Saturday, July 24, 2010

How to Make a Brand New Rose

A new rose from 'Gemini' X 'Sunset Celebration'
So, “how do you make new roses?”, you may ask.  New roses are made by cross-pollination.  You hybridize one rose with another by taking pollen from the one rose and applying it to the stigma of the other rose.  The seeds develop in the rose hip that forms after the pollination is accomplished.  For those who are new to this hobby, the rose hip (the fruit of the rose) is the rounded swelling that forms where the bloom used to be, kind of like an apple or peach that forms where the blooms were.

Wherever you live, springtime is the best time to hybridize roses, and where I live, in Bakersfield, California, the best months are in April and May. Hybridizing must be done sufficiently early to allow time (3 1/2 to 4 months) for the developing rose seeds within the hip to mature before the weather turns cold.

In order to maximize success it is important to select reliable parents for your rose hybridizing project. If you have a particular rose or two that produces lots of hips, try them for use as the seed parents (the hip bearing parent). Among the larger flowered roses, good seed parents to try are: ‘Gemini’, ‘Stainless Steel’, ‘Singin’ in the Rain’, ‘Fabulous’, ‘Queen Elizabeth’, ‘Sheer Bliss’, ‘Lynn Anderson’ and ‘Livin’ Easy’.  For the minis, try  ‘Rise 'n' Shine’, ‘Fairhope’, ‘Halo Today’, ‘Black Jade’, or ‘Pearl Sanford’.   In my experience, all of these roses reliably produce hips with lots of seeds, and ultimately they all have high germination rates.

Most modern roses produce at least some pollen and can be used successfully as pollen parents. One strategy in selecting a pollen parent for a particular cross is to choose one that has some good qualities that may be lacking in the seed parent.

Before proceeding, a brief review of rose anatomy is in order. Roses are monoecious, meaning that both male (pollen) and female (seed) reproductive cells are present on flowers of the same plant. Pollen is produced in the anthers (yellow sacks at the tops of filaments surrounding the stigmas). The stigmas atop thread-like projections come out of the very center of the bloom. The stigmas produce a sticky substance to receive pollen, which after applied to the stigma, the pollen germinates and migrates down the threads to unite with the ovules to produce seeds. For more detailed information on rose anatomy please do a search on Google or any other internet search engine.

In order to prevent self-pollination of the selected seed parent, the anthers (pollen sacks) must be removed from the blooms before any of it’s own pollen is released. This is best accomplished at sunrise when blooms are in the 1/3 to 1/2 open stage (blooms that would normally open that day). First, all of the petals are removed. This procedure allows better access to the center of the flower. Next, with curved tweezers or small scissors, the anthers are removed. If the variety selected as a seed parent will also be used as a pollen parent with other roses, the anthers may be collected into a cup and placed uncovered in a dry place where they will release pollen by the next day.

Blooms that have been appropriately emasculated of their anthers are immediately ready to receive pollen from another variety. Pollen has the appearance of yellow or tan powder and may be applied with either a finger or paintbrush to the stigma of the seed parent. In order to remember what pollen parent was used for the pollination, a label (paper tags with a string attached, available at stationery stores work well) should be gently attached to the stem below the bloom, which has just been pollinated. Information written on the tag may include the cross and the date, but I just note the pollen parent (it’s easier that way).  Later, when the rose hips mature and are harvested, both parents should be written on the zip-lock bag used to store the hips in order to document the cross.  Proper notation for a cross always lists the seed parent first followed by the pollen parent. For example, in a cross where ‘Gemini’ is used as the seed parent and ‘Sunset Celebration’ is used as the pollen parent, the notation would be: ‘Gemini’ X ‘Sunset Celebration’ (or just GEM X SUN for short).

After hybridizing, it is not necessary to cover the pollinated blooms since bees and butterflies will usually ignore roses without any petals. For approximately the next 6-12 hours, care should be taken not to wash off the pollen from your crosses (by rain or overhead sprinkling). If the cross is successful, a rose hip will begin to form in 2-3 weeks. One should not expect more than about 30% of their crosses to be successful. To improve success, some rose hybridizers recommend that the rose bushes selected to be seed parents should not receive fertilizer or be watered excessively.  I used to think that too, but have found that most rose seed parents still do better with some fertilizer and normal watering.

Later on, assuming that some of your crosses are successful and you have plump rose hips forming, you can sit back and contemplate what characteristics your future rose seedlings may have, knowing that each will be one of a kind, and completely unique!

New 2010 rose seedlings growing in raised seedling benches.  Please note, roses can be grown in regular plastic pots and then later planted in the ground so that they can fully mature.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Acknowledgement of Others

Whatever special roses that I find along this path, I know that it will only have been through the guidance of others.  Although this is not a complete list, there have been several important guides for me on this journey that I would like to acknowledge in this first "Rose Hybridizing" blog post.

  • Betty Jacobs was the first rose hybridizer that I had the privilege to meet.  Living in the same town as Betty made it easy for me to meet her.  She enjoyed breeding miniature roses.  She gave me my first pointers about how to cross roses.  Following her advice allowed me increased success with my own cross pollinations.  She also encouraged me to meet her mentor in rose breeding, the world famous, Mr. Ralph Moore.

  • Sam Trivitt, a neighbor just around the corner, down our street, was the first "rose nut" that I met.  He was instrumental in introducing me to other rose hybridizers, most importantly to Joe Winchel and Tom Carruth.  Over the years, Sam has also been an invaluable friend to me by helping me to define my goals by being my sounding board.  He also led the group of rose friends from our local rose society that planted all of my rose seeds in 2003 when I wasn't able to due to a fractured leg.  It turns out that several seedling roses from that year have been important intermediate roses along the path, including my first repeat blooming Hulthemia rose.  There will be much more discussion about Hulthemias on this blog - stayed tuned!

  • Joe Winchel, breeder of many well known exhibition roses, was an innovator.  I visited him on several occasions and each time I learned something new from him about rose breeding.  He showed me how to extract rose seeds from the rose hips by using a blender and strainers.  He also proved to me that success was possible without keeping meticulous records (I still prefer keeping records!)  He showed me how to whip bud graft and how to propagate roses from cuttings under mist conditions.  What I liked most about him was his no nonsense, kind attitude and the way that he treated his wife Agnes.  Joe and Agnes loved roses together.

  • Tom Carruth of Weeks Roses taught me to look at roses critically.  From him I learned that roses were not just the flower on top.  I learned that roses had many heritable traits besides the flower that were also important - including plant structure, foliage appearance, health and floriferousness.  He also taught me the importance of not spraying seedling roses to protect them against diseases.  That has been one of the most important lessons that I have learned along this journey.  Tom also gave me my first "break" in roses by helping me to get one of my own seedling roses, 'Honey Dijon', onto the international market.

  • Chris Warner, a very successful rose breeder from England, has helped me tremendously to achieve many of my goals in breeding Hulthemia roses.  With his permission, I was able to use one of his hybrids, 'CHEWtiggle', a non-remontant Hulthemia to produce my first remontant (fully repeat blooming) Hulthemia rose.  That seedling, code named "G34", has been important in the lineage of the generations of Hulthemias that have followed.  Chris, together with his friend Peter James, also allowed me to use a remontant Hulthemia coming from Peter James' breeding, nicknamed "JAMore" to improve the repeat blooming line of Hulthemia roses.

  • Kim Rupert, a fellow amateur rose breeder, provided an important link for me in breeding Hulthemia roses by sending me cuttings of 'Tigris', 'Euphrates', and 'Nigel Hawthorne'.  Unfortunately, the 'Euphrates' cuttings did not "take", however, the uniquely fertile 'Tigris' cuttings did.  Through 'Tigris' I was able to develop another line of repeat blooming Hulthemia roses.

  • My most important acknowledgement is to Mr. Ralph Moore.  Over the years, since first meeting him on Betty Jacobs recommendation, I have spent many days with him in and among his roses, listening to him and learning from him.  He is probably the most visionary rose person that I have ever met.  Mr. Moore developed the first striped roses and the first miniature moss roses, among many other novel type roses.  Mr. Moore was the one who got me hooked on the Hulthemias by showing me his early hybrids.  He was also responsible for giving me the opportunity to produce a second line of remontant Hulthemias through his 'Persian Sunset'.  He had a way of imparting his vision to others.  There are new rose seedlings in my greenhouse even now that were a result of crosses that I made that were inspired through conversations with him.