The Deadheaders' Garden Gala, benefiting Oakland's landmark Morcom Amphitheater of Roses, will be held on a special sneak preview night, March 19, at the Annual San Francisco Flower & Garden Show at the San Mateo Event Center.

Here is your chance to dress up in your finest tie-dye and tuxedos or sequins and dance to the Grateful Dead-style Sycamore Slough String Band while taking in an exclusive view, ahead of the crowds, of the 20 gorgeous international specialty gardens and the 30 small space gardens on display at the event center.

A friends group for the Morcom Rose Garden call themselves "the Deadheaders," hence the reference to tie-dye and Grateful Dead-style rock 'n' roll, said group volunteer Anne Woodell.

Named as one of the top 10 municipal rose gardens in America, the 7½-acre garden was laid out in 1933 and is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year. The project was launched by members of local businessmen's garden club on city park land off Grand Avenue. Previously the site had been used as an archery range.

During the 1930s, municipal rose gardens were becoming popular in many communities across the nation.

The gardens were considered a manifestation of the so-called City Beautiful Movement, which called for the establishment of public parks to "invigorate the body and spirit" by bringing nature into the urban setting. The undeveloped parcel that became Oakland's rose garden formed a natural bowl shape and offered opportunities to view the garden while standing on lookouts above, allowing visitors to appreciate the colorful patterns of blooms.

Formal Florentine-style rose beds were laid out, with pathways on an axis. Before the unveiling, Oakland Mayor Frank Morcom planted the garden's first rosebush, and some years later, the garden was renamed in his honor. A Mediterranean-style loggia was installed, housing restrooms and a shed to store tools. In the 1950s, a popular tradition began, which continues to this day, where a mother from the community is crowned "Mother of the Year." The rose garden achieved official landmark status in 1980.

Woodell would like to remind folks that the deadline to submit nominations for this year's "Mother of the Year" is April 12.

"The process calls for local businesses, community groups, professional associations or service-related organizations to nominate candidates for this coveted award," Woodell said. The honoree will be crowned in the garden, 700 Jean St., on Saturday, May 11. "This is the 60th year for this popular tradition," she said. "We also invite previous mothers of the year to be on hand to cheer the latest inductee."

For details on how to submit nominations, go to www.oaklandnet.com/parks. You may also contact Kola Thomas at 510-615-5555 or email kthomas2@oaklandnet.com.

For details on the upcoming gala, go to www.friendsofoaklandrose.org. Proceeds will benefit the ongoing maintenance of the garden. The website also features a gallery of photos of the lovely blooms and lists ways to sign up to be a "Deadheader volunteer."