Mission Street Parks Conservancy began in 1979 as the Bush Conservatory Gardeners. At that time Salem Art Association solicited volunteers to care for the plant collection housed in the newly rehabilitated Bush Conservatory.
As the City began cutting the parks’ budget in the early 1980’s, the gardeners responded by recruiting more volunteers and taking on more maintenance tasks. In the late 1980s, the Gardeners began mulching the rose beds annually, which, at that time, had not been done for 12 years. During this time, they also began to identify and label the Tartar Old Rose Collection.
In 1991, in response to threats to “pave the rose garden” the Bush Conservatory Gardeners expanded their scope and become the Friends of Bush Gardens (FOBG). FOBG’s first project was to study the hybrid tea and floribunda rose collection, and then restore the collection’s organization. They published the first Rose Garden Brochure at this time.
Other projects followed. In 1996, FOBG was gifted the money to repair the roof of the conservatory. The following year, they raised funds and built the Victorian-style gazebo, which now serves as the focal point for the rose gardens. At about the same time, FOBG established the volunteer Tuesday Morning Gardeners program, whose primary responsibility was to maintain the then newly designed gardens surrounding the conservatory and the two island beds southwest of the barn.
In 2008 FOBG led a three-year capital campaign to completely restore the Bush Conservatory. They continued to be responsible for the interior of the conservatory including the care of the collection of plants popular in Victorian times.
In 2016 the three year project of rehabilitating the Hybrid Tea/Floribunda Rose Collection was begun, culminating in the raising of 48 beds to improve drainage and planting over 600 new roses.