conservatory was given a temporary roof which lasted until 2008 when FOBG began the three-year capital campaign to totally restore the Bush Conservatory. The Friends continue to be responsible for the interior of the conservatory including the care of the collection of plants popular in Victorian times.
Current projects include the identification and labeling of the Lord & Schryver Historic Flowering Trees (see description in next section) and subsequent publishing of a third edition of the brochure, ‘A Guide to the Trees of the Northwest Corner of Bush’s Pasture Park’. In addition, the FOBG Project Coordinator works with Tom Beatty, head gardener and horticulturist for the city, to enhance other areas of the park. The Native Plant Garden immediately east of the parking lot is such an example. A rose consultant was hired in 2007 to continue to help identify the old rose collection and to rehabilitate the rose gardens. In 2013 a two-year project to restore the Lord & Schryver design for the Bush Barn Foundation Plantings was completed. Other areas listed as Lord & Schryver historic elements in the landscape are gradually being restored and interpreted for the education of the public.
Friends of Bush Gardens continues to function today as a committee of the Salem Art Association, and all of FOBG’s projects and activities are conducted in collaboration with the City of Salem Parks. Funds for the above-listed projects are largely derived from our two yearly plants sales which began in 1984, grants, and individual donations.