Friday, July 5, 2013

Like many/most roses in central Florida, in the summer heat "Pink Cracker Rose" sees its petal count plunge and the colors get harsher, with most blooms flat and shapeless vs. the buxom lovely ones that are produced in the cooler months. Looks like two different roses!! After having loved this Mystery Rose since the mid 70s when it was common in Seminole Heights and other older Tampa neighborhoods, and after having tried since 1984 to ID this iconic survivor that has unfortunately always refused to be a breeder (though this year I DO have a hip of [Seagull X Pink Cracker Rose]!!!) I still feel that 'Burbank' is my best guess. The lovely perfume is classic China, with a slight touch of Tea. In 1984 the Tampa Rose Society said all those plants in central Florida were descendants of roses sold for Mother's Day 1932 by the once legendary Holme's Nursery with Kew-style glass houses north of Tampa. It roots readily from cuttings and can be grown as a large bush or tall pillar rose.

In 1999 I planted my little own root 'Seagull' in my west bed even though I had to continue living the bulk of each year in Denver until November of 2002 when I finally escaped that icy hell hole of a state. So it got very little care for three years, one of which saw a record breaking drought. Until 2 years ago, 'Mermaid' and 'Cherokee Rose' blocked all entry into the front yard for two years, so no watering or feeding. But it has gone nuts this year, with a very nice spring bloom phase that is giving me a nice set of hips from my pollinations and open pollinations. It is now sending out LONG new shoots that I need to lash to the rebar. It is a vibrantly healthy rambling rose for me. Thankfully I did not listen to the Florida rosarian who told our meeting in the early 90s that neither the Multiflora class to which it belongs, or the Wichuraiana classes could live in central Florida else I'd not have my beloved 'Seagull' or my hulking Wichuraiana ramblers 'Leontine Gervais' and 'Francois Juranville' in 2013, all planted in 1999! The few he tried were budded to Fortuniana and drenched with water plus chemical sprays and fertilizers, which led to conclusions and pronouncements as myopic as "there is no such thing as 'Pink Cracker' rose". These here are own root, grown organically and get a few deep waterings monthly. I am thankful to rose friends like Bill Grant, Fred Boutin, and Miriam Wilkins who we lost a few years ago, who cultivated endless curiousity decade after decade, and encouraged me to do the same vs. buying into baseless dogma (you HAVE to spray and you MUST bud onto Fortuniana) that discourages rose growing here in Florida. 'Seagull' is a once bloomer, but past germinations of open-pollinated hips gave me repeat-blooming seedlings that reminded me of bushy minis and Polyanthas, most boasting lovely perfumes, so I am PSYCHED to see the seedlings from my first ever controlled pollinations using 'Seagull', mostly as Mom but a few times as Dad. If I had to choose 6 favorite roses for Florida, this would be one even though it was MUCH more vigorous in my Denver yard. Thanks to Susan Johnson for all those panty hose as they will be invaluable in training this rampant growth up onto the rebar trellis!