PLEASE take a moment to provide feedback about this article - this will help us feature the best ones.
Share your opinion by using one or all of the following HMF feedback options.
Post a review or comment. Rating the article is quick, easy and anonymous. Vote this article as one of your "favorites". It will also be added to the website's favorites list.
Tell us something about yourself. I have spent 14 years as a professional photographer, both in the Advertising field, and as an Artists Technician. I have also spent some of that time exhibiting my own black and white photography in galleries. I had a career as a nurseryman for 3 years in the early 80s, but opted to pursue Photography also, and that career seems to have been the one that stuck.
So, I suppose that it should come as no surprise that I have taken up such an intense interest in the culture and breeding of roses, as the seeds of interest were there a long time ago. Even before my formal training in Horticulture (University of Guelph, Agricultural College), I had expressed an interest in horticulture. In fact, there is a photograph of my Grandmother standing in front of a plant of the Hybrid Tea, 'Tiffany', which, as far as I recall, was the first rose I ever planted. I was about 16. I helped plant a Rugosa shrub in that same garden around the same time... a 'Hansa'... and that plant is still there. A piece of that very same plant is growing in my garden now, grown a couple years ago from a cutting! (For sentimental reasons, I added 'Tiffany' this year also.)
I have gravitated towards the Heritage Roses much more over the past few years, as these have so much more diversity and character (in my opinion) than most of the modern shrubs.
Many years ago, my other Grandmother lived in a typical Southern Ontario cottage-like house, and the garden there was a deep, dark sort of refuge that we, as kids, liked to play in. There was a dense canopy of trees over much of the place, except near the front door. Here, there was a rose growing. I have now only the most vague recollection of its appearance... a double pale pink bloom, but I can still remember its intense, hypnotic fragrance. I can find that fragrance in several the roses I grow now. I suspect that it may have been a Centifolia, and I have the impression that it may have been a Moss. (There is some likelihood that it could have been 'Common Moss'.) I guess that rose made some permanent impression on me, and in adulthood, I have sought the full expression of the desire to know that rose again.
Plant hybridizing has always fascinated me, too. I still get immense satisfaction by growing plants from seed. For many years, I also collected and grew many Orchid hybrids and species, and inevitably, that led to my wish to propagate them from seed also. (As you may know, growing Orchids from seed is a complicated thing! It requires sowing seed on artificial media under sterile conditions, much the same way as fungi are cultured in the lab.)
As I became more interested in the Old Garden Roses, these, too, presented a challenge to attempt some hybridization. Also quite challenging, roses are not the easiest things to grow from seeds. The seeds must be stratified for most of the winter, and when sown in flats (not everyone sows all the seeds in flats... some people keep seeds on moist paper towels, and plant only the ones that germinate), it can take a long time for them to germinate, and many of them never do.
I believe the average germination rate for a successful cross is about 10% to 25%. With some parents I get as much as 50%, but that is an exception. You can sow 50 seeds from a cross sometimes, and get only one to germinate. That happened to me a couple of times, actually. When I crossed David Austins 'Sweet Juliet' with 'Souvenir de la Malmaison', I got quite a few seeds, but only one ever germinated! As luck would have it, that one turned out to be quite beautiful, and I have registered it as 'Joyce Barden', [pictured here] for my mother, who loves yellow roses. (Yes, she has two plants of it in her garden!)
Sometimes, seeds will stay dormant for a ridiculously long time, as I discovered a few years back. This spring, I had one seed germinate from a cross of 'Charles de Mills' with 'Constance Spry' (making this rose 3/4 Gallica). That seed was two years old, and had been sitting in a flat for almost 18 months before germinating. My policy is to keep all seed flats for two springs, to get all possible germinations. (If I hadnt kept them, I would not have had that seedling from such a difficult cross!) Rose hybridizing is NOT for the kind of person who is looking for instant gratification!
Do you use pesticides or insecticides in your garden? I guess I have become almost completely Organic in caring for my roses now. I used to rely on chemical fertilizers, but now I use them only occasionally, and often just for seedlings. (They are planted in sterilized, peat-perlite mix, which makes it hard to use organic fertilizers... They just dont work well in that sort of mix.) I use no fungicides, and use only Insecticidal Soap for insect control, and only when the aphids get way out of hand.
After many years of working in a Darkroom, I have been exposed to chemicals that are considered to be moderately hazardous, and so I have a special respect for chemicals, and exposure levels to them. Therefore, I have opted not to use Petrochemicals to control disease and insects. Personally, I think these materials are dangerous, and repeated exposure is potentially traumatic, and likely cumulative. (If you have ever seen herbicide drift damage, then you will know just how easily and how FAR these spray materials travel on the wind. That means you can easily have these chemicals on your skin unless you are covered completely in protective clothing... and I rarely see anyone wearing adequate protection when they are out spraying. Sorry... I know I am going to sound alarmist to some people by saying this. The use of pesticides/fungicides is certainly a personal decision.) The environmental impact of these materials accumulating in ground water and other bodies of water is something that I think we all need to take some responsibility for. I dont mean to get preachy, but that has become my personal credo.
In response to this decision, I have chosen many roses that have a certain level of disease resistance/immunity. I will tolerate some Blackspot, but less is definitely more. I treat Blackspot by removing diseased foliage as soon as it appears. This helps to break the disease cycle, and limits the amount of re-infection. If that means treating an outbreak by removing half of all the foliage... then so be it. I can live with that more easily than I can a plant that gets completely defoliated in the following three weeks! Deep mulching helps reduce disease transmission also, by reducing the amount of splash-up from the soil onto the foliage. This is a major vector for Blackspot transmission.
By far, the best option is to choose cultivars that are disease resistant or disease free. Personally, I will tolerate some mildew more readily than Blackspot. Mildew is easily controlled with water syringing, or light spraying with dilute Fish Emulsion. Improving air circulation helps with that also. Mildew is nowhere near as damaging to the plant as Blackspot is, so I dont get too upset when I see Mildew occasionally.
Why did you take up hybridizing? I suppose I became interested in hybridizing roses when I realized that almost nobody was breeding the Old Garden Roses... at least not within their classes. David Austin himself said in one of his books that he felt that it would certainly be worthwhile if somebody should choose to breed new Gallicas, for example. I guess I took that message to heart, because I am working to create some new Gallicas that are almost always true to class. (Meaning, that I am not often using roses from other classes to breed with my Gallicas.)
I have used 'Tuscany Superb' as a seed parent often, and will continue to do so for a few years. I like the seedlings I have seen from it, and you can see two new ones on my website that have bloomed for the first time this year.(http://www.rdrop.com/~glacier/roses/bestgallica.html [pictured here] and http://www.rdrop.com/~glacier/roses/gallicas/darkpurple.html). There is a huge thrill in seeing a new rose seedling bloom for the first ime, even if it is a poor looking seedling. For me, there is a feeling of here in front of me is a rose that exists nowhere else but right before my eyes when I am looking at a new bloom for the first time. That feeling is intensified if it is the first bloom of a cross that was pollinated three years before! (It is at least one year from pollination to germination, then with Gallicas, the plant must often be two years old before it will bloom for the first time!)
Are you trying to breed for certain qualities? I am breeding for many features. I would like to get away from Blackspot susceptibility, which is easy with the Gallicas, at least. I am using some of the Austin roses in my breeding, and attempting to outbreed them. By this, I mean that I will try to stay away from breeding Austin with Austin. I feel that there are many qualities in the English rose line that I would personally like to breed out, most notably: shrub character. For my own personal tastes, I find the Austin roses to be all too much like gangly Floribundas and Hybrid Teas.
I am using roses from the Damask Perpetual class in the hopes of producing a more compact, tidy, and shapely shrub. ('Rose de Rescht' approaches an ideal in this sense. 'Marbrée' is another rose I use for breeding, because I like its shape and growth habit... not to mention that crazy spotting! Although it will not set seed, I have found that the Hybrid China rose, 'Eugène de Beauharnais' is a willing pollen donor. I have made a number of crosses using it as a pollen parent this spring, with the hopes of passing on the rich color, fine scent, growth habit and its disease resistance. (For me, this plant is completely disease free, but I hear from some people that it will get some Blackspot.)
On that note, the color purple is something I am breeding for, both in the Gallicas, and in repeat blooming roses. I would like to obtain a rose with the shrub habit of 'Rose de Rescht', but with a single bloom of purple like that of 'Tuscany Superb'! I am working on this goal, but I expect that it will take a few years, if it is possible at all. I am also working on obtaining a purple crested rose, from Rosa centifolia cristata, aka 'Chapeau de Napoleon'. I dont know if I will accomplish this or not, but I am eager to try. I am not going to worry about making a rose like that repeat flowering... once blooming is okay with me. Some of my favorite roses bloom only once, and because of this I look forward to them every year. I think one of the true pleasures of gardening is anticipation. If a plant leaves you wanting nothing more, then it is less appealing to me.
You seem to be interested in an old-fashioned look. Are you trying to improve on the older onceblooming roses? I am interested in the "OGR look" in roses, whatever that is. I suppose the quartered form is one of my favorites, but then I also love the single roses with five perfectly placed petals, and stamens in the center. While I like many of the Austin roses, I feel also that many of them fall far short of my own personal tastes. I am puzzled that David Austion has not done any work in breeding climbers... at least not since 'Constance Spry'! Imagine 'Alchymist' as a repeat blooming climber! I am! That is something I want to breed. I am also very fond of 'Awakening', the fully double sport of 'New Dawn' that was brought out of Czechoslovakia in 1935. I am attempting to breed it this year, too. One of my goals along those lines is to produce a climber using 'Cécile Brunner' (climbing form) and breeding it with Austin's English roses. I have used 'Cécile Brunner' as a seed parent this year, and crossed it with 'Evelyn', 'Abraham Darby', and 'Souvenir de la Malmaison' to mention a few. I have no idea if this will be successful at all, but I imagine a 10 foot climber with 2.5 inch blooms of glowing apricot could be very beautiful. ('Phyllis Bide' resulted from exactly this sort of breeding.) I am also using 'Gloire de Dijon' in a similar manner. In fact, I have just this week seen a few seeds of a cross of 'Gloire de Dijon' by 'Abraham Darby' germinate. They took several months to germinate, but at least they did!
As far as my breeding aspirations are concerned, I have many things I would like to achieve: I want single purple roses, some with mossing or cresting, either once blooming or repeating. I would like to obtain better repeat blooming purple roses with a more Portland-like growth habit. (I am breeding A HREF="pl.php?n=5467" TARGET="">'Rose de Rescht' with 'The Prince', and 'Eugène de Beauharnais', among others.) If that can be thought of as an improvement on the OGRs than that it shall be. In many ways, I consider Heritage Roses to be perfection in their classes. Some of the Damasks, Gallicas, Albas, and Noisettes are simply perfection, I think. Who could hope to improve on a rose like 'Charles de Mills', or 'Félicité Parmentier', or even 'Reine des Violettes'? I guess I don't see the ideas I have as necessarily being improvement on the OGRs, rather, I think more that we live now in a privileged environment, with an enormous rose gene pool at our disposal. We have the opportunity to work with roses that could not have been matched up until now. I mean, take 'Bonica', for example... here is a rose that is nearly indestructible, and seems to grow well no matter what the conditions. Using 'Bonica' for breeding could mean the introduction of improved disease resistance, vigour, and tolerance of environment. I have spoken with Ralph Moore about this rose and other modern shrubs, and he feels that there are worthy crosses to attempt with them. So, I am using 'Bonica' and mating it with some of the Austins, as well as some Gallicas, and Hybrid Perpetuals. Who knows what will come of this... these are just ideas yet. Time will tell.
What are your hopes for your roses and your garden over the next few years? I have to say that as my work in rose breeding expands, my ability to keep a formal garden decreases in direct proportion! I need the space I have to place out my rose seedlings for evaluation, and so my garden is starting to look more like a catalog/laboratory than a respectable garden! I must give in to this movement and abandon to some extent the wish to have a "planned" garden! Oh well.
'Joyce Barden' is available from the Uncommon Rose. Will they be offering other roses from your breeding program? My friend, Kevin, who has recently opened an online rose nursery (www.uncommonrose.com) will certainly be offering other roses from my own hybridizing program in the future, but there is no particular agenda for new introductions. The current test roses are too new and need further evaluation before I can consider their introduction into commerce. I have 2 new Gallicas, both featured on my website, which are being evaluated for potential introduction... perhaps next summer. Expect both once-blooming and repeat-blooming purple and apricot-colored roses, singles and quartered doubles, as well as new climbers in the Noisette/Tea style... soft colors, and fragrance. I have a large Gallica hybrid that has 4-inch warm pink double blooms that has spontaneously inherited the famous myrrh scent! (Neither parent has a fragrance at all like it!) If it gets big like a climber, I may introduce this one.
Do you have any special plans for roses in your garden? Yes... MORE plants! I have plans to add more roses for breeding material in the future, but right now I pretty much have all I need/can handle! I have to consider what I will do with 200 to 300 new seedlings each year!
What is your favorite rose? Oh Lord! What a question. There is no single answer to that question. Perhaps I can offer a "Desert Island Collection" sort of list of favorites (in no particular order): 'Gloire de Dijon', 'Souvenir de la Malmaison', 'Charles de Mills', 'Tuscany Superb', 'Reine des Violettes', 'Cardinal de Richelieu', 'Joyce Barden' (of course!), R. centifolia cristata, 'Vineyard Song' (one of Ralph Moore's new hybrids this year. Great shrub with an amazing fragrance!), 'Jayne Austin', 'Basye's Purple', 'Hansa', 'Eugène de Beauharnais', and... sorry... that list could go on and on...
Of all the people throughout history who have bred roses, who has made the strongest impression on you and why? Many breeders have made some degree of impression on me, but the person who has had the greatest impact on me is Ralph Moore. I had the privilege of spending some time with him in the past year, and learning from his experiences in breeding roses. That man is amazing! Over 90 years old, and he is still hard at work at his nursery! He is a true pioneer in rose breeding, both with shrubs of all sorts, and of course his pivotal work in miniatures. It is truly inspiring to hear him talk about what he has learned from his work over the past 60 years, and he has been most generous to me in sharing his wealth of knowledge, for which I am most grateful. He has done things that no other breeder before him has aspired to do. Such as bringing together the genes for miniaturism, striping, repeat blooming, and mossing all in one plant! (I am thinking about 'Secret Recipe', for one. There are others along these lines.)
One of my favorite roses is the earliest Mini Moss, 'Dresden Doll'. The little foot tall shrub is healthy, vigorous, and produces the most exquisitely formed pink blooms that also have intense, thick scented moss on the buds. Introduced in the mid-70's, I am not sure why this beautiful rose has remained somewhat obscure. It's a real beauty.
The newest introduction by Mr. Moore is a shrub rose of what appears to be R. multifloradescent, called 'Vineyard Song'. (I know he has used the Multiflora Rambler, 'Violette', in breeding, and I suspect that it may be involved in this rose's breeding. Either this one or another similar variety, I suspect.) It is a semi-cascading shrub of about 3 feet tall that bears large clusters of soft mauve and purple double blooms. The fragrance is unbelieveable! For the first 2 months, I kept my plant of it in the greenhouse, and when the air was still, this rose was all you could smell in there! It is a strong, almost apple-like scent, and it travels far from the plant. I am very impressed with this beautiful little shrub.
Many of Mr. Moore's roses impress me, and certainly the mini mosses are no exception. I mentioned 'Dresden Doll' already, but there are several that are quite beautiful. 'Double Treat' is a red-and-yellow-striped moss that is a good grower, and is another striped moss that is quite beautiful... deep burgundy red on white. I also grow 'Lemon Delight', and 'Scarlet Moss', which I am using in breeding this year. I am crossing it with a seedling I have given a temporary name of "Nightmoss #2", which is from a cross of 'Nuits de Young' and 'Tuscany Superb'. The color of it is a deep rich velvet purple [pictured here]. I know it will take a few years to accomplish, but I have made this cross with the hopes of getting a deep purple Moss rose in full shrub size, with reliable repeat blooming. Wish me luck... I may need it!
Ralph Moore is an inspiration to many of us, and because of his creative methods and experiments in rose genetics, he has been referred to as the "Luther Burbank of Roses", a title I think is very fitting. There is going to be a big event this year in Visalia to celebrate Mr. Moore's contributions to roses, and I am hoping to attend.
Other breeders whose work and efforts have impressed me are people like Vibert, Laffay, and Jacotot (if only for producing 'Gloire de Dijon' alone!), and others of the early 1800s. What an exciting time that must have been in rose breeding. I would have to say that David Austin has had an influence on me, if only for the fact that he has shown us that modern rosarians are ready for a change of menu after so many years of Hybrid Teas and Floribundas. He has also made it clear that with a bit of imagination anything is possible, and that wonderful things can be done by going back to the Old Garden Roses to exploit their genes.
Of all the roses in in the history of the world, what ones do you feel are unique, essential or significant? I guess there are a few roses that I feel are significant individuals in the development of rose breeding, and historically noteworthy for the same or other reasons. I don't think there are many instances where a unique rose is noteworthy historically and not also for its contribution to further breeding work... sterile individuals aside. I suppose roses like R. chinensis viridiflora is noteworthy as the only truly green rose, but it is quite sterile, and so it has not contributed to breeding.
The one that most comes to mind if R. centifolia cristata, or 'Crested Moss'. (It's not a Moss rose at all, but it is closely related to them.) I forget who said it, but one writer speculates that there must have been a whole race of Crested Roses, but somehow the others have met their extinction. Perhaps the others were regarded as inferior to the original, and therefore not saved. We know that 'Crested Moss' does produce some viable pollen, and can pass the cresting trait on to other roses, so it was certainly possible to breed more crested hybrids. I have attempted a few crosses this year using R. centifolia cristata as a pollen parent, but have yet to see if any of them have worked. I am working on the idea of producing a large flowered purple crested rose... imagine 'Tuscany Superb' with more petals, a button eye, and cresting on the sepals. That is what I am aiming for!
I regard the introduction of the "Four Stud Chinas" into breeding as being an event of significance. Here is where the development of roses changed course radically, and permanently. This was the beginning of truly remontant hybrids, and it is to these roses that we owe a great deal for their ability to breed perpetual blooming roses.
Along those lines, I suppose I should mention R. damascena bifera, or 'Autumn Damask', which is also credited with introducing repeat blooming genes into its subsequent hybrids. It has been speculated that 'Autumn Damask' is the rose that was referred to in Roman times as the "Twice Flowering Rose of Paestum". I personally doubt it. My guess is that with a great deal of manipulation, the Romans were able to force the rose they grew into producing 2 crops of bloom a year. I find it unlikely that R. damascena bifera would have been that rose. I suspect that it is a much more recent hybrid than that, more closely akin to the early Hybrid Perpetuals. It's all so much speculation, as there are so few records of the history of these plants, and the ones we have sometimes serve to muddle the truth, rather than clarify it.
I also think the early Portland Roses are of great importance, as a development of the Damask Perpetual type. There are some very fine roses in this group, and I am sorry that there have not been more survivors from this class. Many of them have the most attractive growth habit and that is a trait that I would like to see bred into modern roses. (This is something I aspire to myself!) I think of individuals like 'Comte de Chambord', 'Rose de Rescht', 'Marbree', and 'Rose du Roi', which is credited as being a parent to many other important roses that came after it. It is these roses that played a significant role in the breeding of the Hybrid Perpetuals.
In some ways, the development of the Hybrid Perpetuals as a class happened at just the wrong time. By that I mean that they were bred during the heyday of Victorian rose shows, where roses were exhibited in boxes, often just the blooms themselves arranged in a grid of a dozen or more blooms. This ignored the rest of the plant entirely. It seems that breeders felt that it was unnecessary to consider the growth habit of the roses they bred, as long as the bloom was of exhibition quality. Many of the Hybrid Perpetuals we still have are gangly, unruly garden specimens, and they require a great deal of "disciplining" to make them behave. I imagine if their development had occurred during a time when the plant was more important as a garden shrub, rather than simply as a machine to produce blooms for exhibition, then we might have had a better looking group of plants. Imagine this: the Hybrid Perpetuals we still have must have been the best of the lot to have been deemed worthy of keeping. So, I wonder what the rest of them must have been like??!! Of all the Hybrid Perpetuals, 2 cultivars stand out for me: 'Reine des Violettes' and 'Mrs. John Laing'. These are both lovely plants that are deserving of space in the modern garden.
It's hard to point out individual plants for their significance in history and breeding... so many have contributed something to the genus.
What rose in your garden do you think a beginner could grow with success? Hmmmmm. That's almost as difficult as picking just one favorite! I think that since most people have come to think that the only worthwhile roses are the perpetual blooming types, then I would have to choose something that at least repeated, if not bloomed constantly. I find that novices are often unaware that roses can have rich fragrances compared to most of the modern shrubs, so I would have to choose something with a great scent. Disease resistance would have to be considered, too, because nothing mars a new gardener's experience like having to do battle with debilitating diseases.
If I were to recommend an Old Garden Rose, I would either suggest 'Rose de Rescht' or 'Souvenir de la Malmaison', depending on the climate involved. 'de Rescht' is a great plant for the novice, because it blooms its head off all season, has great fragrance, and in most conditions it has excellent disease resistance. It never gets out of control, and is well-suited to a small garden. 'Souvenir de la Malmaison' is often equally rewarding, but is best for dry climates, and especially good for hot climates, like Texas and Southern California. If I thought the climate was appropriate, I might suggest 'Gloire de Dijon', a truly exceptional rose. (If I could have only one rose, this may very well be the one I would choose.)
I might suggest one of the Austin roses, but with a bit more reserve. It would depend on the climate as well. In the Pacific Northwest, many of the English Roses are disease magnets. Even in Southern Ontario, I have seen 'Heritage' engulfed in Rust! One or two of the Austin hybrids are truly exceptional: 'St. Swithun', 'Sharifa Asma', and 'Jayne Austin'. I don't have a recommendation for any of the crimson Austins... They seem to be troubled roses in one way or another. I used to love varieties like 'Othello' and 'The Prince', but they leave a great deal to be desired. They are either ungainly, or weak plants... with no middle ground it seems. 'Othello' is a monster out of control once it settles in, and 'The Prince' never seems to hit its stride for me. Some people have grown it well, but it is a very mediocre plant in my garden. I keep it anyways for in spite of a weak constitution, it does produce some beautiful blooms.
I have set aside my previous apricot-colored favorites, like 'Abraham Darby' and 'Evelyn', in favor of 'Jayne Austin', which so far seems to be a superior variety. Disease resistance is better than the other two, and the bloom is more refined... more like a Noisette in style. It also appears to be a sturdier plant, in form. I still grow 'Abraham Darby' and 'Evelyn', but they are losing favor with me for one reason or another.
Which is your most difficult or challenging rose and why do you keep it? Ha! That would have to be 'Banshee'! It is fickle, unreliable, inconsistent, invasivem and has a very unruly growth habit. Why do I keep it? I don't know anymore... maybe just for the mystery of its lost history, I suppose. That and the occasional nice bloom with its rich "old Rose" scent. I can't think of anything else I grow that could be thought of as challenging. I don't like roses that need to be pampered. They have to be somewhat independent. So I tend to stay away from anything that is going to need a lot of work. I guess that is why I avoid the Hybrid Teas, on the whole. I don't like their habits either, and I refuse to grow anything that needs petrochemical sprays to do well.