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

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