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The last two years have witnessed the closing of too many small boutique nurseries. For reasons of age, death, personal obligations, accidents and economic climate, the ranks of the family nursery business have been reduced and thinned. Naturally, nurseries have always been opening and closing. Recently a discussion on GrowRoses on the Internet encouraged with huzzahs and ‘attagirls’ individuals who wanted to establish nurseries in locales as different as Southeast Massachusetts and Central Florida. More sober and somber voices urged caution in the face of severe economic conditions that may require the owner to obtain a second job to sustain the nursery, much less support a family on the proceeds. And there are the requirements of secure capitalization, an effective business plan, dedication to the point of voluntary servitude, and the difficulties of taking vacations, securing capable assistance, and coping with customers who disregard hints like ‘Closed’ signs.
Last June witnessed the closing of Justice Miniatures a year or two after the death of Jerry Justice, the founder; Rose Guardians disappeared over the course of the 2002 and 2003 Combined Rose List editions; Russian Roses for the North, Bayfield of Granite Ridge, and others have become local history. Oregon Miniatures is reported to be suffering from a decline in retail sales. Nor’East and Syl Arena Roses have undergone restructuring and/or sale. In September Pixie Treasures in Yorba Linda closed after three and half decades in the business; it opened in 1970.
Pixie Treasures featured the roses of Laurie Chaffin—Sunny Side Up, Savannah Miss, Honey Bear and many others. Bartje Miller introduced me to ‘Sunny Side Up’ in a tour of the Wrigley Rose Garden at the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Offices. A central bed of the floribunda with the competing shades of yellow and tangerine from edges to yolk guaranteed that attention would be focused on this rose.
Four of us traveled from the Los Angeles valleys to a double or triple sized lot where the nursery was located in a semi-residential district. Tables once laden with the best of thirty thousand roses chosen with an eclectic eye to the requirements of the Southern California microclimates were already stripped mostly bare. Customers came to browse, find bargains, gossip, and lament--sometimes in succession as the day wore on. Some of the day’s customers were on their second or third visit to secure mementos, to store up memories, or just to buy more roses in some symbol of solidarity with a fruitful past. In addition to a ‘Sunny Side Up,’ which had graciously been set aside for me, I managed to snag an ‘Astra,’ a single mini with pink petals and bright yellow stamens by Williams, and ‘Summer Splash,’ a Chaffin 2001 medium yellow Miniflora.
Friend Brenda was the most astute and efficient shopper. She quickly espied a garden cart for toting roses around her garden, made a snap bid which was quickly accepted, and pondered the transport of it in her van.
Bartje Miller in her 9th decade no longer essays long freeway trips to Orange County, but she wanted to reaffirm a four decade relationship with Laurie and her mother, Dorothy Cralle. Bartje had also discovered a sport of ‘Sunny Side Up,’ a bright yellow facsimile with only slight fading with age. The sport, called ‘The Flying Dutchman’ and intended to be registered and reproduced, became legendary instead.
Kim Rupert, a fellow hybridizer and plantsman, surveyed the remaining stock, selecting some for his own breeding program, as well as others for special friends. He chatted with Ms. Chaffin about the vagaries of maintaining accurate breeding records in the face of competing claims like life, death, and taxes, not to mention distractions that commonly appear ranging from fading tags to tricky memories. She provided a couple of potential seedling breeders, one a very double dark pink rose and the other a cross of ‘Rainbow’s End’ x ‘Angel Face’ which produced brown blooms. The dissemination of seedling stock was not a high priority in the execution of the closing, but occurred nevertheless in the doing of it. Soon he ran into a granddaughter of the famous breeder, Dr. Frank Skinner, and was off selling roses as if the product were his own. This occurred more than once as the opportunity of fitting roses to the person and locale utilized his special talents and knowledge.
While everyone in our entourage followed his or her own goals, the roses accumulated on the cart set aside for our purchases, and the groups formed and reformed. Lunchtime elapsed without any stampede toward a restaurant, but with not a hunger pang between us. But at some point we realized that the time to go home without coping with peak traffic times had arrived. For those who valued the existence of an irenic oasis in the middle of urban Orange County, for the romantics who remembered the couple crying and hugging after an old fashioned on the knee proposal, for those who admired a discerning and intelligent taste in selecting roses for purchase, there would be no idyll after the last business day in September.
One saving grace: After the closing of the nursery, arrangements were made for the roses exclusive to Pixie Treasures to be transported to the Uncommon Rose (www.uncommonrose.com); they would not be lost to commerce. Disoriented customers could find another place to patronize, albeit exclusively on the Internet. This represented a second ‘save’ for The Uncommon Rose, as they had already picked up some exclusive roses from Justice Miniatures when it closed. The closure would be mitigated by the maintenance of access to some special roses. The duty to the past—honoring and cherishing an aging parent--would be served by the closing of Pixie Treasures; the duty to the present—preservation of interesting and unique roses in commerce—would be borne by the future of rose sales through the Internet.
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