Thursday, June 13, 2013

In 1983 I worked at Armenia Nursery in central Tampa, lived in a funky trailer park in west Town 'N Country in my beloved 8-wide trailer I still have dreams about, grew tons of food, few ornamentals, did not care about roses at all, but had a "Pink Cracker Rose" out front due to sentiment for it from my early 20s in Seminole Heights in the mid 70s while an art major at the Ybor HCC campus. In 1983 it was still a quite common sight in older Tampa neighborhoods, and so now and then people would walk into the nursery with a branch asking for an ID due to its extreme reliability in Florida where roses are usually considered very wimpy and difficult. I had no interest in roses then but COULD ID 'Red Cascade', 'Don Juan', "J.F. Kennedy' and 'Sterling Silver' only because I saw them daily. Finally, I called the Tampa Rose Society, they asked I bring to the nursery a bouquet with every stage of growth...they picked it up, then called me some time later. 20/20 hind sight in 2013 thirty years later makes me chuckle...they said it was a China rose (took me until 1989 in Denver to learn what that meant and its significance), and that all the Cracker Roses, as we'd long called them, all over central Florida, were descendants of roses sold on Mother's Day of 1932 by the remarkable Kew Gardens-style nursery in the forests north of Tampa, 'Holmes Nursery' that friends and I visited in the late 70s. My obsessive research into the "Pink Cracker Rose" all these years also leaves me with the feeling that the VERY colorful, wealthy Mr.Holmes, whom I met a few times, a Barnum and Bailey kind of guy who globe hopped for exotic plants for his many glass houses, likely knew Luther Burbank. This link to 'Burbank' pics at HMF so reminds me of "Pink Cracker Rose" and once again I realize why Joyce Demitts from California immediately suggested 'Burbank' when I introduced her to her first shrub...she quickly pointed out traits of 'Bon Silene' and 'Hermosa' in the blooms and foliage...both are suspected parents. Whatever "Pink Cracker Rose" is, it is extremely reliable in Florida, say planted next to a veggie garden or compost bin for a large accent of color and fragrance. One of my missions in my 60s will be to get this wonderful Old Rose back into Florida sprays, no endless hassle and frustration and failure, just year round fragrant blooms, and MUCH more appealing that the soulless 'Knockout' roses. I very much hesitate to make an ID, but 'Burbank' remains my best guess. The pic is of a winter bloom of "Pink Cracker Rose" in my front yard. John

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

In the late 80s in Denver as an organic landscaper I learned quickly that roses had a terrible reputation for being short lived, either dying after the brutal winters or the 'Dr. Huey' under stock coming up in spring to replace the rose that had been purchased. So I started trying in my yard the then hard-to-get own root roses, both Old and Modern despite being "informed" that was heresy and doomed to fail. By the time I moved back to Tampa in late 2002 my Denver yard had 170 roses, and I planted many hundreds in the gardens I created for my clients. My ex-neighbor Cherrie says many still survive despite utter neglect by two renters and the first two on Google maps reveal that. July of 2002 my neighbor Charlene and I took pics of each other beneath my arch of 'Hiawatha' rambling rose. Here too are some pics from clients' gardens. For me,the fun of being a passionate rosarian since 1989 is having a curious open mind vs. getting bogged down in dogma.

Back in the 70s an extremely carefree pink rose was common in older Tampa neighborhoods, and my elderly neighbors plus most folks called it "Cracker Rose". There was a magnificent one near my rental at Suwanee and Powhatan in Seminole Heights that had been trained to the shape and stature of a small crape myrtle tree. Excellent fragrance, extreme health and vigor, very rarely sets hips. They also used to be common in Hyde Park. There is a whole hedge of it by a hotel on Davis Island, and a short distance away there are a few in the yard of Donna Massari Bevis whose yard I helped her care for for 19 years or so.....I think she said her uncle planted them, also calling it "Cracker Rose". There is a big hedge of it on Himes Avenue a few blocks from here....he's had them for many years and as a long time Tampa resident he too calls it "Cracker Rose". When I bought my south Tampa home in 1998 I was delighted to see that my neighbors a few houses down had one that they'd had for decades...they too called it "Cracker Rose". Roots easily from cuttings, a classic pass along rose. In the early 90s I added "Pink" to the name when two central Florida rosarians who insisted it did not exist because THEY had never heard of it, said I was causing confusion regarding 'Louis Philippe' by calling it what I'd heard Tampans call it for decades. Oddly, both misidentified a long hedge of it at Florida Southern College as 'Old Blush' even though I and another fan of "Pink Cracker Rose" pointed out that 'Old Blush' sets LOTS of hips and tends to be a shorter bush vs. PCR often becoming a 12 foot tall pillar rose. When I showed it to Joyce Demits she agreed with my best guess as to its ID after years of obsessing on it....likely 'Burbank', possibly its sister seedling 'Santa Rosa'. It is wonderfully scented, virtually indestructible and I feel far superior to any of the 'Knockout' roses. Form and petal count is best in winter. Some springs, a very vigorous basal shoot can emerge and erupt into a truly massive candelabra of blooms. Years ago I mailed one to Fred Boutin where it thrived for him...he was stumped as to the ID but agreed quickly that it is not 'Old Blush' as both of those rosarians insisted when folks would bring branches to the Old Roses meetings at the campus. Fred felt the candelabras suggested possible Noisette in the lineage. I intend to propagate and sell many of them as it is a Florida rose lover's dream and I'd love to see it in many yards again. Sadly, it has proven to be extremely sterile despite my having done a vast number of crosses using it as both seed and pollen parent.

My new plant of Rosa moschata it settling in...oh that pungent perfume of cinnamon and clove from the stamens!