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Dorothy Perkins Rose
 By John M. Zornow

Jackson and Perkins was founded in 1872, when Charles Hinsdale Perkins, with the financial backing of his father-in-law, A.E. Jackson, started up a small operation wholesaling strawberries and grape plants from a farm in Newark, N.Y. He also sold directly to local customers who stopped by the farm. The farm is now the site of Perkins Park and Vintage Gardens Bed and Breakfast on High Street.

Charles Perkins had made his living as a lawyer, banker and food broker. It was the hiring of E. Alvin Miller, who experimented with hybridizing, that led to the development of a "rambler" rose, named Dorothy Perkins after his granddaughter. This rose received an award from the National Rose Society in Great Britain in 1908, and world wide acclaim. To this day, the Dorothy Perkins rose graces the walls of such places as Windsor Castle.

Dorothy Perkins
The surprising success of the Dorothy Perkins rose and a book named The Rose, written by E.B. Ellwanger, that Charles Perkins became enamored with, prompted Jackson & Perkins to focus on roses as a main product. As more energy went into creating and marketing new varieties, the company began to employ full-time hybridizers whose creativity and vision enabled Jackson and Perkins to grow into the world's foremost producer and marketer of roses. The first such professional was Dr. J.H. Nicholas, known the world over for his horticultural work and later Eugene Boerner, was notable for his contributions to the Floribunda class of roses. Another hybridizer, William Warriner, developed 110 rose varieties that resulted in the sale of 40 million plants and 20 All-America Rose Selections. Two of his roses, Medallion and Red Masterpiece, were selected for special-issue postage stamps by the United States Postal Service in 1978.

Under the second C.H. Perkins, who took over the reins of the company in 1928, the company's mail order business resulted from a garden exhibit Jackson & Perkins set up at the 1939 World's Fair in New York. Entitled "A Parade of Modern Roses," the display was a huge success, and visitors from all over the nation purchased roses but didn't want to carry them home. They asked the company to mail the roses instead, and told their friends back home of the convenience offered in receiving roses by mail. Orders began to pour in from all over the nation and Jackson & Perkins began shipping by mail. A new channel of plant commerce was born, and Jackson & Perkins went retail with a colorful catalog.

What had been a nursery serving New York area gardeners became a mail-order concern serving gardeners across the nation. Over the next several years, this part of the business grew so much that the company published its first catalog. Little Newark, N.Y. soon began to call itself the Rose Capital of America, and hundreds and thousands came each spring and summer to see the famous Jackson & Perkins roses. This lasted until about 1973 when the new owners of Jackson & Perkins moved the operation to the west coast.

Jackson and Perkins is still in business today in Hodges, S.C. and has just issued their 2012 Spring Summer catalog. They are affiliated with the Park Seed Co, and Wayside Gardens, also in S.C.

Dorothy Perkins store
Can you purchase a Dorthy Perkins rose? Not from Jackson and Perkins. The company stopped handling the rose because of its susceptibility to mildew and rot. The plant can still purchased from nurseries that specialize in heirloom or antique roses. Thanks to a device called the "weedwacker, or string trimmer, these old roses are disappearing from cemeteries and other locations.

Little did Dorothy Perkins know that her name would be the first of many to be attached to a new rose. The popularity of the name led a women's wear company based in the United Kingdom to call itself Dorothy Perkins and is still in business today, with 600 stores worldwide.

Check out more of Jackson and Perkins history and view a copy of the book "The Rose" at the Newark-Arcadia Museum, 120 High Street in Newark.


Dorothy Perkins childhood home, 307 High Street in Newark,
circa 1904- Across from the Perkins "farm"


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