The Lynn Anderson Rose ~ An American Original
Like all great legends, the story behind the fabled Lynn Anderson Hybrid Tea Rose is every bit as dramatic and engaging as the rose itself; a backstory that took rosarian, Country Music historian and namesake daughter, Lisa Lynn Sutton back to where this World Champion rose was created by noted California rosarian Joe Winchell. Back to the vast, open fields of Kern County and Southern California’s Central Valley; to the headquarters of one of the world’s most prolific and noted rose farms: Weeks Roses.
Back to the roots of the rose named for her mother, country music superstar, Lynn Anderson.
“I wanted to see where it all began,” she recalled. “So I roped our videographer, flew to Bakersfield, and drove across the Valley to Wasco, California, where we met with Weeks’ Research Director, Christian Bedard; a renowned world-class biologist in plant genetics, a hard-core rose lover, and a ‘budding’ country music fan!” she laughed.
Under Bedard’s guidance, Sutton was taken on a behind-the-scenes tour unlike any backstage access she’d experienced on the road with her legendary Mom.
“We saw and followed every step in the process, from harvesting the roses in the field, to cleansing, processing, storing, and finally shipping. It was an incredible experience. We’ve worked hard to bring Mom’s rose back, and this was a process I’d never seen, never experienced. Thanks to Weeks, and Christian Bedard, it was one I’ll always remember.”
To share that experience, click the link below to watch the exclusive documentary: A Rose’s Journey with Lisa Sutton.
Originally cultivated and grown in the early nineties by noted California rosarian Joe Winchell, The Lynn Anderson was one of the world’s most heralded and celebrated roses in history, winning bouquets of accolades and earning the Rose Society’s ‘Queen of Show’ honor less than a year after its debut.
And then, time intervened…roads led elsewhere. Lives changed. And The Lynn Anderson Rose all but disappeared.
Enter Lisa Sutton.
“The rose world is like show business,” she recalled recently. “One day you’re on top, the next day you’re playing motel lounges. You’ve got to keep yourself out there, and re-invent yourself every so often or the new kid on the block—or, in this case, the new rose—is who everybody starts talking about. As much as Mom loved her rose, keeping herself out there and reinventing her own career occupied all of her time, all her energy and all her spirit, and the rose just fell off our radar. There was no one to tend it, no one to keep its petals blooming, and the rose went dormant.….”
Finding her way forward in the devastating wake of her mother’s death in 2015, Lisa leaned heavily on the guidance and shoulder of Dignity Memorial’s Jeff Duffer. He had been by her side when her father, noted songwriter and producer, Glenn Sutton passed away suddenly in 2007, and then again when Lisa lost her Grandmother, songwriter Liz Anderson, in 2011.
“One of Jeff’s first suggestions to me in planning Mom’s service was roses…naturally!,” she said with her trademark, infectious laugh, “Jeff knew about The Lynn Anderson, and said if I was considering our rose as part of the theme for Mom’s service, that he’d figure some way to create a little garden on the property. But they were just cuttings then, and it was going to take two-three years for them to be ready.”
Once again, time intervened, which was precisely what Lisa Sutton needed.
Locating and shipping the hundreds of cuttings with the help of worldwide rose experts Weeks Roses, Lisa began the arduous process of educating herself in the growth and care of roses, becoming a novice rosarian in the process. Along the way, her work began to earn the interest of not only the Nashville Rose Society, but the American Rose Society as well. Soon, her efforts, cultivation and study began to take root, and in the early spring of 2018, it was official: Lisa Sutton had brought a champion rose line back into the spotlight. After lying dormant for more than twenty-five years, The Lynn Anderson Rose was blooming again.
But the rose was not the only project coming to fruition. Unknown to Lisa, while she was working diligently to bring The Lynn Anderson Rose back, Dignity Memorial’s Jeff Duffer, and his team of planners had been working around the clock, creating the blueprints for a design that was far more than “the little garden” Lisa had been imagining.
“I'd have probably done a little country garden and a few bushes, you know,” she laughed, recalling the moment. “When I saw Jeff's ideas and design, I was just overwhelmed, it was so beautiful…I couldn’t believe it was actually happening.”
But it was only the beginning of what would become a banner year for the legacy of this legendary entertainer. Through the efforts of long-time friend and Number One Lynn Anderson Fan Michael Dempsey, Lisa learned that Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam had designated June 15, 2018 as Lynn Anderson Day in the state of Tennessee.
The very same date that Jeff Duffer and Dignity Memorial had chosen to unveil The Lynn Anderson Memorial Rose Garden.
“It was an amazing moment,” Lisa said wistfully. “Dreams were coming true.”
With work on the roses and the garden beginning in earnest in the spring, Lisa, Rose Garden caretaker Eric Liden, and master greensman Luis Monzon worked tirelessly through the early summer months with Jeff, modifying, fine-tuning and overseeing the construction, and tending daily to the more than two hundred Lynn Andersons now residing in rows upon rows of planters bordering Woodlawn’s landscaping center.
Then, with the unveiling only a week away, hundreds of invitations out to friends, family, media, and Nashville’s most noted personalities, event teams, caterers and speakers at the ready, time once again factored in…with so much left to do, there didn’t seem to be nearly enough left to spend. Worse, the design was such that there didn’t seem to be nearly enough room for all the roses.
“I was stressed that maybe we were going to be dedicating some fake ground cover and a few roses in pots,” Lisa laughed. “There just wasn’t enough space…or time.”
But with only days to spare, Jeff Duffer, Eric Liden, Luis Monzon and his team doubled their efforts, broadening the original ground area, expanding the terraced grounds flanking the central pavilion, and creating four separate gardens for one-hundred and fourteen Lynn Andersons; the largest single collection anywhere in the world; each lovingly planted by Lisa herself; the roots of the roses that bear her mother’s name very much her own.
Adorned with dew and droplets of rain from an early morning storm, the roses looked as if they were wearing diamonds as the more than three hundred guests sat enrapt under a broad, white canopy sipping champagne, marveling at the beauty of the roses, and remembering one of country music’s most beloved, legendary entertainers.
With presentations from Jeff Duffer, Lisa, and her sister, Melissa, the dedication’s unquestionable high point came when The American Rose Society’s Marilyn Wellan stepped to the dais, a dark burgundy leather folio in her hands, and after reading its inscription, presented Lisa with The Society’s Presidential Citation honoring her work and efforts in bringing back The Lynn Anderson.
Later, the guests all but gone, the setting sun casting an ochre hue across the hills, Lisa spent a final few moments in the gardens, seeing to her charges one last time before nightfall.
“They're going to grow beautifully,” she said. “We set out to create a peaceful, ‘always’ place for mom’s memory the middle of this serene environment, and…” She wiped a small tear trailing from her eye, and turned with a smile. “…And we did it.”
The Lynn Anderson Rose Garden. A permanent memorial to one of the world’s most beautiful roses, and one of its most legendary celebrities.