ROSES--BREEDING AND TOUGHNESS
by Jerry Parsons, Ph.D.
Horticulture Specialist, Texas Agricultural Extension Service
in San Antonio
The thousands of different roses available today
all trace their heritage back to the twelve dozen or so species
roses, the ones that grow in the wild. The process of obtaining
new roses is called hybridization. In this process, the pollen
from one plant fertilizes the ovary of another. The plants
from the resulting seeds will all be different.
Bees and other pollinating insects can cause
this process to happen "naturally." Man can also
create hybrids and has perfected it to a fine art in the last
100 + years, continually improving both flowers and plants.
The overall procedure is lengthy - - from crossing to introduction
to the public takes 7 to 10 years of painstaking work.
Before the cross is made, the hybridizer selects
the parent plants, taking into account color, form, hardiness,
disease resistance, foliage, and so forth. Next, the outer
petals of the selected parents are removed, exposing the reproductive
organs. All roses have both male and female parts. In the
center of the flower are the female organs - - pistils and
bear pollen-producing anthers.
To prevent self-pollination, the anthers are
removed on the "mother" plants. The anthers on the
"father" plant are harvested, labeled, and stored.
About a day later, a sticky substance forms on the stigmas.
The anthers release the dust-size pollen at about the same
time, at which point it is brushed on the stigmas.
The rose is now labeled with information such
as date and parentage. A bag is placed over the pollinated
flower, protecting it from any further pollination. If fertilization
occurred, the area beneath the reproductive organs begins
to swell. This is the hip, or fruit, of the rose. It ripens
in several months, is harvested, and the seeds removed.
The seeds are then cleaned and stratified,
a process in which the seeds are placed in small containers
of peat moss and stored at 40 degrees F. for 6 weeks, before
being planted. Growing in a greenhouse, the first flowers
may appear within 7 to 8 weeks after germination, giving an
indication of this new plant's potential.
A hybridizer may look at as many as 100,000 seedlings each
year, with 99 percent discarded at some point during the first
growing season. What makes this part of the job even harder
than it sounds is that sometimes a promising-looking seedling
will not do well when budded onto rootstock and grown outdoors.
Conversely, an average-appearing plant may exhibit something
special when bud-grafted and grown on.
The seedlings that pass muster are now ready
for field testing and evaluation. More than just one plant
is needed for this, so the original seedling is propagated.
In order to have additional plants exactly like the parent,
new ones are started by taking a cutting of a piece of stem
that is the bud, or eye, found at the point where the leaf
joins the stem. This is grafted onto a rootstock - - a rooted
cutting of another rose.
Grafting is necessary because many of today's
complex hybrids root poorly or erratically on their own. Most
garden roses are grown on a variety of Multiflora rose. Buds
are taken from dormant plants in late fall and grafted the
following spring or summer.
It is as budded, field-grown plants that these
new roses really begin to "show off." More are discarded
and a few are budded in larger quantities for further testing.
Only about 100 make it to the second budding.
For at least another 2 to 4 years this process
continues until only a handful remain. Some of the most promising
are entered in the All-America Rose Selections judging. Four
plants of each variety are sent to the 23 AARS test gardens
around the country for 2 more years of observation. Once a
company is ready to introduce a variety, large quantities
of plants are budded and grown to marketable age--a period
of another one or 2 years.
Long and arduous, the process of hybridization
is now complete. The new variety - - superior in any number
of ways, be it color, fragrance, foliage, hardiness, disease
resistance, or whatever - - is now ready to bloom and grow
beautifully in yards all over the country. Who knows? It may
be the best seller, the one topping "PEACE", with
over 20 million plants sold since 1945, and found in nearly
every home rose garden.
One rose characteristic that most people expect
is fragrance. Watch someone walk by roses in full bloom. First,
there'll be an exclamation over color or beauty, but, inevitably,
the head will bend in expectation of that special scent we've
come to expect.
Many years ago, Alice Morse Earle wrote, "The
fragrance of the sweetest rose is beyond any other flower
scent, it is irresistible, enthralling; you cannot leave it.
I have never doubted the rose has some compelling quality
not shared by other flowers. I do not know whether it comes
from some inherent witchery of the plant, but it certainly
Elusive and mysterious, the fragrance of roses
and the romance surrounding it is legendary. For instance,
Cleopatra supposedly entertained Marc Anthony in a room filled
with 18 inches of rose petals, and the sails of her ship were
soaked with rose water so that "the very winds were lovesick."
In the 1300's, Queen Elizabeth of Hungary, whose beauty ritual
included quantities of rose water, was, at the age of 72,
able to successfully woo the King of Poland. At a 17th century
Persian royal wedding, rose petals were floated on garden
canals filled with rose water. Such lavishness attests to
both the literal and figurative power of rose fragrance.
Some of the mystery and illusion of rose fragrance
may, in part, be due to the fact that there are actually more
than 2 dozen different varieties of rose scent, with some
roses having a mixture of these various perfumes.
The seven basic scents that are most often
found in hybrid tea roses include rose, nasturtium, orris,
violet, apple, lemon, and clover. Some of the other scents
are fern or moss, hyacinth, orange, bay anise, lily-of-the-valley,
linseed oil, hone, wine, marigold, quince, geranium, peppers,
parsley, and raspberry.
In general, the most highly scented roses are
ones that are either darker in color, have more petals to
the flower, or have thick, velvety petals. Another correlation
is that the red and pink roses are most likely to smell like
a "rose," while white and yellow ones lean to orris,
nasturtium, violet, or lemon. Orange-shaded roses will usually
have scents of fruit, orris, nasturtium, violet, or clover.
Rose fragrance will be strongest on warm, sunny
days when the soil is moist because that is when the production
of the scent ingredients increases. Often, a rose that was
fragrant in the morning is no longer so by late afternoon.
"MISTER LINCOLN" is one of the best roses for potpourri
because it also keeps its strong scent after drying. Another
interesting aspect to fragrance is that it is affected by
disease. Mildew, especially, will cause a loss of scent.
No discussion of roses and fragrance is immune
to the argument that the "new" roses just don't
have the strong, sweet smell of the "old" roses.
Nostalgia withstanding, "it ain't necessarily so."
Dr. W. E. Lammerts, a rose scientist, did an in-depth analysis
in 1951 and found that quite a few of the older rose varieties
were either only moderately scented or had no scent at all.
In 1956, Dr. James A. Gamble reported in the American Rose
Annual that on examination of 3,900 rose varieties, both old
and new, 25 percent were scentless, 20 percent strongly scented,
and the rest had some scent.
THE DURABLE BEAUTIES
There are roses that do not need spraying to
survive. Infection of these rose varieties with black spot
fungus and powdery mildew (white powder-like substance) on
their leaves WILL OCCUR when conditions are favorable for
disease. Although the leaves are infected and damaged because
of a lack of judicious spraying, some rose varieties WILL
survive and WILL produce an abundance of quality flowers.
The list of recommended roses is not drawn
from the old-fashioned or antique roses. We have been misled
into believing that because antique roses are old they are
disease resistant. Many of the antique roses can survive without
pesticide sprays. However, the quality of bloom, especially
for cut flowers, produced cannot equal and are not acceptable
to most rose growers. If someone is going to grow roses, they
want the flower produced to resemble that which most people
consider to be a rose.
The following list of most survivable large-flowered
or cut-flower roses is derived after carefully examining recommendations
from several sources which actually field tested varieties.
The most definitive evaluation was from the Burden Research
Plantation Rose Garden in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. More than
350 of the hybrid tea rose varieties were not sprayed for
insects or disease for several years. In August, 1991, Greg
Grant (at the time Research and Development Horticulturist
for Lone Star Growers in San Antonio) rated what had survived.
The following were the best of the survivors. A high correlation
of survivability of varieties exists between the Louisiana
test and other similar tests from Texas and across the U.S.
The SURVIVABLE-WITH-LITTLE-PESTICIDES roses
America -- CLIMBING rose
Bud ovoid (egg shaped) and pointed; Flower
SALMON COLOR; reverse lighter, double flower (43 pedals),
imbricated, medium (3-4 inch); Very Fragrant.
BELINDA'S DREAM ROSE
Bud pointed. Flower ROSE PINK COLOR, double; Very Fragrant;
Foliage dark and bluish green; Growth vigorous, upright and
DON JUAN -- CLIMBING or PILLARING(self supporting) rose
Bud ovoid (egg shaped); Flower VELVETY DARK
RED COLOR, double (35 petals), cupped, large (5 inch); Very
Fragrant; Foliage dark, glossy, leathery; 8 feet tall.
Bud long, pointed to urn-shaped; Flower CREAMY
WHITE BECOMING STRAWBERRY-RED, double bloom (40 petals), high
centered, large (5 inch); Fragrant (spicy); Growth upright,
spreading, bushy. All American Rose Society Award, 1977; Rose
Fragrance Medal, 1986.
Bud ovoid; Flower CORAL-RED BECOMING GERANIUM-RED
COLOR, double (28 petals), well-formed, large (5 inch); Very
Fragrant; Foliage dark, glossy; Growth vigorous and upright;
Fragrance Medal 1969.
Bud urn-shaped; Flower DARK-RED COLOR, double
flower (35 pedals), high-centered to cupped, large bloom (5
inch); Very Fragrant; Foliage leathery, dark; Growth vigorous.
All American Rose Society Award 1965.
Bud pointed; Flower MEDIUM PINK COLOR, double
flower (38 petals), high-centered to cupped, large (4 inch)
blooms borne singly and in clusters; Fragrant; Foliage dark,
glossy, leathery; Growth very vigorous, upright and bushy.
All American Rose Society Award, 1955.
Mrs. Dudley Cross
''Mrs. Dudley Cross'' is a compact, shapely
bush that is the most commonly found rose in San Antonio (dubbed
"the San Antonio Rose" in the great rose hunt of
the '80's!) fragrant, double, delicately shaped yellow flowers
that blush a little pink in the sun. The stems are nearly
always thornless and the foliage is healthy and handsome --
especially during the "winter" months in South Central
Some of the most commonly available roses include:
AIN'T SHE SWEET
HABITAT FOR HUMANITY
JOHN F. KENNEDY
LOVE AND PEACE
PRINCESSE DE MONACO
TOURNAMENT OF ROSES
BRILLIANT PINK ICEBERG
OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE
SINGIN' IN THE RAIN
FOURTH OF JULY
GROUND COVER, HEDGE, SHRUB
OUTTA THE BLUE
L. D. BRAITHWAITE
The following is a list of Antique Roses generally in stock.
This selection will change, however, depending on the time
of year and product availability.
ARCHDUKE CHARLES http://www.roseinfo.com/archduke.html
Full, very shapely flowers open with crimson
outer petals and neat pink centers, then darkens to crimson
red. Forms erect bush.
Large, flat and double blossoms of rich soft
pink very fragrant blooms. 4 feet - 5 feet.
Everblooming double, lilac pink flowers on a sturdy compact
CECILE BRUNNER --- Climbing
Perfectly shaped little pink blooms. Can climb
to 15 to 20 feet.
Huge dark red clusters of up to 50 flowers cover a chunky
KATY ROAD PINK
Free blooming larger-petaled vivid pink flowers. Seems to
have few insect or disease problems.
Vivid reddish pink single flowers on an erect
bush with dark green foliage.
Large rich carmine rose on a vigorous, bush that makes a nice
Pale pink buds unfold to a creamy white. Good landscape bush.
Blooms profusely, with clusters of single red flowers displaying
prominent white eyes.
Bright scarlet flowers open flat to decorate
a bushy shrub. Excellent low hedge or border plant.
Mixture of pale rose, salmon and pink flowers on a large,
MUTABILIS "THE BUTTERFLY ROSE"
Single petals open sulfur yellow, changing through orange
to a rich pink and finally crimson. Easily grows to 6 feet.
Lilac pink flowers in loose clusters, blooms
profusely on a large upright bush to 5 feet tall.
OLD BLUSH ---- CLIMBING
The climbing sport of Old Blush, 12 to 20 ft.
SOMBREUIL --- CLIMBING
Creamy white blooms are very large and flat,
very fragrant on a vigorous climbing bush
Little, very double bright pink flowers, blooms on a compact
shrub with bright shiny leaves. One of the best summer bloomers,
THE FAIRY ---- CLIMBING
The climbing sport of The Fairy. 8 - 12 ft.