Breeding Around The World
Gardener's Chronicle and New Horticulturist, Vol. 165, No. 15. April
Ralph S. Moore, California, USA
the word “cultivar” is frequently abbreviated in this article
to simply “cv”, or the plural form “cvs”.
rose breeding program, if it is to really get any where, must have a
plan. The aims or goals to be attained must be clearly thought out,
and I am convinced that, in the final analysis, rose breeding is primarily
a mental process.
By this I mean that the shortest, and usually surest, way to overcome
any problems is to plan around them before the actual hybridization
process takes place. One should know by observing the cultivars, species
or seedlings to be used, what will or will not make a likely cross.
For example, if the object is to produce a yellow rose better than those
currently available, one should first study all the likely cvs to see
how well each fits into the mental blueprint of the proposed "perfect"
yellow rose. And this should be further qualified by deciding whether
one is going to work for a Hybrid Tea, a Floribunda, Climber, Shrub
Bloom size, shape, fragrance, abundance, plus such other desired qualities
as vigor, plant shape, disease resistance, ease of propagation, cold
and/or heat resistance, must also have their place in our mental blueprint.
Some of this knowledge can be had by study of books, and by observing
them growing, or at shows.
a good part of the breeder's knowledge must come from observations in
his own garden, nursery or greenhouse over several growing seasons.
The breeder must grow many seedlings, observing the best of them all
the way to maturity. Even then it often happens that a cultivar's true
potential as a breeding parent may not be immediately apparent.
Possibly a different combination would have given better results. It
may be that a larger population of seedlings would have given a more
complete picture of a given cultivar's potential. And in spite of the
popularity or awards given to a cv, it just may not be a good parent.
There are very few roses which have proven to be "great" parents.
Selection of breeding material is determined, at least in part, by:
(1) Availability; (2) desirability; (3) probability (possibility of
producing something good); (4) proven ability and (5) exploration (testing
to see what a species, cv or untried seedling may produce in certain
Limitations of Breeding
All too often the path to a new cv of merit is not an easy one nor is
it quickly attained. Many factors enter the picture; some may only be
of academic interest while others are very real indeed.
First, one must consider the genetic potential. Do the proposed parents
possess the qualities desired in the finished product? Must we deal
with too many undesirable factors in order to get some of the desired
ones? Might we not do better if other parents were considered?
Many otherwise desirable roses are sterile, or so nearly so, so that
their use is impractical. Some are male fertile, producing good pollen
which can be used to make a cross but being female sterile, or nearly
so, the reciprocal crossing is impossible or impractical. This very
definitely presents problems when one is working with certain specified
goals in mind.
For example, many of the moss roses are sterile (at least when used
as female parents), or if seeds are produced, germination may be very
low or nil.
The same problem exists in working with miniature roses. Very few miniatures
will set hips, and then there may be but one to three seeds per hip.
Add to this the probability of poor seed germination and it can be readily
realized how this fertility/sterility factor is a very real limitation
of the breeding potential.
Often there are practical ways around such difficulties but they may
be more time-consuming. Here the intimate knowledge of one's breeding
materials can do much to contribute to the success of crosses the breeder
might be considering.
As the breeder goes about the work of breeding roses for specific purposes,
colors and conditions he is also aware of other factors. The color spectrum
range of a cv to be used must have consideration if one is seeking new
roses of specific colors and hues. Some cvs are limited in color range
which we can expect in the offspring. This can be learned by actual
experience in using certain cvs and at least some idea of what to expect
of a cross can be gathered by carefully studying the ancestry of a known
We know that certain combinations will more likely give us vivid reds
or yellows, as the case may be. Also, certain parents are likely to
give us plants with good to better than average foliage while others
are almost sure to produce weak, poorly foliaged plants.
Then we must deal with what is termed "incompatibility". This
has been attributed at times to differences in chromosome number, but
I find that this may not always be true. Even using closely related
cvs having the same chromosome number such as the hybrid teas (normally
28 chromosomes) other factors also appear to have their influence.
But we do meet this incompatibility between certain cvs and species,
and it can present real problems. The old-fashioned moss roses generally
have 28 chromosomes, yet crosses between the moss and other types of
roses have not been easy and too often the resulting offspring are sterile
(at least female). Again, pollen of one sort may be fertile and take
well on certain other sorts yet give no hips at all when used on another
otherwise fertile parent.
Other limitations on making desired crosses may involve climatic factors
of heat and cold. A very good rose in one climate may be a dud in another.
Years ago, the late Dr J. H. Nicolas said that "Every rose is a
good rose somewhere. But that somewhere may be limited to a very few
miles of its origin".
Very good roses have been bred which will do reasonably well in colder
climates (with proper protection) but I feel that breeding of really
good cvs for hot dry areas (desert and semi-desert) and other temperate
regions has been neglected. A modern counterpart of the old tea roses
might be bred for regions where extreme winter hardiness is not necessary.
Other limiting factors are:
Mechanical: A flower which may be very fertile fails
to produce seed because the style is too long for the pollen tube (down
which the nucleus of the pollen must travel) and thus fertilization
cannot take place. While I was in England last summer I was shown a
very ingenious solution to the problem when I visited Gregory &
Sons' nursery at Nottingham.
Time/space factor: This must always be taken into consideration
for it not only includes the time of growing and otherwise preparing
seed parent plants but it covers the span of time necessary to grow,
test and evaluate seedlings. It is further complicated by the constantly
enlarging area needed to grow several succeeding generations of seedlings,
because the testing may include plants from three or more seed crops.
Time also enters in when long range crosses are made. In order to reach
certain goals it may be necessary to have several lines of breeding
going at the same time, the object being to eventually bring some of
the best of the seedlings together in crosses combining certain traits
from several parents.
This has been the method I have employed in producing many of my miniature
roses so that actually as many as 20 years (or more) can go into producing
a new cv. The same long range planning and effort has been used to produce
a new race of everblooming bush type moss roses which, I hope, will
soon be on the market.
Cost: Both. in money and effort, costs are also ever
present factors in a breeder's life. Too often the gardening public
has only a vague idea of the cost in time, thought and money necessary
to produce a given new rose cv. They do not see the thousands of discards
nor do they realize the disappointment and the cost of many a good rose
which "almost made it", yet in the final countdown had to
Public acceptance: The public has the final vote as
to whether a given rose will be a winner, an "also ran" or
a dud. The new rose may be better in many ways than others more popular,
yet it may lack bright color, or that certain form or style acceptable
at the time. Or the name or the timing may be wrong.
While most breeders think in terms of field selection of new rose seedlings
my own mode of operation is somewhat different. Seedlings are not planted
into the field. Instead, the seeds are planted broadcast or in rows
in seed boxes in an unheated glasshouse. Sowing is usually about the
first week in January and the first seedlings begin to appear a few
weeks later. These seedlings will be in flower about the same time that
established bushes grown outdoors come into spring bloom. Seedlings
are watched and checked daily so selection may be said to begin in the
Each day as interesting seedlings attract my attention a small stake
(about 4in. long) is placed alongside each plant to be further observed.
Most of my rose breeding has been confined to miniatures (and to a lesser
extent moss roses). Plants are marked for further study on the basis
of plant form, foliage and co lour. I am always on the alert for plants
which might be used for the next stop in my long-range breeding program.
This has paid off as many of my most valuable breeders are seedlings
selected for specific characteristics.
After seedlings have flowered, only those marked with the small stake
are potted on. This may be only 10 to 15 per cent of the total seedlings.
These are closely watched through successive blooming periods. Then,
taking into consideration the various factors of plant, foliage, compactness,
flower color, shape, doubleness, lasting quality, and fragrance, only
a few are finally transferred to large pots or into discarded one gallon
All this is usually done during the seedling's first season. Cuttings
are taken from the most promising selections early enough so that young
plants can be grown through the winter in the heated glass (or plastic)
house. This allows us to have a number of well-started plants which
can be observed all through the second season. Additional cuttings (sometimes
buds or grafts) are taken of the best and stock plants grown for testing
and commercial propagation. We now have, or will soon have, representatives
in the major rose growing countries to whom plants or propagation materials
Each breeder has certain aims or goals which he would like to reach.
In my own case miniature roses have long been my first love. t had long
dreamed of miniatures with the bud form and array of colors to match
the hybrid teas. I have been fortunate in that much of this has come
to pass. Probably one half of all miniature rose cvs now grown throughout
the world have originated in my nursery.
But the end is not in sight. While beautiful bud form has been attained
and miniatures may now be had in colors ranging from pure white through
many shades of pink, rose, yellow, bi-colors and blends—and recently
lavender, there is much more to be done. In February of 1969 we introduced
the first mossed miniature. While a number of my better cvs are grown
in England already it is hoped that, in the not too distant future,
many more of them will become available.
Other aims of my breeding program are improved sorts of miniatures which
will supersede most of the earlier kinds. We need some better pink cvs.
Among the better miniatures in the pink shades are 'Eleanor', 'June
Time" and the very new 'Judy Fischer'.
Many of the older miniature pink roses lack fine bud and flower form
and keeping quality; some are not so hardy as desired or are more prone
to disease. So there is plenty of room for improvement among the pink
cvs alone. We also could use cvs in all colors which would lend themselves
to growing in pots as a florist item.
Next to miniatures, my interest in moss roses has grown and breeding
efforts have been stepped up, the goal being to produce a new race of
everblooming, bush type moss roses which can be grown in any garden
exactly as present hybrid teas, Floribundas, Grandifloras and Miniatures
are. Planting, spacing and care will be the same.
We have come a long way in the past 20 years, the past 5 being especially
significant. We now actually have under test several potential cvs,
the mossiest being in the Floribunda-moss class. Several of these have
been sent out for trial. None is yet available to the gardening public
but we do hope that interest in these novelties will justify the many
years of effort.
Growing techniques in our nursery are adapted to our special needs and
to our climate. All of our miniatures (except miniature standards) are
on their own roots, being propagated from cuttings. We believe the cutting
method is best for several reasons. Cuttings can be taken and rooted
all year in our climate. Outdoor winter temperatures may get down to
22° F but usually not lower than 26° or 27° F, and this
for only a short time.
We do get sufficient winter cold to induce dormancy of roses, peach,
plum and other deciduous plants. Some cuttings are rooted outdoors all
winter in open raised beds and nursery boxes (wooden trays) filled with
a sand mixture (DC Mix). These plants are grown on to saleable size
in the medium in which rooting takes place.
Such plants are handled bare root and are produced in large quantities
for special markets. During the winter months it may take three months
to root cuttings outdoors.
However, most of our propagation is done during the warmer parts of
the year using soft wood cuttings under mist units. This past season
we rooted about 150,000 plants in over 60 cvs directly in pots. Part
were in 2 inch. square plastic pots and part in Sin. ones.
Pots were placed directly on tables or raised beds outdoors and filled
with our regular potting soil (1 part peat; 1 part sterilized loam;
1 part perlite). Soil was smoothed off by hand, moistened, and one cutting
stuck in each pot. Mist was used during the day and turned off at night.
We used three types of mist heads. Two were of the simple baffle type
using low water pressure. These were placed about 40in. apart over each
3ft wide bed. The third type was a small revolving sprinkler designed
to be used in orange groves. These also operated on low pressure and
were turned on and off as needed. Spacing was at 10ft intervals over
each 5 or 6ft wide bed. Results appeared as good with these as with
the regular misting heads and the cost was much less.
We are thoroughly sold on this "root-in-the-pot" method as
it not only eliminates the potting labor but we found that our percentage
of success was higher than with the conventional way. For example, we
had been losing as high as 75 per cent of one particular cv during the
rooting/transplanting/growing operations. Using our new method on this
cv we grew better plants in less time and had as high as 95 per cent
success. Most cvs gave us very close to 99 per cent.
Close attention to all phases, from the selection and making of the
cutting through the misting/rooting and growing on routine, is important.
As soon as cuttings were rooted they were weaned from the misting and
a light application of fertilizer was applied to stimulate growth. From
here on regular normal care was given.
For our miniature standard roses we have changed our method this season,
adapting the grafting technique which I had observed in England. We
first root our standard stem (a long cutting with all the lower buds
removed leaving a clear stem or trunk about 12 to 14in. long plus two
growth buds on top) in Sin. square plastic pots as described above for
bush miniatures. Then we place these potted roses in wooden trays and
move into a plastic greenhouse where they are grafted. The graft is
tied in with budding rubber and the stub is waxed.
These boxes of grafted plants are then place under a plastic tent inside
the house for about three weeks. Grafts should be sprouting out now
and plants are removed from tent, shifted into Sin. square plastic pots
and placed on greenhouse benching for growing on. New growth is pinched
as needed to produce a bushy top.
How do we go about determining which of the numerous promising seedlings
are finally selected and made ready for introduction? I have no hard
and fast rules, that is, on a points basis. But there are certain criteria
or standards which help to decide which new rose will or will not be
Among these are (1) growth habit; (2) hardiness to conditions of heat
and/or cold; (3) shape of the plant, including spread, habit and overall
size; (4) health of plant and foliage; (5) ease of propagation, by rooting,
budding or grafting; (6) production of sufficient quantities of propagation
material; (7) flower quality, texture, lasting (on plant and cut); (8)
bud/flower shape, color, size, quality, placement of bud/flower or bloom
cluster on plant, length and strength of stem, and (9) overall effect.
I have dreams of breeding yet better sorts of miniature roses. Especially
needed are better pinks and yellows. Possibly new advances in lavender
will be forthcoming. I have some selections in lavender shades under
Then there is the possibility of green roses; not just a rosette of
foliage such as the green rose, Rosa chinensis 'Viridiflora', but real
roses in soft shades of green! I now have under observation a new miniature
rose selection which opens pure white then changes to soft even green
which lasts for days. It is a true rose flower in all respects.
So for I have not seen in the miniatures what I would class as brown
color but this also a possibility. However, any rose, miniature or large
flowered, in any of these unusual colors must possess good habits of
growth, plant, bud and flower form, if it is to be acceptable.
Everblooming moss roses in a range of colors, with good bud and flower
form, growing on compact garden size bushes are now within reach. This
will add a new dimension to rose growing and rose interest. Among my
latest moss rose hybrids is a good looking yellow Floribunda with very
good moss on the buds.
An interesting extra dividend with some of these everblooming bush moss
rose hybrids is that the foliage does not show as much tendency to mildew
as the old mossed sorts.
Yet another possibility for rose exploration which has intrigued me
for many years is the breeding of repeat (everblooming) flowering rambler
type roses, with thin pliable canes, cluster flowering like the old
'Dorothy Perkins' but with tiny pointed hybrid tea shaped buds and miniature
hybrid tea-like flowers. I have made a start in this direction but the
project needs more time than I have had to devote to it.
For those readers who might wish more information on both my work with
miniature roses and with the modern roses I suggest (a) my book All
About Miniature Roses (1966) available from the author (in England contact
David Austin Roses); (b) an article "A
Study of Moss and Miniature Roses", published in the
Creation Research Society Quarterly (January, 1967) and reprinted in
the 1968 Annual of The American Rose Society.
Finally, readers may like to know about a bed in the National Rose Society's
Trial Grounds at St. Albans. Six cvs of miniatures are entered in the
trials and will be in their second year during 1969; they are: 'Lavender
Lace', 'Gold Coin', 'Judy Fischer', 'Mary Adair', 'Little Mike', and
Toy Clown'. These will no doubt soon be available commercially in Britain.
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