American Rose Annual 71-15 (1969)
PAST ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND FUTURE TASKS OF ROSE BREEDERS
Walter E. Lammerts
Talk presented to ARS National Convention, Disneyland, California, June 1968.
THIRTY-THREE years ago in May 1935, 1 began to breed roses at Armstrong Nurseries in Ontario, California. The bewildering array of lovely cultivars growing in their fields made the task of creating a new one seem well nigh impossible.
Yet how much has been accomplished by rose breeders since then! The whole class of Floribundas was practically remade by Eugene Boerner. Perhaps 'World's Fair' was his inspiration, it was a hybrid of 'Dance of Joy' X 'Crimson Glory,' introduced by Wilhelm Kordes in 1939. Considerable hybrid vigor was shown by this lovely, large-flowered, red Floribunda. In any event, Boerner continued making crosses of Floribundas with Hybrid Teas. His 'Fashion' (1949 ) resulted from a cross of 'Pinocchio' X 'Crimson Glory.' It is still my favorite Floribunda, along with 'Ma Perkins' (1953) and 'Ivory Fashion' (1959). Essentially Boerner succeeded in combining Hybrid Tea flower form with an unusually vigorous Floribunda habit.
The outstanding Hybrid Tea introduced by Kordes in 1935 was 'Crimson Glory,' lovely in bud, flower form, and color, but of low, bushy, spreading habit. 'Soeur Therese,' the result of a long line of yellow rose breeding, was introduced by F. Gillot in 1931. Its main unusual features were the long urn-shaped bud and deep golden-yellow color. Since these two outstanding cultivars resulted from widely different lines of breeding, I felt there was a good chance of getting a long-budded red with hybrid vigor. Corn breeders by then had demonstrated that inbred lines of corn, when inter-crossed, resulted in remarkably vigorous plants. Accordingly, I made a series of such crosses of yellow with red roses as my first venture at Armstrong Nurseries.
In a relatively small population of 'Soeur Therese' X 'Crimson Glory,' a most unusual seedling with spectrum to cerise red petals and a very long bud was found. This seedling was introduced as 'Charlotte Armstrong' in 1940 by the Armstrong Nurseries.
This rose, because it carried the factors for so many distinctive colors, bud and flower forms, has been the parent of more successful roses than probably any other rose introduced since 1900. Thus, my own most successful red roses, 'Mirandy' and 'Chrysler Imperial,' resulted from crossing it with 'Night' for 'Mirandy' and then back-crossing 'Mirandy' to 'Charlotte Armstrong' for 'Chrysler Imperial.'
Herbert Swim, who succeeded me at Armstrong's in 1940, obtained several of his most beautiful roses by using 'Charlotte Armstrong.' By crossing it to 'Signora' he obtained one of his alltime greats, the famous, 'Sutter's Gold' (1950) as well as 'Mojave' and 'Chief Seattle.'
Robert Lindquist has also used 'Charlotte Armstrong' and his most famous rose, 'Tiffany,' resulted from crossing it with 'Girona.'
In 1946, when at Rancho Del Descanso (now Descanso Gardens), I crossed 'Charlotte Armstrong' with 'Floradora' and grew a population of 81 plants, from which 'Queen Elizabeth' was selected in 1948. My main reason for making this cross was the hope of combining the unusual cinnabar red color of 'Floradora' with the long bud and large flower of 'Charlotte Armstrong.' Naturally, I also hoped that the Hybrid Tea habit would prove dominant and be expressed in some of the seedlings. Instead, as you all know, we obtained a plant so vigorous and unusual in flowering habit that a new class had to be created for it, the Grandiflora, so named because it has a "grand" habit of growth and is very floriferous.
Though I tried for several years to combine the lovely color and form of 'White Butterfly' with the vigor and habit of 'Queen Elizabeth,' none of the selections quite filled the bill. However, 'Pascali,' one of the 1969 AARS selections, hybridized by Louis Lens is a beautiful white rose, from this cross. So it seems that finally hybrids of 'Queen Elizabeth' are making their appearance and it may well prove to be even more productive of famous roses than 'Charlotte Armstrong.'
Oddly enough, though 'Peace' (Meilland 1946) has the highest rating of any rose ever introduced, (9.6), and more roses have been sold of it than any other cultivar, it has not proved to be very useful as a breeding parent. I have tried it extensively, particularly as a pollen parent and no doubt Herbert Swim, Robert Lindquist and Dennison Morey have also. But, so far I do not know of any rose introduced having 'Peace' as one parent, other than 'Confidence' (Meilland 1952) which has made much of an impression.
Though lack of space forbids my discussion of the work of all rose breeders, such as the lovely 'Red American Beauty' and 'King's Ransom' of Dennison Morey, and the many fine miniatures of Ralph Moore, enough detail has been given to show the considerable progress made in the last thirty-three years.
In 1945 I published a paper in the American Rose Annual, listing the following ten "must have" qualities of garden roses: 1. vigor, 2. long-pointed or urn-shaped buds, 3. large glossy, hard, leathery foliage, 4. high degree of disease resistance, 5. ever-blooming habit, 6. long cutting stems, 7. strong neck, 8. fragrance, 9. absence of "blue" fading reaction, and 10. a high-centered, symmetrical opening flower of 25-35 large petals. Certainly I think it fair to say that we have an abundance of cultivars with vigor, even superior to 'Radiance.' In fact, I have heard some criticism of recent introductions, particularly in the West, that they are too vigorous! We also have many cultivars with abundance of large glossy foliage and flowers with long-cutting stems, fragrant as any "old fashioned rose" and having lovely display form. What then do we yet lack?
Essentially two qualities are missing and the lack of them may break the market for roses in this age of minimum garden maintenance. They are: 1. "weather-proof" flowers and 2. disease-proof foliage.
What do I mean by "weather-proof" flowers? Too often cultivars are simply superb when conditions are just right in the spring or fall. But with changing weather, such as a bit too much wind, sudden hot weather or dampness from fog or rain, the petals either blacken in red roses, or blotch, becoming misshaped in pink ones. The opening flower tends to ball and when open is asymmetrical. Actually, there are very few Hybrid Teas or Floribundas which are weather-proof but some are much more so than others. Selection toward this objective should occupy much more of our time than we have given to it in the past.
And what of disease resistance? Over the years I think it can fairly be stated that considerable resistance either to mildew, blackspot, or rust has been built into modern cultivars. Some, such as 'Descanso Pillar,' are almost immune to mildew. Others, such as 'Living Rose,' are at least very resistant to rust. Judging from reports in the Proof of the Pudding, a number are sufficiently resistant to blackspot so that only occasional spraying, especially toward fall, is necessary. But in this age of minimum garden maintenance this is not enough.
Many of us thought, in the 1940's that once we had a five-day week, people would do a lot more gardening. But, it simply has not worked that way. On week-ends we are competing with boats, lakes, and fishing, trailers which head for the mountains, beaches, and deserts, or simply television, barbecue parties, all very pleasant, but hardly conducive to the details involved in gardening. Though our population has greatly increased and we are said to be living in very prosperous times, the total sales of garden roses are less than ten years ago.
Though completely-disease-immune roses would hardly cause everyone to use them in their gardens, I am convinced that interest would greatly increase were such an objective possible. What are the chances?
Semeniuk and Stewart report in the 1961 and 1965 American Rose Annuals that many different strains of blackspot occur, hence a cultivar resistant in one locality may be susceptible in another. They conclude that there is little hope of finding even a high degree of resistance among typical garden roses since even the two most resistant ones, 'Goldilocks' and 'Chic,' showed an index of .28 and .39, as compared with very susceptible cultivars such as 'Ma Perkins,' having an index of 3.14. I am wondering if these fine research men are really getting a true sample of variation resulting from breeders' efforts. Thus, at Watsonville near the coast of California, blackspot seems to be increasing. Yet one of my own hybrids, a cross of 'Queen Elizabeth' X 'San Francisco,' has shown immunity to the local strain for three years. Incidentally, it is also highly resistant to rust and so far has shown no mildew.
Now my suggestions for greater and faster progress are that the owners of patented roses pay one cent per plant to support the basic research of Semeniuk and Stewart. Judging from my own royalty returns, it would seem that at least 2,200,000 patented roses are sold each year, which would yield an income of about $22,000 to such an institute of basic research. In return Semeniuk and Stewart might well expand their work to include mildew and rust studies, for no doubt these diseases also exist in various strains.
Also, and most important, they would evaluate cultivars such as our 'Queen Elizabeth' X 'San Francisco' hybrid, so as to clearly define just what strains of blackspot, rust and mildew to which they were either immune or highly resistant. Each private breeder would thus be able to far more intelligently determine what to use in hybridizing, in hopes of getting breeding stock, practically immune to all strains of these three diseases. I would even suggest that it do no harm to private breeders, if such resistant cultivars evaluated by such a proposed institute, were exchanged among the breeders whose companies contributed to the research fund. Data on the mechanism of genetic inheritance of disease immunity could be meanwhile accumulated by the institute and made available to all breeders.
Finally, AARS and Proof of the Pudding could be helpful. At the present time only 8 points are given for disease resistance in all three classes. Suppose we up this to 24 points, cutting down on vigor from 12 to 6 points, foliage 10 to 6 points, floriferousness 12 to 9 points, and flower form 9 to 6 points. I know from working on the scoring schedule committee of AARS with Herbert Swim and Eugene Boerner, that only a radical change in total value of points given for a particular characteristic will really affect much of a change in the final total score. In the Proof of the Pudding it would be most helpful if, in the summary, roses were rated in each zone on a numerical scale, giving a separate score for blackspot, mildew and rust if present. This would be most helpful to both buyer and breeder, and together we will see what the future of the rose will be.