A Rose by any other Name...

by Susie Hodgson

One day, we received a disturbing phone call at the Burbank Historical Society.

The caller was agitated, if not furious. Her voice was raised and filled with anger.

Since when don’t you have information about the Rosa Floribunda?!!” she demanded.

Rosa who? Was she looking for a long-lost relative? A Lockheed worker? A starlet?

She kept scolding – for what felt like a long time. And then we realized.

She thought she was calling the LUTHER Burbank Historical Society! (It’s actually the Luther Burbank Home & Gardens Association in Santa Rosa, California.) We get that a lot. Many people think our city was named for Luther Burbank. We’ve heard that there are even employees at City Hall who think so.

We can’t speak for City Hall, but we did clear up the mystery with the upset caller. She even ended up laughing at her mistake. It’s an easy mistake to make. After all, we even have a school right here in Burbank named for Luther Burbank!

Luther Burbank made his name in the world of plants – you know botany and horticulture. At the age of 21, Luther Burbank, who lived in Massachusetts, inherited some money and bought land there where he started “playing” with plant strains. Due to the Irish potato famine, there was a need for a heartier potato. Luther Burbank developed such a thing. The “Burbank Russet,” as it was later called, was his first claim to fame. Burbank sold the rights to his stronger potato for $150 and moved to the west coast – Santa Rosa, California to be exact, where he bought a 4-acre plot. (That plot is a beautiful city park now that offers tours of Burbank’s home and gardens.)

Luther Burbank was known as a genius inventor and slightly eccentric showman. He developed literally hundreds of strains of plants – more than 800 in fact! He toyed with all types, from flowers to vegetables. But he wasn’t much of a note-keeper and was criticized for not being a true scientist who documented his methods. Still, what he did was remarkable and his partnership with Stark Brothers Nurseries helped promote and ensure the success of Burbank’s plants.

Have you ever seen a Shasta Daisy? We bet you have and that means you’ve seen Burbank’s work.

But even more importantly, have you ever eaten a McDonald’s French fry? We KNOW you have. And that means you’ve eaten Burbank’s work!

Just remember this: our city was NOT named for Luther Burbank. We were named for a dentist named David. A dentist who just happened to have the money to buy the land that is now our city. It may not be as flowery a tale, but don’t yell at us when you can’t find your Rosa Floribunda!

Want to learn more about Burbank? Come visit us!

The Burbank Historical Society/Gordon R. Howard Museum
Located in George Izay Park, right next to the Creative Arts Center
Phone: (818) 841-6333
Web site: www.burbankhistoricalsoc.org
Email: ghowardmuseum@sbcglobal.net

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