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Caretaker of rose garden to retire

By Staff | Nov 14, 2008

MICHAEL PISTELLA Every rose in the Lois E. Herbert Rose Garden at the Cape Coral Historical Museum is dedicated to Cliff Herdman, the “Keeper of the Rose Garden.” Herdman is retiring from his post after 14 years of service. The Cape Coral Historical Museum is located at 544 Cultural Park Blvd.

Longtime “keeper of the rose garden” Cliff Herdman is stepping down from tending the rose garden at the Cape Coral Historical Museum after 14 years of service.

The rose gardens at the museum were designed to honor the original rose gardens at the historic Cape Coral Gardens, the indelible landmark of early Cape life that thrilled residents and visitors with waltzing fountains, dolphin shows and gorgeously landscaped grounds.

“The original rose gardens had 40,000 rose bushes,” Herdman said. “But, they couldn’t keep it up.”

Herdman did not have quite the same challenge — he presided over anywhere from 100 to 150 rose bushes — but his dedication persevered through the last decade and half just the same.

Historical Society President Paul Sanborn said he would often drive by the museum and witness Herdman and his staff of volunteers toiling away on the rose garden during the dog days of summer.

“He would be out there tending to the roses in the summer when its 90 degrees. They were like his babies,” Sanborn said. “He has done a magnificent job, but he felt it was time to hang up his hat.”

Herdman said an undisclosed “illness” is starting to catch up with him, and he decided to scale back his dedication to the rose garden as a result.

The rose garden itself has been through several incarnations, as different strains of roses have fallen victim to disease or weather. Hurricane Charley wiped out the last crop, but it has since been replenished and is thriving.

Those who donated roses have plaques that signify their contribution to the museum grounds.

Paul Sanborn went on to describe the 80-year-old Herdman as a “real gentleman” and a “pleasure to be around,” and praised his involvement in maintaining a piece of the Cape’s history.

Herdman said he has a few roses at home, but they are not doing too well. But he will always have the work — and his own piece of the Cape legacy — with the rose garden he loves so much.

“There’s something about growing roses that gets you involved,” Herdman recalled. “I do have a passion for roses and I always loved to work at the rose garden.”

The Cape Coral Historical Museum, which is operated by the Cape Historical Society, is located at 544 Cultural Park Blvd.

The Cape Coral Historical Society will celebrate its 30th anniversary Thursday and hold the grand opening of the third building on the museum grounds. The event starts at 1 p.m.

For additional information, call 772-7037.