The ‘Johnny Appleseed’ of Roses: An Interview


Sally Logan

Cliff Orent has been a lawyer in Japan, a former executive of a Biotech company and now; his passion is ‘roses ‘!  Why roses, and how did he come to this passion after a career in law and chasing blockbuster drugs to introduce to the world?

Cliff has always been curious, so when something peaks his interest; this curiosity becomes a drive for finding out everything about the subject.  And so it was with ‘Roses’. 

 After retiring from his career with a large Biotech company, Cliff moved to Palm Springs.  One day his next door neighbor, Mrs. Robinson, was having trouble with her roses.  Mrs. Robinson was over 80 and she was leaning a little too far over her rose bushes. Cliff asked if she needed help.   Mrs. Robinson replied, ‘Cliff, you don’t know anything about roses’!   In the next 6 months, Mrs. Robinson taught Cliff everything she knew about roses; and then, Cliff, taught Mrs. Robinson everything he had learned about roses in his research, over the next few years.  But, in 2001, Cliff had not grown a single rose! 

  Roses became all encompassing, a passion and nothing would do but to explore, not part of the story, but all of it.  So, EuroDesertRoses was born.  Not only did Cliff learn about ‘roses’, but he began to want to import roses from Europe that had never been available in the U.S, before.  To do this, he had to get an import license and find those old English Roses and then as he met more people in the industry, he found more and more roses in faraway places that had never been available here before. 

 Five acres of Roses!   And why would you plant 5 acres of roses?  It was supposed to be; a garden to enjoy, a passion in retirement and a resource and nursery for the local community and the world of Rose Lovers everywhere.   And the nursery would be the money making part of it to support the garden by importing and selling roses never before available in this country!  Importing roses includes a health certificate for the rose bush coming from Europe and then ‘quarantine’ for 2 years after it reaches the U.S.  And, just the customs agent to move the plant from its disembarkment over to the USDA for testing will cost $400 for the certified agent.  No, you can’t move the rose yourself, even though these two could have just a block separating them.

 In Morongo Valley, there’s now a place where you can purchase a rose that has never before been available in this country!  A rose that no one else would have but you; collectors have begun to recognize Cliff’s ‘EuroDesertRoses’, as the grand vision that he had in mind; the vision that only the curious and driven visionary could see.

 As with many businesses during this economy, the nursery did not cover the expenses of a passion for roses on 5 acres and so the incredible vision to be a research center and resource has come full circle and is now in the process of being slowly wound down.  What, we asked, have you learned thru this process and development of your grand passion?  Our ‘Johnny Appleseed’ replied that maybe the plan was too grand or the advertising and marketing plan not thought out well enough, or maybe just the now old ‘buzz saw’ , it’s the economy stupid!  Someone told him long ago that you shouldn’t have more roses than you could take care of yourself without some help.  Maybe after all, this was true.

 A grand passion has most certainly enriched the world of floriculture everywhere.

 So, here’s to you Mrs. Robinson!  A beautiful new rose now bears your name; the first rose that Cliff Orent hybridized bears the tribute to the person who first helped plant the seed for Cliff Orent’s EuroDesertRoses!

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