J.B. Williams (December 8,1913 La Plata, Mo. - November 1, 2006, Silver Spring, Md.)
J. Benjamin Williams has passed away. You can read a tribute to him here.
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[From Miniature Roses: Their Care and Cultivation, by Sean McCann, p. 12:] J. Benjamin Williams of Maryland copyrighted the name 'Mini-flora' to describe larger-than-mini roses.
There’s a fascinating article, written by Kerry Hart, about the hybridizer, Ben Williams (‘Rose Parade’, ‘Red Fountain’, among others) in the May/June 1997 issue of “The American Gardener,” the magazine of the American Horticultural Society.
It’s a good read, but a couple of things stand out. Hart describes how Williams never stops looking for the next novelty. He’s been working with stripes since his first hybridizations in the early ‘50s, he says, and he has two new variegated, trademarked shrub roses in the trade: ‘Spinning Wheel’, a shrub whose cherry red flowers have ivory on the outside of each petal, and ‘Windmill’, whose five widely spaced red petals recurve to show the white backside. The effect is exactly like the pinwheel toy that whirls when a child blows on it.
Hart describes, in some detail, what goes on behind-the-scenes in hybridizing. (I wonder if people who complain about rose patents would have a different opinion if they knew something about how much time, effort, and expense is involved in creating a marketable rose?). Anyway, in the article, Williams says it takes six to 10 years to develop a new rose. (Industry insiders say at least eight years, at a cost of $15,000 or more.) Before Williams considered himself experienced as a hybridizer, he estimates that he made thousands of crosses, retrieved and planted 200,000 seeds, and grew to maturity 4,000 seedlings that resulted in a few hundred plants each year.
There’s a lot of good stuff in this article and it's well worth the effort it takes to find, but I’ll add just one more item. The article concludes with a quote from Williams himself:
“When you create a new rose you’re making a dream come true, and witnessing something no other person has ever seen. Just to see the glistening beauty of a well-formed bud of your own plant, or smell the haunting fragrance of a stately open bloom, gives pleasure enough to keep one’s heart young and pride enough to pop the buttons on any vest.
"Rose breeding is also the people, the warmth, the friendship, the opportunity to associate with the best hybridizers in the world. It’s the medium for the exchange of ideas in an area of pleasure which is not overcrowded, and where the opportunity for research and new discovery is always at hand.”