Tell me about yourself.
I’m known as “TJ the Rose Man.” I’m the co-creator and chief financial officer of International Rose Peace Gardens, the creating entity of the State Capitol World Rose Peace Garden. It has about 161 colors and fragrances of roses and about 670 plants overall. It encompasses almost half an acre. The garden was planted in 2003, started by a resolution in 1995.
The World Peace Rose Garden here is a sanctuary of world peace and inspiration. It’s for people of all nations, cultures and religions. The idea is we see the different colors and fragrances in the garden, it’s like thinking of a different color, a different culture, a different faith, people of diversity. The idea is that if we can see the beautiful colors in the garden, that is the beauty of diversity of society. The garden is a living symbol of our society.
On our special stone right in front of the arbor it has a special dedication honoring women, children and families. To me, that’s the fabric of our society. If someone says, “What about men?” the good news is that all of us guys came from families of some kind. We seek to be all-inclusive.
You’re getting a new fountain today.
We really like the way this one looks. It’s a four-tier Marsala fountain. This one has an Italian architectural theme. I think it’s going to look extremely good in this Victorian garden. Our State Capitol is designed with Victorian architecture. All the pathways in this garden are designed with Victorian architecture.
This is one of multiple rose peace gardens you’ve worked on?
This is one of six. We’ve worked on some smaller ones, too, but these are the majors. One is Basicalla de Guadalupe in Mexico City. We did one for Basilica de Francis Assisi in Assisi, Italy. Then we did one for the Martin Luther King National Historic Site, in Atlanta, Georgia. That’s where he was born, where he worked and where he’s laid to rest. He and Coretta Scott King share a tomb. When you look through the roses you see a fountain, and then you see the tomb. Off to your right you see the Ebenezer Church right behind the garden, then the visitor center, which has a lot of artifacts and a lot of history on Dr. King’s movement of peace through non-violence. Right across the street is the birth home.
This garden and that garden both, you see inspirational messages from children, because we believe children are the future. We try to have children express the ideas of the garden. We place these plaques on little monuments throughout the garden.
Tell me about your organization.
We’ve been working on rose gardens since 1984 and formally became a non-profit in 1988. Sylvia Villalobos and myself have volunteered about 10,000 hours to bringing this garden here. We really love our State Capitol. It’s such a special place. We may face many challenges inside those doors, but in the garden we have a lot of peace and tranquility.
I live in Sacramento. I’ve been here since 1976. I was 3rd Army cavalry from 1968 to 1970. After that I wanted to move close to my mom, but I didn’t want to get too involved in my mom’s life either. She lived in Modesto and I figured Sacramento was the right place for me.
You were in the military during Vietnam. Is that something that led you to get involved in this?
I’ve felt this way all my life, that ideas of peace, harmony, people really working together, was the way to get things done and be successful in the world. Me and Sylvia both feel strongly that if all the roses can’t bloom together, why can’t we find ways to negotiate and work together? The garden is a way to express your ideas about God and humanity, letting your actions speak louder than words. This garden is a collaboration between International Rose Peace Gardens and the Department of General Services’ [DGS] take of daily maintenance. We work as a consultant. Our goal is to supply different plants. We’re growing about 25 new varieties. The idea is that when you come to the garden there’s always something new.
That garden last year was voted one of the top 10 best gardens in America by All-American Rose Selections. Even when the roses were pruned, they still said we were one of the top 10 places in the world to propose. When we’re considered to be in the same category as the Eiffel Tower, I think that’s good company. So each year we look to improve.
You guys take donations?
Oh yeah. We donate roses to the garden and try to be a good supporting partner with DGS. They’re really wonderful people. They work hard, give their blood, sweat and tears to this project. The fountain, we needed a new one, so we went off and did fundraising. The Jesuit Black Box Theater at Jesuit High School, they wanted to honor peace. About the time the fountain was in a shambles and we needed a new one, they approached us, so we were able to do some fundraising. Pottery Barn also negotiated price with the manufacturer, Villa Fountainworks gave us the best possible deal. It’s just an enhancement. There was just a wedding here this afternoon, they were taking pictures and having a good time. That’s what it’s all about.