Mission San Antonio is trying to find homes for hundreds of its rose bushes, as its renovated garden will feature more drought-tolerant plants instead. (Contributed Photo)

JOLON — Mission San Antonio de Padua remains closed to the public, but 24 community members were able to make an appointment to come through last Saturday to dig up rose bushes and leave a donation.

The mission is undergoing repairs to the garden area, and limited funding and staffing means that after renovations, the garden will switch to a more drought-tolerant version. That means the garden’s 300 rose bushes will be displaced.

Mission staff members have saved 70 rose bushes to be planted in the new garden, but 230 have to be taken out.

“We’ll keep the roses because that’s been a tradition since the 1960s when they were put in,” Mission Administrator Joan Steele said about the 70 saved roses.

The garden is the last area of the mission to be affected by the ongoing retrofit operations. Breaks in the water line as well as other areas in bad shape necessitated a revamp of the garden. This is also a chance to add a recirculating pump to the fountain to be able to use it again.

“All of those pipes are old and they’re breaking and causing problems, not just in the garden but with the foundation,” Steele said.

The new design for the garden will not be flat like the current area, but will feature niches where people can sit and have privacy.

Steele explained that 300 roses could not be included because of the staffing and water needs of so many plants. In addition to that strain, the shelter-in-place orders have caused cancellations of two of their major fundraisers, April’s Mission Days and what would have been the upcoming Mission Fiesta in June.

Plants planned to be brought in include succulents due to their need for much less water and care.

The shift in ambience will also be notable.

“With the fountain running again, you get the sound of the water, which is very peaceful and feels cooler,” Steele said.

Those interested in coming to get roses had to do so by appointment, as Steele said they couldn’t have everyone showing up at once. The front gate was closed, but someone was on hand with a list of scheduled appointments to let people in according to the schedule.

People who showed up had to bring their own shovel and a bag or container to carry the rose bush.

The Covid-19 pandemic continues to play havoc on the mission’s schedule, as planned fall and winter events are on standby, as the diocese has not been able to take a direction on when they will reopen the mission.

“We’re hesitant to put anything out there because we don’t know yet,” Steele said.

The mission’s largest event, the Evening in the Garden planned for November, is also an unknown at this point.

While the mission continues to see how it can host fundraisers, Steele said they are mindful of the fact many people no longer have discretionary income.

One more opportunity to dig up a rose bush will be tomorrow, May 21. Those interested can contact the mission at 831-385-4478 to make an appointment.

Those who attend will be able to dig up a rose bush, get a fig cutting or an iris bulb, and are urged to make a donation to the mission. They must not only bring their own equipment, but also wear a mask and maintain social distance from all others while on site.

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Sean Roney is a freelance reporter for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers general news for the Salinas Valley communities in South Monterey County.


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