Renovating the MSU Tollgate Farm Rose Garden

The MSU Tollgate Farm Rose Garden is one of the oldest established and most beloved gardens on the property. At the time MSU acquired the Tollgate property from the Americana Foundation in 1987, the garden was a grass drive circle between the farmhouse and barn as can be seen in the aerial view. The initial design was an open curved areas that highlighted the different types of roses. Additional changes over the years brought a flagpole, a patio, climbing roses and their trellises along with bush rugosas. This garden has produced abundant blooms for decades and was a favorite of visitors and volunteers alike. Shown in this post are several photos of the years highlighting the beauty of the Rose Garden

Unfortunately, Rose Rosette Disease (RRD) infected roses were identified on the Tollgate property in 2016 leading to the total loss of the Rose Garden as well as singular specimens in other gardens on the site. As is evidenced in the pictures of the former Rose Garden, it was densely planted as a monoculture (all the same species i.e., roses) which we now know is more susceptible to disease problems and catastrophic losses. Close proximity of plants allows easy mite access to adjacent plants (mites spread RRD), contributes to decreased air circulation and fungal infection and presents difficulty with proper pruning maintenance

Despite the challenges, roses are irreplaceable in our Tollgate gardens and should continue to be used in landscape plantings with changes in our horticultural practices of planting and care. Management of RRD requires a multistep approach in planning, planting, and ongoing Integrated Pest Management (IPM). The plan is to restore Tollgate’s Rose Garden and recreate the spectacular centerpiece garden with roses as the stars of the show! The old plant material must be totally removed including roots with no evidence of return shoots before rose plants can be replaced. Removal of all the old rose plants is already in process and will take two seasons in some sections of the garden. All new rose plants will be carefully inspected, ensuring they are healthy and free of pest and disease symptoms, including those of RRD.

For more on RRD, please visit this MSU Extension article

Watch for further posts as we update you on the progress of this project, rose selection and other educational information. Any interested Active Tollgate Garden Volunteer is welcome to join the Rose Garden Team as we initiate this exciting renovation project. There will be a lot to learn and do as we work to restore this jewel of a garden.

If you would like to learn more about volunteering at MSU Tollgate, please visit our website or contact Roy Prentice (, 248 347 3860 x251) or Carmen Hamilton (, 248 347 3860 x239) for more information.

This article was created by the Tollgate Garden Volunteers

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