American Rose Annual 33-36 (1984)
BREEDING FOR UNUSUAL COLORS
Paul E. Jerabek
Kirtland, OH 44026

Editor's Note: Paul Jerabek is an amateur rose hybridizer, serving as a Director on the Board of the Rose Hybridizer's Association. He is an ARS Consulting Rosarian, and his red-blend floribunda Melvin, was awarded the ARS Bronze Medal Certificate. Breeding for unusual colors has long been a primary interest of mine. With no expertise, my approach has been a simplistic one. I reasoned that the problem was analogous to mixing paints to get the desired color. Since we are dealing with the inheritance of a limited number of pigments, it turns out to be a pretty good way to visualize the problem. But you have to know your paint set and realize its limitations. Here are a few of my observations and current opinions:

Blue My only approach to get much beyond Blue Moon would be to pray for a miracle. But the molecular structure of delphinidin is so close to that of one of the rose pigments (I forget which one) that I hesitate to say that a blue rose is impossible. Perhaps radiation treatments would be the logical approach. I'll wait and see what Griffith Buck has wrought. Maybe the deed is did!

Brown E.B. LeGrice, a pioneer in brown and purple roses told me in Chicago '74 (World Federation of Rose Societies Convention) that these contained the same pigments but in different proportions. So far, I have relied on his Jocelyn in my efforts to produce brown. It is a reluctant seed setter so I really need a brown mother. LeGrice said he was at the point where he could produce browns at will. At one time I had Artistic to work with, but it never set seeds for me. Next year I expect to have Julia's Rose, but I haven't seen seeds on that either. At any rate, the ancestry of that rose tells us mauve plus yellow — brown, sometimes. I am trying hard for a brown mini. So far have a brown midi and, a mini which is a beautiful brown under fluorescent lights only! Also have a floribunda that throws huge clusters of apricot blooms that turn to light beige in one day and keep fading thereafter.

Purple — How I would love to create a velvety dark purple! Kordes did it in a centifolia (Blue Boy) which does not repeat. I have tried to bud Blue Boy twice and failed both times. Can someone out there give me another chance?

Actually, I have a velvety purple seedling which repeats but has a lot of faults. Where this seedling came from, I do not know (I keep almost no records), but I have been crossing dark reds with mauves for a long time. Also have a hybrid tea that is a little more purple than News and with more petals. A good plant, very fragrant, but with poor form by modern standards, and no velvet! When I try to photograph this one, it always comes out red. I do a lot of crossing with mixed pollen of purplish cultivars and seedlings, including miniatures. In the miniatures, I have been crossing Lavender Jewel and Valerie Jeanne, in hopes of getting a nice violet mini.

Black — In Chicago in '74, Alain Meilland fielded a question about the possibility of a black rose. His answer was that a black rose would burn to a brown as soon as the sun hit it. Be that as it may, what's wrong with a blackish red velvet? I have discarded many a dark red in the past because of their propensity for mildew, but with the improved fungicides of today, it might be well to have another look at some of them. A reasonable resistance to mildew would be imperative. The darkest I grow today is Norita, followed by Papa Meilland, Bimboro, Kentucky Derby and Kardinal not necessarily in that order. I have a red floribunda that darkens with age which might be useful in approaching this goal.

Grey I know one hybridizer who's interested in creating a grey rose, but is anyone else? Perhaps flower arrangers would buy it. Mr. LeGrice visualized flower arrangers as the main market for unusual colors in roses.

Some mauves tend to turn grey with age, and I wonder if this is because they build up a little chlorophyll in the petals to mask some of the red in the mauve. Chlorophyll b, which is yellowish-green, would be just the thing to turn mauve into grey!

Green Since petals are modified leaves, it seems that greener roses should be a possibility. Ralph Moore and Jack Harkness have made a start in this direction.

Since chlorophyll pigment in such roses as Green Ice and Greensleeves develops with age, it seems essential to work with varieties with a great deal of staying power and a scarcity of the normal rose pigments. I wouldn't know how to pick a green mother, but am watching one hip on Green Ice this year — which I didn't think was possible. At present it looks very green.

Bicolors and Multicolors There seems to be no end to the color combinations and blends possible in genus rosa. I also find them very unpredictable so I like to mix the pollen from bicolors, a practice that has been very productive for me. It would be a very unusual year that didn't produce a surprise in color combinations or patterns. Last year an amber, flushed and dotted with something near a carmine at the base of the petals, excited me in the fall, let me down in the spring and is exciting me again as the colder weather comes on. This year a single with a white star on a deep red background took my eye. If only it had more staying power! Still, compared with Eye Paint, it might not be too bad — or Priscilla Burton. I love them both.

Orange A few years ago the orange shades were scarce, but Kordes and others have made such strides in the last few years that anyone working in this color should certainly avail himself of the latest introductions. I would like to see better miniatures in this color class. I have a mini with Matador color, which needs more petals.

This year I was impressed with the color of Aalsmeer Gold and expect to do some digging in that vein the next few years — it sets seed very well, too.

My advice to amateur breeders is to keep a sharp eye on the latest introductions. After all, the little man can reach higher standing on the shoulders of the giant. And even the professional can't possibly explore all the possibilities his creations have opened up.

If these ruminations will have stirred up some activity, in some convoluted grey matter, that will produce, in a few years, one novel and beautiful new rose, the effort will be justified. You must have that new rose in your head before you can have it in your garden; but don't expect them to be identical twins! And do send it on to Shreveport for the test garden — they need your entries!