City clarifies information about the Historic City Cemetery and its Rose Garden

In the last year, the City of Sacramento has been working with various volunteers and stakeholders to holistically address the preservation of the historical City Cemetery and the rose garden. A recent news story may have left the impression that the City is eliminating rare, historic roses from the Victorian era to comply with the cemetery’s historic designation. The fact is that the City is not engaging in any activity to purposefully rid the cemetery of its distinguished rose garden. To the contrary, the City has been engaging with its volunteers for the last year to preserve the cemetery along with the rose garden, 98 percent of which was planted in the 1990s.

Donated to the City in 1850 by John Sutter Jr., The Old City Cemetery is the oldest existing cemetery in Sacramento, and is the largest public cemetery in California. The Cemetery was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2014 which recognizes the cemetery as a site deemed worthy of preservation at the highest level of national significance.

Once the location was listed on the National Register, staff recognized the need to coordinate with our dedicated volunteers on designation requirements. In 2015, staff and volunteers met over several months to come up with guidelines for working together to preserve the cemetery and enhance programs, while maintaining the designation. The guidelines for maintaining and trimming the rose garden were reviewed and agreed to by the rose garden volunteers as well as the Adopt A Plot participants at that time. City staff continues to work with a designated ad-hoc committee made up of long-time volunteers who continue to be actively involved in the preservation effort as well as the gardens located throughout the site.


The rose garden was established in 1992 and is made up of a collection of historic roses of the period. Ninety-eight percent of the current roses were planted in the 1990s. Two percent of the rose population is made up of the species from the Victorian era. At no time were there any recommendations to have the roses ripped out or killed off in any way. The roses have become a beautiful addition to the cemetery and are cherished for the beauty that they bring.

The guidelines put together by the ad-hoc committee call for roses to be trimmed around the grave sites so that visitors can access and see the headstones. During the planning sessions, it was also recommended that the climbing roses and non-historic trellises be relocated to the stone fence that surrounds the cemetery.  The move of the trellises will take place in December.


All recommendations received input prior to being put in place and agreed to by all of the volunteers in attendance. The planning efforts and the on-going guidelines are in place so that both the historic cemetery and headstones may be enjoyed along with the rose garden. In an effort to alleviate any misunderstandings among the group, the City will be meeting with the ad-hoc committee to review the plans to ensure that everyone is in agreement.

This information was provided by:

Director of Convention and Cultural Services Jody Ulich

Director of Parks and Recreation Chris Conlin

Historic Preservation Director Roberta Deering

%d bloggers like this: