(Scanned by Arno)
The Australian Rose Annual. pp. 117-119, 1989
Breeding with Hulthemia persica - Second Report

By Jack Harkness, Southwood, Suffolk, U.K.

In 1976 I wrote a paper entitled "Breeding with Hulthemia persica (Rosa persica)", in which my observations and experiments from 1968-1976 were described. Until I received the suggestion from Mr. M. S. Viraraghavan of the Indian Rose Federation, it had not occurred to me to bring the story up to date; which I now do, in response to him.

But first, a brief recapitulation: Rosa persica was known to the early Rosarian as R. simplicifolia or R. berberifolia. It has three characteristics peculiarly its own among roses. It has not stipules; its leaves are simple, instead of being divided into leaflets; and at the base of each its petals, which are yellow, there is a distinct crimson blotch. On account of the leaves, the botanists took it out of the genus Rosa and made a new genus, Hulthemia, especially for it. On account of the decorative blotch, rosarians took an interest in growing it.

However, it was not an easy subject to grow in Europe, for it is by nature a drought resisting plant from arid areas in and around Iran. It is not amenable to being propagated by the usual means of budding or cuttings; and it was liable to die in Europe from excess moisture.

Nevertheless it grew in the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris, to the extent of bearing seed, from which was raised a variety plainly a hybrid by its pinnate leaves, its larger and paler flowers. The hybrid was introduced in 1836 under the name 'Hardii'.

Soon after 1962 and 1963, when Alec Cocker and I started our careers as rose breeders, Mr. Cocker determined to take up the persica line of breeding. At first it seemed inexplicable that after 'Hardii' in 1836, there was nothing but a full stop. He obtained that rose, and grew a splendid lot of it in pots under glass at his nursery in Aberdeen. It looked beautiful, but proved completely sterile.

Finding 'Hardii' of no use in his project, and realizing that he was following the line of failure taken by other breeders for the past century or more, Mr. Cocker argued that what had happened by accident in Paris in the (1830's) could be made to happen on purpose in Britain in the 1960's. All he wanted was stock of Hulthemia persica since 'Hardii' in 1836. Altogether I obtained fifty-three different hybrids, and when I wrote that account in 1976, one might say they were the pride and joy of my rose growing life.

However, times change, and we little know what twists the river of life has in store for us next year.

In 1976, Alec and I were serenely running our nurseries, breeding our roses, dreaming about persica, and enjoying our friendship. By the end of 1977, Alec was dead, and I was living 160 km away from Hitchin.

My wife and I moved to a cottage in a little seaside town. This change made way for younger people to advance in the nursery. My brother, eleven years my junior, took over the administration. My sons, Robert and Philip, came to grow the nursery's plants and extend its sales operations. I still return at hybridizing time, and to assess the new varieties as they grow.

The effect of the removal of Alec and myself from our previous places was perhaps most noticeable in the persica project, which continued at both nurseries; but it is fair to say that some of the sting had gone out of the effort.

We had been well used to most of our persica seeds dying without germinating. In the period 1968-1975, we collected 2130 seeds, of which only 74 germinated. This, we supposed, happened because the crosses between Hulthemia and Rosa were too disparate for fertile seed to set. In short, there was no embryo to grow.

The subsequent years were much worse. We raised a mere handful of hybrids, as a result of the following work:

Pollination Year Crosses Pods Seeds
1976 417 413 2191
1977 759 685 2255
1978 521 478 1603
1979 454 363 1517
1980 * 310 1325
1981 113 108 143
1982 * * *
1983 * * *
1984 * 35 128
1985 * * 50

* Not recorded

Only two hybrids out of all this work are worth mentioning. From the 1976 pollination, we got the most promising cross so far with a rugosa rose. Up to then, persica x rugosa seedlings had nearly always died, due, I suppose, to natural antipathy between those species. The cross in this case was H. persica x 'Harvest Home'. The latter is a seedling of 'Scabrosa'. The hybrid has deep pink flowers, dusky red at the base of the petals. Also it has lots of pollen, which we have been industriously dusting, so far without results.

The other hybrid came in the 1980 pollination, a cross between H. persica x 'Fairy Changeling'. The latter is from 'The Fairy' x 'Yesteryear'. This hybrid has small pink flowers, with a prominent red blotch. The pink colour quickly fades. We gave it our code name 'Harunique'.

I must admit my nursery was getting a bit restive by this time, surveying so many years' work done, and nothing at all to sell. After all, we are supposed to be a business. So, thinking we had at least something unique, we began to send our persica hybrids to the Royal National Rose Society's Trial Ground. But as fast as they were there, the judges passed them by; I think it is six that have run their rewardless course there up to date.

We had to admit that while our hybrids had much historic and horticultural interest, they were not yet comparable in performance with modern garden roses, but for the sake of what interest they had, we resolved to introduce some of them, rather than see them perhaps lost forever.

The first was from the 1975 pollination; it was code named 'Harpier', a double yellow shrub, with red at the base of the petals. We introduced it in 1985 under the name 'Tigris'. It is from H. persica x 'Canary Bird', beautifully marked with red on single yellow flowers. I think it will be worth growing in warmer climates than Britain's, because it nearly always flowers too early to escape rough weather here.

In 1986, we took steps to re-invigorate the persica project, so after some years of little to report, it looks as though a more fruitful future is coming.

Indian Rose Journal 5


Some remarks:

There seem to be some faults in the Harkness text, but as far as I can see, Harkness himself "confounded" something about his seedlings. He wrote the text in 1989 (!), fourteen years after the 1975 pollinations, so perhaps that might be the reason for the conundrums below. ...

Jack Harkness writes (at the end of the second article):

"We had to admit that while our hybrids had much historic and horticultural interest, they were not yet comparable in performance with modern garden roses, but for the sake of what interest they had, we resolved to introduce some of them, rather than see them perhaps lost forever.
    The first was from the 1975 pollination; it was code named 'Harpier', a double yellow shrub, with red at the base of the petals. We introduced it in 1985 under the name 'Tigris'. It is from H. persica x 'Canary Bird', beautifully marked with red on single yellow flowers. I think it will be worth growing in warmer climates than Britain's, because it nearly always flowers too early to escape rough weather here."

First, one has to say that the name for Tigris according to Modern Roses XI is "Harprier" and not "Harpier". And the crossing should be Hulthemia persica x Rosa hybrida 'Trier', according to the same source. Its obviously not the right background info, that 'Canary Bird' would have been the pollen partner in this crossing, as the flower of 'Tigris' is very doubled and there are other remarkable characteristics according to that, like the flowering along the branches and not in Clusters and the tallness of the plants either. So one has to assume, that 'Tigris' is quite sure not the result of a crossing like Hulthemia persica x 'Canary Bird', I think!

As the results of the Canary Bird crossings all do have other characteristics, such as flowers along the whole length of their branches, which is a typical characteristic from 'Canary Bird' as a pollen parent and also their height is differing, as I know: Those plants are taller in total, than 'Tigris' is, also due to the pollen parent. But one hybrid that isn't mentioned by Harkness in his articles is the perhaps lost hybrid 'Xerxes'. This one is the result of a crossing between H. persica x 'Canary Bird' according to the mentioned literature.

One little thing about 'Tigris' should be mentioned, I think. Furthermore, refering to the first article of Jack Harkness and the shown tabular in that article, they did have one germination in 1975 from 1974 crossings with Hulthemia persica x 'Cornelia'. 'Cornelia' is another very good Moschata and it's also doubled, just like 'Trier' is. Jack Harkness writes in his first article on Hulthemia persica:

"In 1975 we obtained 8 hybrids all of which germinated in November. We carried them safely over winter, but then the four from R. rugosa alba behaved as previously; we were left with three H. persica x Phyllis Bide and one H. persica x Cornelia."

So - perhaps - 'Tigris' even is not the result of Hulthemia persica x Rosa hybrida 'Trier' - as it is really pretty doubled - but might perhaps be in fact the result from that mentioned crossing of Hulthemia persica x 'Cornelia', - also as the germination of such a seedling in 1975 would fit good to that constellation.

Here I add a tabular which I made after again reading the two Harkness articles and after interpreting the mentioned results.

Arno

Jack Harkness and Alec Cocker - Breeding with Hulthemia persica - the whole story in one tabular - 1968 - 1985
Pollination
Year
Crosses Pods Seeds Hybrids
Germinated
Hybrids
Raised
Hybrids Germinated Hybrids Raised Named
Hybrids
1968 19 15 3 * * * * * *  
1969 32 6 24 * * * * * *  
1970 26 26 76 33 28 27 H. persica x Canary Bird 6 H. persica x Ballerina 27 H. persica x Canary Bird 1 H. persica x Ballerina Xerxes?
1971 289 269 444 5 * 2 H. persica x Rosa rugosa alba 3 H. persica x ? * *  
1972 77 36 160 1 1 1 H. persica x Buff Beauty * 1 H. persica x Buff Beauty *  
1973 78 26 213 ? * * * * *  
1974 206 188 852 8 4 4 H. persica x Rosa rugosa alba 1 H. persica x Cornelia 1 H. persica x Cornelia * Tigris?
  3 H. persica x Phyllis Bide * 3 H. persica x Phyllis Bide *  
1975 280 270 358 27 20 3 H. persica x Trier 1 H. persica x Mutabilis 3 H. persica x Trier 1 H. persica x Mutabilis Tigris?
  1 H. persica x Margo Koster 2 H. persica x Mermaid 1 H. persica x Margo Koster 2 H. persica x Mermaid  
6 H. persica x Phyllis Bide 6 H. persica x Cornelia 6 H. persica x Phyllis Bide 6 H. persica x Cornelia  
1 H. persica x
(H. persica x Canary Bird)
7 H. persica x ? 1 H. persica x
(H. persica x Canary Bird)
* Xerxes?
1976 417 413 2191 ? 1 1 H. persica x Rugosa 'Harvest Home' 1 H. persica x Rugosa 'Harvest Home' Nigel Hawthorne
1977 759 685 2255 ? ? * * * *  
1978 521 478 1603 ? ? * * * *  
1979 454 363 1517 ? ? * * * *  
1980 ? 310 1325 ? 1 1 H. persica x Fairy Changeling * 1 H. persica x Fairy Changeling Euphrates
1981 113 108 143 ? ? * * * *  
1982 ? ? ? ? ? * * * *  
1983 ? ? ? ? ? * * * *  
1984 ? 35 128 ? ? * * * *  
1985 ? ? 50 ? ? * * * *  
Total 3271 3228 11342 74 55         4