Windsor

Here's why Windsor is also known as Rose City

Windsor is widely known as the automotive capital of Canada, but those unfamiliar with the southwestern Ontario region might be surprised to find that it also goes by another name: Rose City. 

Local group started campaign pushing for the nickname

Roses in Windsor. (Jennifer La Grassa/CBC)

Windsor is widely known as the automotive capital of Canada, but those unfamiliar with the southwestern Ontario region might be surprised to find that it also goes by another name: Rose City. 

The nickname appears to have started in the early 1900s, according to the Windsor Public Library. 

Public service librarian Adam Peltier said from his research, the earliest mention of Windsor being referred to as a town of roses was in 1926. He said it wasn't too clear as to why roses were popular in the region, but he found that the warm climate made for favourable conditions for the flower and it's likely that British immigrants to the region planted them. 

In the early 1960s, Peltier said a local group — The Greater Windsor Foundation — started a campaign to get more people planting roses. 

WATCH: Windsor — the city of roses

Why is Windsor known as Rose City?

6 months ago
Duration 1:01
CBC's Jennifer La Grassa finds out why the name started and where the roses are now.

"They were really pushing for Windsor to be known as the Rose City," Peltier said. 

"Soon [roses] were noted as being such a prominent flower in the community to the extent where one of our former mayors — Mayor Frank Mitchell — was quoted as saying, 'There are more roses in this town than any other Canadian city of this population. They ought to call Windsor, Rose Town, as a nickname.'" 

Since about 1963, Windsor was frequently being referred to as Rose City and, two years later, Peltier said the foundation held its first rose garden competition. 

Today, some businesses still play off the Rose City nickname and there's a mural using the name in the downtown, but roses aren't as abundant as they once were. 

Where are all the roses now? 

Wanda Letourneau, manager of the city's horticulture department, said she remembers when there used to be a group of staff members dedicated to the "thousands" of roses in the city. 

"It was a big, popular job to take care of the roses," she said. 

But years ago, the department had to change the way it was tending to the flower. 

Wanda Latourneau has been with the City of Windsor's horticulture department for nearly 35 years. She says she's seen the shift in the way the city plants and cares for roses. (Jennifer La Grassa)

"Back in [2009] there was a pesticide ban which stopped us or did not allow us to spray the pesticides that we needed or insecticides that would help take care of the roses," Letourneau said. 

She said that led them to ask a Toronto grower for a more resilient strain. The grower provided the city with the Nell rose, which is the only one it now plants in "splashes" across public parks. The Nell rose was named after the wife of the late Sen. Paul Martin Sr. 

In total, Letourneau estimates there are about 500 roses that now get planted by the city. 

"I think it's fair to say we're a city of roses," she said. 

"I don't think it's all about the amount, it's all about the care and I think we do a great job of the parks." 

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