Pruning the Rose Garden

By Joanne A Calitri   |   January 18, 2022
Master Rosarian Dan Bifano training volunteers at the annual Postel Rose Garden pruning (Photo by Joanne A Calitri)

On January 8, more than 80 town residents of all ages came to volunteer to provide a much-needed loving hand to Ramiro ‘Beto’ Arroyo, Santa Barbara Parks & Recreation supervisor, and his team, along with Master Rosarian Dan Bifano and the Santa Barbara Rose Society President Bud Jones and wife, Kay, to do the annual pruning of the A.C. Postel Memorial Rose Garden, located across from the Santa Barbara Mission. Training throughout the morning, pruning handouts, trimmers, and snacks were provided. And thanks to Arroyo, his team was there to clean up the garden trimmings post pruning.

A Bit of History

Established in 1955 with 500 plants, the Postel Rose Garden grew to be widely known as a favorite tourist and wedding portrait destination. It currently has 1,500 plant “sits,” 150 varieties of roses and is one of more than 130 recognized U.S. competitive demonstration rose gardens. The garden hosts several All-America Rose Selections (AARS) winner roses and rose “cultivars” — roses bred specifically for certain characteristics — such as the Iceberg, Just Joey, Over the Moon, Peace, Perfume Delight, Henry Fonda, and Julia Child, along with ancient varieties.

Known more for their beauty, fragrance, and herbal medicinal benefits, it is of note that roses are the National Floral Emblem of the U.S., by Proclamation 5574 signed on November 20, 1986 by President Ronald Reagan. It is said President George Washington was a rose breeder, naming the “Mary Washington” rose for his mother, grown at Mount Vernon for more than 100 years. 

Bifano’s Rose Tips

Ramiro ‘Beto’ Arroyo with volunteers Carolyn Hornberger and Michael Perry (Photo by Joanne A Calitri)

Dan Bifano is well-known in Montecito as an expert on roses and gardening, designs gardens for clients from Montecito (Oprah Winfrey is one) through Malibu and Bel Air, and has served on the Lotusland Board since 2014. 

“I have always had roses in my life, growing them for more than 60 years. I have been a rosarian for nearly 40 years, and am one of three people in the southwestern states given the designation at its inception. My knowledge comes mostly from doing.”

His super insider tip of the day is the “Dan Bifano Cocktail” mix for roses, which can be found at Island Seed and Feed Goleta.

Other tips he provided were: 

-Pruning activates roses to grow; it forces a much needed rest. Two weeks after pruning, they will bud and flower brilliantly.

-It is important to trim away all the leaves and down the canes, but watch for any buds. Cane colors go from burgundy (young) to gray (old). Leave at least five canes from the crown. Once the crown gets woody, it will not sprout. Check closely on the crown for buds.

-The Postel Garden has Crown Gall bacteria at the base of it and it has to be dug out.

-After you are done pruning, loosen the mulch and spray the plant and ground with a combination of Neem oil to prevent bugs and eggs mixed with copper to prevent fungus and spores.

-Prune in winter and fertilize in March; use organic fertilizer to maintain the soil. 

-Overly wet rose bushes without drying get rust and black spot disease on the leaves. When you water roses, make certain there is enough sun to dry them.

-The nitrogen in the rain makes the roses pop and grow.

Volunteers Needed Year Round

Santa Barbara Rose Society President Bud Jones and wife, Kay, training volunteers at the Postel Rose Garden pruning (Photo by Joanne A Calitri)

“I love roses! This garden brings so much joy to people, especially during lockdown; it has been so packed these past two years,” Arroyo shared, “This year I have 12 volunteers who work one hour per week on the honor system. We really need 40 to 60 volunteers annually to maintain this garden to its full potential. Even though there is the annual $5,000 grant from the Virginia Firth Wade Endowment Fund to the Santa Barbara Parks & Recreation Department to maintain the garden, the city staff and funding cutbacks have impacted the garden in the past year. 1,500 plants is a lot and we are asking the community for help.” 


To volunteer in the garden, call 805-564-5433 or email Ramiro Arroyo at


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