The Rose Annual, 1955, pp. 99-102
My Masterpiece
DOMENICO AICARDI
San Remo, Italy

I was born in and have lived ever since in San Remo, the centre of a district of the Italian Riviera, where since the year 1880 there has existed a great trade for the production of cut flowers. Owing to its mild climate any kind of plant that can bloom outside during winter months is widely cultivated here, especially roses.

I was quite a boy when I first attempted crossing carnations, but I always had a predilection for roses. In 1896 I made a sowing of nearly 2,000 self-fertilized seeds which I took from varieties at hand, like Marie van Houtte, Niphetos, Safrano, Papier Gontier, etc., and sowed them in the same way as I did my carnation seeds. Many seeds germinated but, with the same facility that they germinated, they died—killed by mildew or root-rot; as I found nothing of interest in the few that remained after the second and third year, I desisted. In the spring of 1913, I returned to my experiment, but this time with hand fertilized seeds and I obtained a few seedlings worth observing and growing on in pots. At the end of the month of May 1915, 1 joined the army for the rest of the war. When it was over and I returned to my place, I found the pots but no trace of the plants. The war had greatly upset my situation in life and I could no longer waste time in experiments and I returned to growing carnations for cut flowers.

It was in the spring of 1928 that I took up hybridizing roses seriously, after my return from the Floralies Gantoises Exhibition, where I was struck by the great strides that the Dutch had made in growing roses for forcing, and having already acquired a good knowledge of the theory and practice of hybridizing, I at once procured the varieties that I intended to use as parents. My object was to obtain a good red rose especially suited for the production of cut flowers and suited to our district. A plant vigorous and healthy with quick remontance and upright growth, good foliage, long straight stems, single long pointed buds, flower of good shape, scarlet red colour without bluing, fragrant, plenty of substance and long-lasting!!! To produce such a rose was an ideal. I chose Dame Edith Helen as seed parent, having observed the behaviour of this wonderful variety for a couple of years and seen for myself its very high qualities and that it possessed many of the characters desired.

As pollinating variety I choose Sensation, because it was a strong plant, with long stems, and a fine long bud of a deep red and free-blooming; it had good large foliage though inclined to mildew. It was an E. G. Hill production and that to me was a guarantee of high quality. From the first few crossings I obtained nearly two hundred seedlings almost all with flowers of a good red, and many very much alike in their characters. After two years' observation I chose the one I named "Gloria di Roma"—Glory of Rome.

Subsequently my aims were turned to obtaining a yellow rose or any shade combining red and yellow. For a little while I was in doubt whether I should use Sour, de Claudius Pernet or Julien Potin as seed-parent. Claudius Pernet had many good qualities for the purpose, for the yellow is even throughout, but the centre is often confused and very seldom perfect, and the petals inclined to bleach. I finally chose Julien Potin, although its neck is sometimes curved. I ordered my plants from two different growers, and I found then that the behaviour of the Julien Potin which I obtained from one firm was different from that which came from the other firm. It was fortunate that I had duplicated my order and was able to start my work with the true variety and not with an inferior strain.

I was unable to obtain the yellow that I had in mind as the varieties which I used for pollinating proved useless, but my crossings with Sensation gave me a wonderful success. I repeated the same cross hundreds of times and raised more than six thousand seedlings, a great many of high value. Now after more than twenty years I regret not having more fully exploited this cross, so rich in good results of which I only just skimmed the surface. This crossing was responsible for the birth of Signora (Signora Piero Puricelli), of Saturnia and Sabina, all Gold Medal winners at the Rome Trial Gardens; many others obtained Certificates of Merit, and many of the most beautiful found their place and were grown in my "Terrazzo delle Meraviglie". During my life I raised hundreds of roses—all growing in the "Terrazzo delle Meraviglie"—gone, destroyed during the last war. There were happily growing there more than seven hundred varieties; they were not all stars, but anyhow they were all beauties. Now at the present time the Terrazzo has been rebuilt and I have already nearly an equal number.

From the reports that frequently reach me, most of the growers hold that Glory of Rome is "my masterpiece", while not a few are in favour of Signora. Personally I cannot agree with either, for I suppose that "my masterpiece" is yet to come. If I had to give my vote it would be for Signora. Glory of Rome is altogether a grand rose, but the foliage is rather prone to mildew, the deleterious influence of its father, and so Glory of Rome has lost its universal popularity, but Signora is almost perfect and is, moreover, improving year after; it grows well in all the gardens of the world, and will survive another century. I said that "my masterpiece" was yet to come. This ideal is, I think, in the soul of all rose hybridists, because we are never satisfied and because we look always far ahead. To make such an ambitious declaration one must have some objective in sight.

The rose hybridists living in the north tend to limit their researches to roses that will withstand their climate, and use as parents wild species resistant to frost; on the other hand, living in the Mediterranean climate I am inclined to use the more tender species such as R. bengalensis, R. chinensis, R. banksias, R. gigantea. I have particularly in mind to produce a new type of forcing rose, and this idea has pursued me ever since I saw a bud of the variety Belle Portugaise. I was convinced that the crossings and recrossings of R. gigantea X Ophelia and its offsprings could be a starting point to realize my dreams, especially after I had read in the American Rose Annual how Dr. Crocker, Director of the Boyce Thomas Institute, was sending nearly 60,000 seeds every year to the late George M. A. Schoener to be treated with his system that was securing such a high rate of germination.