Shuttle Rose: Space Shuttle Atlantis

July 15, 2008 8:57:56 PM PDT
A well traveled rose will be among the millions that make up the many New Year's Day floats in Tournament of Roses parade, thanks to a valley citrus rancher who asked his astronaut brother to make room in his flight bag. And Action News got a peek at to bring you the story!When the Space Shuttle Atlantis lifted off in February, Astronaut Rex Walheim carried more than his experience as a space walker with him. At the request of his brother, Exeter citrus grower Lance Walheim, he also took along a hybrid tea rose called the 'Tournament of Roses': Lance Walheim, Garden Author and Grower told us: "He could take 3 or 4 things of his own up so he was able to take it up and take it out."

Seventeen acres of specialty citrus keep Lance Walheim pretty busy but he also writes gardening books, articles for Sunset Magazine and is the garden expert for "Bayer Advanced" which has a float in the Tournament of Roses every year. Bayer Advanced" is also the official supplier of rose care products for the Tournament of Roses. He says: "Unlike a lot of the other floats, most of the floats in the parade, which use green house roses you really couldn't grow in the garden, Bayer Advanced puts a lot of actual garden roses on it."

With NASA's blessing brother Rex agreed to take the rose up. So Lance plucked a few from the garden at the headquarters of the Tournament of Roses and dried them in a very un-scientific way: "Lance Walheim: It turned out that just hanging' them upside down in my office worked best."

Once all the spacewalking business was complete up on the Shuttle a phhoto was taken of Rex with the Rose and now that well traveled bloom will be part of the float from Bayer Advanced and a tribute to the Wizard of Oz.

It will be joined by another South Valley man's horticultural specimens according to Lance Walheim: One of the roses we're going to have which is - Over The Rainbow - was bred by Ralph More here in Visalia, so that's going to be part of the float too." And like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz this little rose will have done a lot of traveling before making it back home to Pasadena on new year's day 2009.

Lance Walheim says: "It's traveled, oh, about 5 million miles." He us his brother, astronaut Rex Walheim, is hoping to be in Pasadena for the parade but that will depend upon whether he's needed by NASA.

One thing is for sure - the rose that flew on the Space Shuttle Atlantis will be there incased in glass on the end of the wand of Good Witch of the East!
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