San Diego Floral Association
From The Archives of California Garden
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Ada L. Perry
January/February 2010, Volume 101 No. 1
“To anyone who knew her, there was no doubt Ada Perry left San Diego a better place.” With those words, the San Diego Union celebrated the life of one of the area’s top “garden experts” at the time of her passing in the late 1980s. Self-taught, Perry generously shared her knowledge and passion for botany and gardening in articles for this magazine and the newspaper and on a popular radio program. Her formula for rose fertilizer, updated by today’s gardening doyen Pat Welsh in her new book (excerpted in this issue), lives on today, as do a number of plants named in her honor.
– Mary James
Ada L. Perry
by Dorothy Behrends
Another honor has been awarded Ada Perry, former editor and 50-year contributor to California Garden magazine and long time writer for the San Diego Union newspaper. The latest plant to be named after her is Begonia ‘Ada Perry,’ hybridized in 1979 by Robert Ammerman of Vista, California. This plant has been tested and found to be a sturdy, foliage begonia with medium green sharply lobed leaves covered with pink bristly hairs. Its pink flowers are borne well above these attractive leaves. It becomes a good-sized rhizomatous plant which thrives outdoors in frost-free locations such as filtered-light shade gardens having ample rain drainage.
The mini rose ‘Ada Perry’ is another of the hybrid plants bearing her name. It opens orange-red, fading slightly at maturity, although it often holds its beauty for over two weeks, a remarkably long time. This mini rose was hybridized in 1978 by Dee Bennett of Chula Vista, California.
The spuria iris ‘Ada Perry’ was hybridized in 1976 by Eleanor McCown of Holtville, California. This wine-red beauty has proved to be a vigorous grower and highly successful near the coast.
Ada has recently given her permission to a hybridizer to name a fuchsia ‘Ada Perry.’ This will not be introduced before 1983, after testing, and will be described at that time.
Ada says that her life-long love of plants began in 1910 while she was growing up in Spokane and Olympia, Washington. In the early twenties her parents purchased two acres on North Ozark Street in San Diego, California, and so were partially responsible for her continued interest in plants. Soon Ada went to work for the old Harris Seed Company then located at 6th and “B” streets (San Diego). . . .
Beginning in 1956 she went to work for the prominent nurseryman Walter Andersen. “I honestly believe no other nurseryman in town would have had sense enough to hitch me up to a typewriter. I just did what came naturally—pound a typewriter. [My dad was an old time newspaper man.]” While working at this nursery until July, 1980, Ada made many friends with customers and fellow workers.
Ada has been a good horticultural student all her life. She continues to pore over books and she continues to keep an open mind. New-to-Ada plants are always a joy to her, because she not only describes and writes about interesting plants, but she grows them and relates her experiences with them.
Her weekly newspaper columns have been enjoyed for over 22 years. . . . The various garden clubs and plant societies in the county are appreciative of Ada’s effective publicity, which was reflected by many of the organizations’ eager participation in the ADA PERRY DAY reception last November.
All the plants named for Ada L. Perry serve as reminders of her friendship, her gardening skills, and her long years of writing for our education and enjoyment.
© SAN DIEGO FLORAL ASSOCIATION and © Nancy Carol Carter.
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Mission: To promote the knowledge and appreciation of horticulture and floriculture in the San Diego region.