A Rose A Day: Francis E. Lester

To continue with my June 2013: A Rose A Day Series…


NOTE: This article was written in 2013 … be sure you see the 2016  and 2017 updates at the end. 🙂


You know I love historical roses and some of my first roses came from Roses of Yesterday and Today 25 years ago.

The story of Roses of Yesterday and Today intrigues me… It begins with a well-known authority on old roses, Francis E. Lester.

He was attributed with collecting and keeping available many old roses and writing about the subject in his book My Friend, The Rose published by J. Horace McFarland Co. in 1942. I have this book and it drips with information and charm.

According to Thomas Christopher’s book In Search of Lost Roses

Lester was born in England’s Lake District in 1868 and grew up during the heyday of England’s romance with the rose.

He moved to the United States around the turn of the century and spent nearly 25 years in Mesilla Park, New Mexico where he grew a 2 acre rose garden.

In his mid fifties he and his wife moved to California.  He searched the foothills and missions of California where he recognized the old roses from his childhood and  collected cuttings for propagation.

Pat Wiley said it was an honor for him when the British Government allowed him to quarantine roses at Sunnydale Nursery in England for export to the U.S.

I have read everything I could find on Francis and feel like we have a special rose connection. This year my hubby and son built me a very large and very beautiful new arbor and I knew I finally had the place for a big ole rambling FRANCIS E. LESTER rose. I found one  at David Austin Roses.

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Hubby and Son…. Craftsmen!
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Isn’t it beautiful!

Quote from Roses of Yesterday and Today….

The business was called “Lester Rose Gardens” and some of the roses can still be found at that address just up the road from the current “Roses of Yesterday and Today Garden.”  Lester put out the Lester Rose Gardens catalog that served as a model for the rose catalogs for years to come.

He wrote in 1941, “This catalogue differs from many catalogues you will receive;  it has no expensive colored illustrations, and, I hope, no extravagant claims.  But it does offer you the benefit of long experience with roses;  it tries to tell the truth;  and it offers you nothing that has not been tried out and found to be of real merit, not for the expert horticulturist but for the amateur gardener, whom we try to serve faithfully, and whose interests we hold to be paramount.  My occasional personal comments about the Old Roses, I trust, be excused, for they come from the heart.”

All I had to do was read this and he stole my heart and I consider his book to be one of my prized possessions. Reading it is pure pleasure!

 My Friend the Rose

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His book is in good company…
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A prized possession…

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Francis E. Lester Rose in his glory in the David Austin gardens…

Francis E Lester in David Austin's garden
Francis E Lester in David Austin’s garden

David Austin Roses says of the Francis E. Lester rose, “A strong, completely reliable rose which is smothered with huge bunches of small, single blooms. These are white, delicately tinted with soft pink at the edges, later becoming almost pure white, creating the impression of apple blossom.”

This rose was also one of the roses that “passed the test” in Longwood Garden’s Ten-Year Rose Trials.

Aren’t you excited to see what he does next year?


2016 Update on Francis E. Lester Rose…

Francis blooming strong with his good neighbor, Peggy Martin! Read the fascinating story of the Peggy Martin Rose here.

 

Francis & Peggy 2016

SPECIAL NOTE: In 2016 I received a lovely email from a lady who found my article and was in tears. She told me a lovely story of growing up in Francis Lester’s rose garden. He and her father (a local doctor) were great friends. She said she was thrilled to know that his rose and his story is still being told. For me, this was a major highlight of growing this rose. Many of the roses in my garden have wonderful stories attached to them, it is one of the many reasons I am honored to “tend” this garden.


2017 Update:

He’s May 19, 2017 and he’s  just getting better and better!

 

15 thoughts on “A Rose A Day: Francis E. Lester

    1. Was going over some older posts and found your comment. I am so glad you liked the tribute to Francis E. Lester. I am getting ready to do another article as he is just about to have a spectacular bloom year. He has now covered the pergola and looks fabulous. We are still getting some very cold temps but I hope nothing is going to taper with his bloom! His book is one of my rose treasures!

      1. Hi Teresa-
        My husband and I recently purchased the site of the original Lester Rose Garden in Corralitos. I am interested in getting it registered as a California Historical Point of Interest and would love to hear what you’ve learned. Please get in contact with me if you can help.
        Thanks-
        Katrina

  1. Your garden is gorgeous! Love the arbor! I found your site while searching for Frances E Lester rose! ( : Best wishes!
    Terri

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