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Welcome to the April 2004 edition of my web site! The roses I write about are the Old Garden Roses and select shrub and miniature roses of the 20th century. For tips on rose culture, pruning, propagation and history, see the "Site Resources Guide" box in the navigation panel at left. To return to this page, click on the "thorn icon" in the margin at left. Articles from the previous months are archived and can be viewed by clicking on the listings in the left margin. Oh, and please don't write to me for a catalog or pricelist.....this is an information site only, not a commercial nursery. If you wish to buy roses, see my sponsor, The Uncommon Rose.

A Legacy of Magic; The Story of ‘Magic Wand’
by Paul Barden

‘Magic Wand’ (1957): A Climbing Miniature. (Ralph S. Moore; introduced by Sequoia Nursery, 1957). Breeding: ‘Eblouissant’ (Polyantha) X “Zee” ('Carolyn Dean' X 'Tom Thumb', 1940). Small (1 inch) semi-double (20 petals), medium to light red blooms in clusters. Foliage small, dark green. Arching (shrub-like), very thorny climbing canes (to 4 feet); recurrent bloom.

At left: 'Magic Wand'

Along with its pollen parent “Zee”, this has been one of the most significant Moore roses in the Sequoia breeding program. When looking at ‘Magic Wand’, it is hard to imagine how a rose with an informal semi-double pink bloom could produce such elegantly shaped and colorful offspring! And yet when viewing the long list of its progeny, it is obvious that ‘Magic Wand’ is indeed a powerful breeding plant, capable of magic befitting its name. Some of the most famous miniatures of the past 35 years owe their beauty and excellence to 'Magic Wand', for example: 'Baby Darling', 'Beauty Secret', 'Toy Clown', 'Trinket', 'Jet Trail', 'Judy Fischer', 'Kathy', 'Little Chief', and 'Jeanie Williams', to mention only a few of the first generation offspring. Many of these roses can still compete with the best of the new for floriferousness and excellence as a garden performer. Several of these are Award of Excellence winners, and one ('Beauty Secret') has been inducted to the Miniature Rose Hall of Fame. 'Jet Trail' went on to breed another of the Miniature Rose Hall of Fame inductees ('Green Ice') and 'Little Chief' went on to be an important breeding rose in its own right. Attesting to their continued popularity, the majority of the 'Magic Wand' hybrids are still in commerce today.

'Magic Wand' is as described above; a plant of about 4 feet in height and almost as wide when mature. The canes are arching in habit and if left untrained, it will make a fountain-shaped bush about 4 X 4. It is possible to train it on a trellis to maybe 6 feet with some efforts. Personally, I find it to be a much more attractive bush when left to grow as a free-standing specimen.

The foliage is very small, not much bigger than that of roses like 'Cinderella' or 'Tom Thumb', and is almost matte in texture and bluish-green in color. The effect of the foliage is almost fern-like and very graceful. In fact, I wish more modern Miniatures had such petite, graceful foliage. The main canes proceed to branch and articulate in the coming years and can be pruned as large climbers are, by shortening the laterals every Spring. The more of the plant you leave intact, the better and more prolific the display of bloom. Occasionally it is beneficial to remove a few of the oldest canes to ground level and encourage new basal growth to renew the plant structure.

At right: 'Baby Darling'

Each new cane blooms with several large clusters at the tip, and subsequent bloom cycles involve the further branching of these canes further down. It is the subsequent bloom cycles that provide the majority of the blooms. Individual flowers are rarely more than 1 inch in diameter, and open from shapely deep reddish-pink buds to loosely shaped deep pink blooms of about 20 petals each. The overall effect is one of prettiness rather than sophistication when regarding individual blooms. You have to remember this is the first of the climbing Miniatures and was a first step in the evolution of a style that was not to see its fruition until decades later. In 1957, it was undoubtedly difficult to sell the idea of a “Climbing Miniature” at that time. It was likely seen as a “novelty” rose and didn't make a huge impact on the market; the world didn’t know what to do with this new style of rose. I think it is safe to say that most of its progeny have enjoyed much greater fame than it did. Still, it remains in commerce to this day, although only from a very few nurseries, and it has great value as a small garden shrub. Give it a chance and you will see its virtues as a semi-cascading style shrub that provides almost constant color for the garden.

Take a look at the list of 'Magic Wand's progeny and it becomes immediately apparent that many of the best hybrids came out of the cross ‘Little Darling’ X ‘Magic Wand’. In fact, nine of the hybrids listed below (see bottom of page) were derived from a cross of 'Little Darling' X 'Magic Wand'. This particular mating was repeated several times over a period of years, in order to fully explore the spectrum of possibilities that such a good cross could produce. There is great value in repeating a fruitful cross over multiple years as it affords the hybridizer an opportunity to see the full range of possibilities that the cross has to offer.

At left: 'Toy Clown'

In the mid-1960's, Ralph Moore made the following comments about 'Magic Wand' in his book “All About Miniature Roses”:
“More recently some crosses of 'Little Darling' (floribunda) X 'Magic Wand' have proven most exciting and fruitful. From these crosses have come miniatures in a bewildering array of colors. There are selfs in red, soft yellow, pink, rose and white. Blends and bicolors have appeared. Nearly all have the tapered hybrid tea shaped bud so popular today and many are fragrant.”

“In recent years we have discovered the breeding potential of 'Magic Wand' and so beginning with the 1964-65 season we started introduction of a whole new series of miniatures. Among them are 'Jet Trail’, 'Baby Darling’,' 'Trinket' and others, with still more to come.”

When I first acquired plants of ‘Magic Wand’, I wanted to make some crosses that, in effect, would recreate the Moore crosses and show me what scope of results may have been seen in the Moore breeding program. I chose as the seed parent an unnamed golden yellow seedling that I had been using a lot in previous years. It sets seed with most types of pollen, and the seed germinates readily. It tends to pick up a lot of the character of the pollen parent as well, making it a valuable resource. The results were quite amazing. With many crosses, you often get a lot of seedlings that are similar; the range of variety is limited. This cross using ‘Magic Wand’ was quite the opposite, with an incredible range of colors and bloom styles. There was everything from whites to deep reds, pinks, bicolors, picotees, yellows and yellow blends, and even a few pale greens! The range of colors was quite astonishing, and most of the plants were very tiny miniatures. Some bloomed when only an inch tall. There were a few climbing type miniatures in the group, and two out of 120 plants were full sized Floribunda type plants. Reviewing these results, its not hard to see why crosses with this rose were very exciting through the 60’s and 70’s at Sequoia Nursery.

At right: 'Beauty Secret'

Although Ralph Moore and a few other hybridizers have explored 'Magic Wand's properties extensively, it may prove of value in breeding new roses if used in unorthodox crosses. (Note: 'Magic Wand' rarely sets seed, even when self-pollinated, but is highly fertile as a pollen parent.) While it has proven its worth as a parent of Miniatures, it may have properties previously unrecognized when bred with species, shrubs or climbers. Note that the most recent 'Magic Wand' release from Sequoia Nursery is the shrub rose 'Mariposa Gem', which is the only full-sized rose to come out of the crosses made with 'Little Darling' as a parent. Could this be an indicator that there are new avenues of breeding to explore with this rose?

List of known offspring:
1964: ‘Fringette’ (21-61-2): "Unnamed Seedling" X 'Magic Wand'. Miniature, deep pink.
1964: ‘Baby Darling’: ‘Little Darling’ X ‘Magic Wand’. Miniature, apricot blend.
1964: ‘Hi Ho’: ‘Little Darling’ X ‘Magic Wand’. Climbing Miniature, orange-pink.
1964: ‘Jet Trail’: ‘Little Darling’ X ‘Magic Wand’. Miniature, white blend.
1965: ‘Trinket’ (5-59-60): “0-47-19” X ‘Magic Wand’. Miniature, medium pink.
1965: ‘Jeanie Williams’ (6-61-17): ‘Little Darling’ X ‘Magic Wand’. Miniature, red blend.
1965: ‘Beauty Secret’: ‘Little Darling’ X ‘Magic Wand’. Miniature, medium red.
1965: ‘Yellow Necklace’: ‘Golden Glow’ X ‘Magic Wand’. Miniature, medium yellow.
1966: ‘Pink Ribbon’: “0-47-19” X ‘Magic Wand’. Miniature, light pink.
1966: ‘Toy Clown’ (44-63-23): ‘Little Darling’ X ‘Magic Wand’. Miniature, red blend.
1967: ‘Gold Coin’ (21-61-15): ‘Golden Glow’ X ‘Magic Wand’. Miniature, deep yellow.
1968: ‘Judy Fischer’ (6-61-83): ‘Little Darling’ X ‘Magic Wand’. Miniature, medium pink.
1970: ‘Kathy’ (26-62-1): ‘Little Darling’ X ‘Magic Wand’. Miniature, medium red.
1970: ‘Fiesta Gold’: ‘Golden Glow’ X ‘Magic Wand’. Miniature, yellow blend.
1971: ‘Little Chief’: ‘Cotton Candy’ X ‘Magic Wand’. Miniature, deep pink.
1973: ‘Desert Charm’ (21-61-1): ‘Baccara’ X ‘Magic Wand’. Miniature, deep red.
1977: ‘Sundust’ (21-63-83): ‘Golden Glow’ X ‘Magic Wand’. Miniature, apricot blend.
1979: ‘Orange Cascade’ (10-75-85): “1-72-1” X ‘Magic Wand’. Climbing Miniature, orange blend.
1980: ‘Little Guy’: ‘Magic Wand’ X ‘Violette’, Miniature, medium red.
1983: ‘High Stepper’ (72-75-82): “1-72-1” X ‘Magic Wand’. Climbing Miniature, yellow blend.
1995: ‘Mariposa Gem’: ‘Little Darling’ X ‘Magic Wand’. Shrub, red blend.

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Original photographs and site content © Paul Barden 1996-2004