The Canadian Rose Annual 1985 pp. 38-48
HYBRIDIZERS' PANEL

Moderator: Keith Laver
Panel: Jack Christensen, Sam McGredy, Ralph Moore, Harmon Saville, Dr. Felicitas Svejda, William Warriner, Ernest Williams

Moderator: Each panelist will give a brief summary of what they are doing and where they think they are going. Then we will entertain questions.

Jack Christensen: With the purchase of Armstrong Roses, by Moet Hennesy, the champagne company, Henri Delbard, President of Delbard Nurseries, was appointed Chairman of the Board. We have our own independent leadership in the company, consisting of four vice-presidents, who work under Henri Delbard in operating the day to day business of the company. My particular work is the development of new roses.

In our breeding program, our primary emphasis has been and is hybrid teas, although we are branching, in smaller ways, towards miniatures, shrubs, and other types of roses. We are very interested in novelty types, anything different or unusual. We are working with stripes and, as Sean McCann has said, we are in somewhat of a race with others here. Ralph Moore was the originator of stripes in roses. As others we are always trying to get better reds and better yellows, etc. We are trying to get hardiness into the hybrid teas, although it is difficult to test for hardiness in southern California and to know exactly what selections to make.

Sam McGredy: Jack said he is into stripes — and it's a very odd thing that just at the same time, I got into stripes too, not having talked to Jack about it at all. Like him, I owe my interest in stripes to the preliminary work of Ralph Moore, with his 'Stars and Stripes'. I'm pretty far down that line and I'm trying to get stripes into hybrid teas. Everybody tries to raise hybrid teas because they are the most popular side of the market. I get a lot of seed on one particular parent, 'Freude' by Kordes. In some areas it can be a climber, because it is so darn vigorous! But I like the vigour in it, and with our long hybridizing season in New Zealand, I can ripen the seed on it. I use it extensively to get large size into my hybrid teas.

Going back to Ralph's miniatures, I started off with one called 'New Penny'. I appreciated its floriferousness and it has been extremely kind to me. I have raised quite a few roses from it. Pretty far down the line, I raised a pink floribunda called 'Sea Spray'. That turned out to be a very nice parent, and gave me a rose called 'Sexy Rexy'. 'Sexy Rexy' to me is just about the ultimate in the floribunda strain. Gene Boerner really invented the floribunda by taking the old polyanthas and putting form into them; he put decent flowers on top of a free flowering plant. But over the years, I feel we have lost the floriferousness of floribundas. They have very nice form now, but they are not as free as they might be. By going back to Ralph's minis, and bringing that up through the breeding strain, I have floribundas like 'Sexy Rexy' with very large trusses of bloom and beautiful shape.

Of course, I'm probably better known for "hand painted" roses. People keep asking me what comes next. I wish I could answer that. Herb Swim once said that sometimes the guy that makes the break has to be content with that, and somebody else takes the ball and runs with it. And while I'm still trying hard with "hand painted roses", Pat Dickson and Pernille Poulsen seem to be getting on a little faster than me.

*Should be 'Ferdinand Pichard'

Ralph Moore: I guess I have been a dreamer for many years and you dream about what is possible; sometimes it takes a lot longer to make these dreams come true. Stripes came about, like many breaks do, by accident. I had a lady spreading pollen and she wanted to know if it was alright to use some from 'Ferdinand Bouchard'*, a striped hybrid perpetual. We put it on 'Little Darling' and got 27 seedlings. Nine showed some degree of striping. Two were bush and the others were climbers. One climber became the pollen parent of 'Stars and Stripes'.

Another seedling of 'Ferdinand Bouchard' was crossed onto 'Fairy Moss' and gave a little miniature striped moss, which generally showed two petals striped and the rest red. We used a lot of its pollen and the result is the line Jack and we, and some others are using.

We found that yellow was difficult to combine with the stripes. It seems as though the striping is a modification of red. The red has to be overlaid on the yellow, and as the yellow fades you get white. 'Earthquake' was the first one that really showed the red-yellow striping. We put some of these on 'Dortmund', one of our best breeders. We got a 'Dortmund' x striped miniature cross and it is giving us some good reds, as well as stripes.

Another thing we are working on, is stable reds. I like a red rose that will stay red. If it fades, it must be to an acceptable pink, and then drop off. Most reds either burn or turn a horrible colour.

Another field I am exploring is tea rose x miniature crosses, with the idea that they might be worthwhile growing in mild climates, or in the greenhouse as potted plants. And more recently, bringing rugosas into the line, we have a rugosa hybrid which is not a miniature. It is the only one we know of, that is yellow and repeats from spring to frost. It is scheduled to go with Wayside Gardens in 1987.

Harmon Saville: I specialize in miniatures. Miniatures can reflect all classes of roses, only in miniature. We have climbers, ground covers, hybrid tea types, decoratives, and so on. There is a need for miniature single roses, hanging basket roses, ground covers, climbers, hybrid tea types, floribunda types, and more recently, we have been working with types that have an extreme number of blooms for pot forcing and the ability to sell them in bud and bloom at any time of the year. We have one strain, from one of Ralph's moss roses, that appears to be completely disease resistant We are pretty far along that line, and we hope to have some, that we can claim have very strong disease resistance.

We are also fiddling around with wild colours. This year we introduced Frank Benardella's extremely dark crimson rose, 'Black Jade'. Due to come out soon is one of at least four different shades of brown, chocolate brown, cinnamon brown, tan and parchment. We have three or four shades of gray, from battleship gray to tattletale gray. So, there's a lot of exciting things coming along in the future. We are not trying to head in any one particular direction. We prefer to reflect the whole world of roses in miniature.

Dr. Svejda: We work primarily with improvement of winter hardiness. I am an institutional breeder, working for the Canadian government. We are not in the commercial field and we do not compete with commercial breeders. In Canada we have a problem with lack of winter hardiness. We also have very few roses which are blackspot resistant.

When we started this program about 25 years ago, our aim was to combine hardiness with the everblooming habit. At that time, we didn't know if there was any rose which was hardy and flowered repeatedly. But we found a few, mostly hybrid rugosas. We didn't expect to produce garden type roses when starting from scratch. Using species to introduce hardiness into garden roses, you get something that doesn't look like a species, but doesn't look like a garden rose either.

I thought the hybrid rugosas would be excellent as park roses, if we could improve them. They would also be useful for gardens, with a minimum of care. Later, I also found that they were highly resistant to blackspot. I am very much taken with the species. It is native to Japan, but very well adapted to our climatic conditions. Very few hybrids measure up to the species in robust health and hardiness. My aim was to produce hybrids which compared with the species. I have produced hybrids which have improved flowering attributes, are more productive, more repeating and have double flowers, etc. Now I am working with tetraploid roses. We have introduced some climbers and a few shrub roses.

Hardiness is an ecological feature. You have to look at the relationship of the plant and climate. Therefore, in California or in the south of France, you cannot breed for winter hardiness. Ottawa is an excellent location because garden roses do survive under coverage, but only barely. At the Experimental Farm, we lose about 1/3 of the garden roses each winter, in spite of protection. Home gardeners are more successful because they plant them close to the foundation and there is some radiated heat from the house. Our roses are grown absolutely without protection from a very early age. As soon as they have developed 5 or 6 leaflets, we plant them in the field and let them grow one season and then through the winter. Those which do not survive, well, nature has helped me in selecting roses. We have test locations across the nation in different climatic zones.

Soon I will be retired and out of breeding, but I do hope that these ideas will be carried forward by other breeders.

We have something else which I am quite excited about It goes back to the rugosa hybrids. Years ago, I got a strain of the species from Japan and I grew this along with several thousand other seedlings. That year we had a new sprayer and it was ineffective. As a consequence, mice and aphids were abundant in our fields damaging all except for these few seedlings. I kept some of them and we tested them for a few years, we could publish about them. I have named that strain 'Rugosa Ottawa'. It is absolutely resistant to two-spotted spider mites and strawberry aphids. It is very rare to have plants that are insect resistant, but to be resistant to two different insect pests is exceptionally rare. I do hope this is going to be utilized. I know it will be difficult because they are diploids, but considering their importance, I wish everybody good luck in a program like that.

William Warriner: Roses of the future are right around the corner, of course. That's where the future is. I think we are all going to be astounded, not just by rose development, but by all agricultural development in the near future. Someone estimated that 40 percent of agricultural research is being spent on cell level biology. This is a big change from just a few years ago. The techniques of tissue culture, etc., are really growing by leaps and bounds. Celery is already being grown commercially using a technique called embryo genesis or synthetic seedlings. They develop embryos from somatic cells of the plant and tissues of the plant. In tissue culture labs they encapsulate them and use them as seedlings. This has only been done with a very few crops so far. There are efforts to develop a line of crops that are resistant to Roundup through recombinant DNA techniques. Roundup is a herbicide that is really devastating to foliage, so, if you have plants resistant to it, you can do a lot of easy gardening or farming. Protoplast fusions are right around the corner. We will be doing some hybridizing with the cells in the tissue culture lab at the cell level. At the moment, it is not being done in roses but some companies are thinking very seriously about it. I think that in ten years there will be roses coming on the market that were produced in somebody's lab.

Back to reality now. We have a very hungry sales department. They have a big appetite for lots of new roses. We breed all kinds of roses: greenhouse cut flowers, greenhouse pot plants, roses of all kinds. We, like Armstrongs, have concentrated on hybrid teas, because that's been our bread and butter. We have not forgotten the other lines. We are not working on striped roses, but we are doing a lot of other things. We just got into the miniature business a few years ago, and it has grown by astounding leaps and bounds. This year we doubled the size of the shade house, and it was already a pretty good size. We grow the miniatures in a different manner from Harm and Ralph and Ernie. Ours are a little bit older when we ship and sell them, and they are all sold as bare root plants. Some people have thought that they were budded. In fact, when we first did some test shipments of what we call 18 month old plants, that were grown in the field for a year and then dug and bare root shipped, we got comments that they didn't think miniatures should be budded. In reality these were own-root plants, but they had been grown in the field for a year. We dig them all in the winter and we store them in cold storage, like we do the others, and it seems to work very well.

We think there is a whole field of business to be had in pot plant varieties, both big and small. There are different markets for pot plants. The old style was very good for 6, 7, 8 inch pots, but it becomes a fairly high priced item on the shelf, but there is still a market for them. There is another market for the small, 4 inch type pots. This has been demonstrated very dramatically in Holland, in Alsmeer, where they are growing millions of them in one greenhouse, mechanized so that they are hardly ever touched by human hands.

Ernest Williams: I breed for brilliant roses. I'm located in Dallas, Texas, and we have a very long growing season. We have some very hot weather so we can grow plants rapidly. I do my hybridizing outdoors, which means I must catch the first three bloom cycles of the year.

In the brilliant roses, I like the formal or hybrid tea form. I also think that a hybridizer should have a well rounded program. I've enjoyed working with ground covers, using Ralph Moore's 'Red Cascade'. I have been able to recover some seedlings that show good promise. 'Pink Carpet' was the first introduction, followed by 'Royal Carpet'. The problem with 'Red Cascade' is that it is nearly sterile and germination is extremely difficult. It is a very good rose, but only a few crosses take and you get very few seeds, but it has been very rewarding.

I also like climbers. I have brought out several and several more are coming. I ran across a couple of crosses which gave red climbers and I have one for 1986. You can get a fairly predictable number of reds from this cross.

I also like single roses. We introduced our first one last year. We have one coming up, which is oriole red with a yellow eye, has five petals and lays out flat. It does close at night, but will reopen the next day.

A large proportion of my effort has been with lavenders and it was not easy to come by. Now, like many others, I can get a very predictable ratio of lavenders, and more recently, lavender tans. The first lavender tan came out May 1, 1985, and is known as 'Twilight Trail'. There was a little mixup in the name, but the correct name is not Twilight Zone, but 'Twilight Trail'.

QUESTIONS:

Q. How do you store pollen and why is it necessary?

Sam McGredy: It is necessary because we always seem to be short of a particular pollen. Jack Christensen agrees with me that the two greatest words in rose breeding are "I think". I think that keeping my pollen in a refrigerator is the way to do it. I keep the stamens on pieces of white paper, so that they are stacked one on top of the other. I don't normally use pollen much more than 2 or 3 days old. I think that it loses viability at something like 10% per day, but I have never personally tested that out. I have a reasonable amount of fresh pollen, but when I'm stuck I use stored pollen.

Bill Warriner: Like Sam, we always need more pollen than we have, so we put some away in refrigerators in the fall, at 29°F, and use that in the crossing next spring. We also had some at 0°F and used it in crossing. The 29°F pollen seemed to store from fall to spring very well. We got a lot of good seed from that group and we will probably continue to do that, just to get us off to a good start in the spring.

Ralph Moore: We store pollen for a very practical reason. We often use certain kinds which only bloom once in the year, species or species hybrids, climbers, etc. A good share of the yellow roses used today, which have resulted in roses like 'Yellow Jewel', 'Golden Angel', 'Rise n' Shine', owe their existence to Brownell's once-blooming climber 'Golden Glow'. We've used that for a parent for a number of years. If it blooms once in the spring, we can store that pollen and use it on a miniature or floribunda or whatever, later in the season. We often store pollen for up to six weeks in the refrigerator. We put it in baby food jars, then put that inside a plastic bag and seal it tightly with a rubber band. It is true that at the end of the season we often dump quite a lot of pollen, but at least we have it there in case we need it, and it makes possible crosses that we couldn't do otherwise. Sometimes you have so much blooming at one time that you can't use certain pollens.

Q. Bill mentioned there were brown miniatures coming and I have seen some brown larger roses. Do you have any brown large roses coming to market in the next couple of years?

Jack Christensen: we have some brown seedlings, but nothing far enough along to put on the market yet.

Ernie Williams: In 1983 I recovered a brown floribunda and I am investigating brown miniatures with it. It has good form, relatively good colour and is vigorous. I only have it on its own root. It sets seed with every pollen I have put on it.

Bill Warriner: We had a climber, semi-climber, big bush, whatever you want to call it, that's brown. It is more of a coffee-and-cream colour. We've had some debate within the company as to whether we should sell it or not. Our sales manager and I agree, so we are going to do it over the objections of the President. It will be available in 1987. We have not yet named it. I think it is a beautiful colour, it's quite fragrant and has a lot of flower on it. It does have the drawback of being a little winter tender, but then I have been told that all of my roses are.

We have another sweetheart greenhouse rose that is a little controversial. We got a lot of these funny colours. You either hate them or love them. We have named this one 'Topaz' and some of the florists are starting to go for it.

Sam McGredy: I have one on the market, that is known in some parts of the world as 'Color Break' and in other parts as 'Brown Velvet'. It is bred from 'Mary Sumner' and I would say that it's easier to get brown from 'Mary Sumner' than from any other variety I can think of. I have another one which won one of the top awards in New Zealand this year from the same strain. But mine are milk chocolate brown.

Q. How do you keep the bees away?

Ernie Williams: In my experience, if you remove the pollen from a bloom, the bees won't have anything to do with it.

Sam McGredy: If I found an isolated one in the glasshouse, I used to spray and kill it. Now, if it wants to help me, I let it go ahead.

Bill Warriner: We just ignore it. We probably have more errors made by our pollinating people than we have by the bees.

Q. What is the total number of seedlings you would grow for any given cross?

Sam McGredy: I make 7,000 crosses and get 5,000 seed pods. We get rather a large number of seeds per pod in New Zealand because of the favourable climate. I would raise between 50,000 and 100,000 seedlings. The most crosses I would ever make in a year on one thing would be 50 or 60.

Ralph Moore: The number of crosses depends on the season, since we do most work outdoors. If we are pursuing something new, we make enough [for an exploratory cross] . If it looks good, the next year we want 500 to 1,000 seeds. We plant the seeds in flats and as they come up and bloom, I mark them. We take out what we think are the best ones and the rest are destroyed. This year we planted well over 80,000 seeds and next year we will have over 100,000. To judge the potential of a cross, you need from 500 to 2,000 seedlings.

Jack Christensen: I arbitrarily allow one parent plant per cross, for each pollen that I put on the female. We hope to get at least 200 seeds per cross, but depending on the cross, that is not always the case. Our total seed population every year is around 100,000. Out of those, we select no more than 1,000 in the first year of selection. We reduce them drastically after that to fewer than 10.

Ernie Williams: My crosses run from 1,000 to 3,000, using a lot of floribundas and a few grandifloras. I want the colours in my crosses. It is very easy to throw out the large ones and retain the small ones. I pot no more than 3% of my total germination.

Harm Saville: We have 60,000 to 80,000 seedlings germinate. When we first have an idea of a series of crosses that might be productive, we make exploratory crosses of 6 to 10 seed pods for each cross. When we decide that this is a good avenue to explore, we can have up to 20,000 seedlings of the same cross. We feel we have a better chance of finding the good ones out of a large population of seedlings of that cross. We throw out all but about 2,000 on the very first bloom. We try to pick the best of them and those get boiled down to maybe 20 introduceable ones.

Bill Warriner: We have about 100,000 rough and dirty seedlings. We select in our first round about 1,000, and that gets heavily reduced the second year in the field. They are all planted in the greenhouse on a bench and we make our selections right from the bench. We have about 150 varieties for parents.

If you are going to have a lot of roses to introduce, you have to have a lot of seeds to make the seedlings. As an amateur hybridizer, you don't have the pressure to come up with something every year, and you can have success with smaller numbers. But I would urge any of you who are hybridizing to concentrate on certain areas. Don't try to get all kinds of roses, like we must. Concentrate on something you particularly like and your numbers will pay off better.

Dr. Svejda: The most important thing is to select the female parent for fertility. If you have a good seed parent, you keep it and change the pollen parent. We make perhaps 60 or 70 crosses a year. Many are not successful. We store the pollen up to one year in the refrigerator. I used to plant as many as 300 seedlings from one cross and I found that very wasteful. Fifty or sixty gives me a good idea of what I can expect. I am able to predict hardiness in the seedlings and flowering to a fair extent. Disease resistance is something else. The combination of all the factors, including appearance, is like looking for a needle in a haystack. I do think that simultaneous selection for a combination of features is the most advanced approach, rather than selecting for one feature and then making another cross and hoping for another feature, etc. We grow around 800 rose seedlings each year. Out of those I keep about 24.

Q. Dr. Svejda said she was using rugosa as a strain at one time. Are any of the hybridizers using species for introducing disease resistance into their roses, particularly mildew and blackspot?

Sam McGredy: No, I am not. I am using species for plant characteristics, but not specifically for disease resistance. The best results in that field are coming from Reimer Kordes in West Germany.

Harm Saville: We are using species hybrids and seem to be making some good progress with them.

Bill Warriner: We are not using species directly. We are using the spotless thing from Dr. Peter Semeniuk of USDA. We are getting some seedlings from those, but we don't know if they are any good or not. Most of our mildew and blackspot efforts at the moment are through selections of our hybrids. We have a number of hybrids that are very, very resistant to mildew, and we are starting to outline a very extensive blackspot screening program, that will be introduced into our breeding work.

Jack Christensen: The answer for us also is no. We used Rosa soulieana in our breeding program a few years ago and got some very interesting shrubby results that seem also to have resistant qualities.

Ralph Moore: We have used R. soulieana in miniature crosses. They are mostly pale colours so far, but we get tremendous fragrance and quite a bit of disease resistance. We have used R. bracteata, but resistance to mildew was lost in succeeding generations. This year, for the first time, we are using R. californica nana. It came from my cousin's cabin, up in the High Sierras, at 5,000 feet elevation. The interesting thing is that it blooms constantly. We don't know what we will get out of it.

Q. Why do hybridizers persist in introducing varieties which are very susceptible to mildew?

Sam McGredy: I am going to pass this one to Jack, because who would want to be without 'Double Delight'?

Jack Christensen: At the risk of sounding brazen, and I don't really mean to, but perhaps as long as people are willing to buy them, we are willing to market them. And we have varieties which otherwise have excellent qualities, like 'Double Delight'.

Harm Saville: There is a business decision involved: if you have a good rose that has superb form, beautiful fragrance, excellent bush, good production and yet is somewhat susceptible to mildew, you say: they have fungicides that will take care of it. Maybe they will live with it.

Ralph Moore: One thing that is sometimes overlooked with regard to mildew and other disease resistance is that those may be regional problems. For example, a number of years ago, when Herb Swim was at Armstrong, we had a little, very bright red polyantha rose we wanted to put into the All-America trials. We didn't have any mildew trouble with it at our place. When he got it down there, he had a lot of mildew on it. At the other end of the spectrum, Dr. Walter Lammerts was at my place, saw some hybrid teas, and wanted to know how we kept them free of mildew. We never had any problem with mildew but in southern California they did. Some places never see mildew on 'Red Cascade' and in other places you can't grow it without getting it white with mildew. We don't treat our seedlings, because we want to find out if anything is wrong with them. On the other hand, I do test varieties from other breeders and sometimes I can't keep these free of mildew, because they have been selected under a different situation. If a variety mildews in your own garden, try something else.

Ernie Williams: I am not in a mildew-prone area, but I have observed other areas as well, and the incidence of mildew is in direct ratio to the amount of nitrogen that is available to that plant. If you pour nitrogen on a plant you are more likely to have mildew on it, than if you grow that plant under normal recommended cultural practices.

Bill Warriner: One problem that nobody else has mentioned is that there are many strains of blackspot and there are at least five strains of mildew. This is one reason for regional differences. We have a variety we think is pretty clean, but in another area they have a different strain and it gets hit pretty hard. An example of that: we used a new fungicide in our greenhouse, that was very highly recommended by one of our pathologists, and the whole greenhouse turned white. He forgot to tell me that there was one strain it was not effective on, and we must have had that one strain.

Sam McGredy: I would treat mildew and blackspot very differently because I think blackspot is very much more disfiguring and disasterous than mildew. I don't spray my seedlings in the field at all against either. By the end of the year, all but 20 or 30% would have had some kind of mildew. All of them, every darn one, will have blackspot of some kind or another. Most of them, without spray, will be defoliated.

Q. I grow roses in Alberta, Canada, and I consistently find that varieties originating in Germany come through a bad winter with a lot more vigor, than varieties originating in North America. I also notice that these varieties seem to have very little insect and disease problem. Why isn't there a cooperative effort after a rose has been out a number of years, to give it a hardiness rating? A lot of money is squandered in Canada and the northern United States on roses that aren't hardy.

Keith Laver: I think your question should be directed to rose societies rather than breeders, because once a rose is disseminated around the world, it is pretty hard for the breeder to keep an accurate watch on its hardiness.

Bill Warriner: Except in extreme cases of hardiness or tenderness, it is very difficult to classify. We made a personal survey of over 100 customers of our variety 'Simplicity' to try to do just that. People within a few miles of each other gave us completely different answers. Hardiness is not just how well it stands the cold, but how well it has been taken care of as it goes into the winter.

Q. I want to ask about 'Julia's Rose'.

Sam McGredy: The variety was raised by Bill Tysterman of the Wisbech Plant Company of England. In Baden Baden two years ago, it won the top award. It is a very striking brown hybrid tea. All roses have weaknesses. I'm not decrying it, but sometimes it is not as vigorous or hardy as it might be. It's a different colour brown to the tan that Bill Warriner has, or the chocolate that I have. It's quite distinct. To me, it is a very obvious down-the-line derivative of 'Grey Pearl'.

Q. To what extent does the lack of breeder's rights legislation inhibit the introduction of new varieties from other countries into Canada?

Sam McGredy: I am sad that Canada does not have plant protection, because we are all commercial rose breeders, and while we love roses, we have to make money. I can't understand why Canadians think so little of their plant breeders, and I am thinking of agricultural breeders more than ornamental breeders. I saw what happened in New Zealand, where they brought in patent legislation just about the time that I went to live there. There is no question that it has stimulated all kinds of plant breeding.

Q. As a grower of roses and especially new roses, I have a question for Mr. Warriner. Why do some of the new varieties from his company peter out after a few years? Specifically, 'French Lace'. After four years, it doesn't seem to send out new growth. Yet roses like 'Evening Star' or 'Sunflare' show more vigor every year.

Bill Warriner: There are a lot of things that can cause it. Nematodes will do that to a plant.

Sam McGredy: I know 'French Lace', but I have never grown it. But I can think of other varieties like 'Die Welt' and 'Apricot Prince'. There are too many varieties that appear on the market and then it is discovered that they do well for a few years and then go downhill. I think it is in the variety.

Q. Miniatures will grow on their own roots. Hybrid teas are all budded on understock. Why is there no effort to sell hybrid teas on their own roots?.

Bill Warriner: Own rooting is one of the selection criteria for miniatures, but not for hybrid teas. It might be possible to select hybrid teas and floribundas to grow on their own roots. We went through an experiment a few years ago, planting everything on its own roots and only half of them grew. We didn't extend the experiment.