Rose Hybridizers Association Newsletter, 6(2): 7-9 (Summer 1975)
GOLDEN SHOWERS AS A PARENT
by Peter Harris

When I began hybridizing roses in 1972, I had many vague ideas but only three bushes that would set seed readily. One of these three was the pillar-climber Golden Showers.

As a parent, GS has several advantages. It repeats well and is vigorous, floriferous, and relatively thornless, with bright, glossy leaves. The blossom, preceded by a long bud, is fragrant, with petals of average substance and fair width in a pleasant daffodil-yellow color that fades gracefully. An eight-foot bush in full bloom is quite a sight.

Of course, GS has some weaknesses too. It has no better than average resistance to mildew and blackspot, and is susceptible to rust, too. The blossoms fade gracefully, but quickly, too, and are of loose—some might say sloppy—form. Because of the low petal count (rarely more than twenty petals in summer in Texas), one is quickly aware that the petals should be wider. However, for me, the beginning hybridizer, GS's faults were outweighed not only by its strengths but also by a special virtue: its many flowers would set seed almost infallibly, even in hot weather.

Although it produces large seeds of better than average germination potential, these seeds have massive seed coats and are slow to begin germination, peaking in the fall of the year. Further, although the blooms are easy to emasculate and pollinate, one could wear himself out trying to make enough seeds to provide a good population; there are only about 15 pistils per bloom, and not all of these will produce seed. Some of my crosses have averaged as many as 11 seeds per hip (i.e., x Tropicana, x Spartan, x First Prize), but most have run lower, about 7 or 8. GS is not a lazy hybridizer's dream.

And for the hybridizer with limited space, GS offers other disadvantages. Although its seedlings are generally vigorous and have glossy, bright leaves, they are also reluctant to bloom their first year. Furthermore, they demonstrate clearly that GS carries a strong climbing trait; most seedlings are very tall. Both of these habits are disadvantageous for one with limited lighting and growing space.

Before I realized that some seedlings would not bloom the first year, I had cut them back two or three times from a foot to only three or four inches high and to this day not one of those seedlings has bloomed for me. Now I am more hard-hearted and recognize quickly whether a GS seedling is going to be a Bloomer or a Leaf-Maker. The Leaf-Makers go to a cool holding area until spring (although they probably will be singles and should go to the compost heap, I'm a beginner and curious about their other characteristics of color and growth and will keep them until I'm no longer curious), and the Bloomers either stay or go.

Judging also by the low percentage of first-time bloomers it produces, GS is not a lazy hybridizer's dream seed parent. Only two crosses (x Spartan, x Circus) have produced more than 50% Bloomers for me, and most crosses on GS average only 20% to 40% Bloomers. The crosses yielding in the 40% to 50% range are these: x Tropicana, x Floradora, x Charlotte Armstrong, x First Prize.

During the two year period 1972-73, GS germination percentages ranged from 14% (x Golden Gate) to 78% (x Eclipse), with most in the 35% to 50% range (x Circus, x Tropicana, x Queen Elizabeth, x Spartan, x Charlotte Armstrong). x Floradora yielded only 22% but x First Prize yielded 57%.

GS seedlings are predominantly vigorous and tall, with glossy leaves and some susceptibility to mildew. Although there are some singles, most of the seedlings that bloom the first season are fragrant and double, with 10-15 petals or more. Most of the buds are long and thin. Unfortunately, these characteristics together mean that most of the petals are thin and narrow. With narrowness and poor substance come quilling petals and flowers that do not hold shape or color well when open. However, despite these bloom characteristics prevailing in GS seedlings, I've been encouraged by four crosses.

GSSpartan seems worthwhile primarily because a majority of its seedlings are fragrant and Bloomers, repeating quickly. Colors range from salmon and medium pink through scarlet, with most in the salmon-medium pink range. A drawback to this cross is the high (20%) incidence of seedlings with albinism, poor leaves, or other abnormalities. This may be pure chance, but again it may be related to the cross.

GSCircus yields generally healthier seedlings than GSSpartan, and many of these seedlings are fragrant too, with colors falling almost entirely into two equal groups, pale-to-medium yellow and yellow blends resembling Circus. Although the leaves in this cross are especially attractive, many of the buds are short.

GSTropicana provides a moderate-to-long bud length and increased petal count. Its seedlings also reflect the diverse ancestry of Tropicana, with colors ranging from magenta and cherry red through rose and salmon shades (these predominate) to pale yellow and bright yellow. This cross also has yielded bicolors (bright pink/yellow and scarlet/deep rose). These seedlings grow generally into medium to tall bushes of open, lateral-branching habit and quick re-bloom. My best yellow seedling is from this cross. Beginning with only 12 petals and almost no stamens or pistils, it has matured steadily, and I hope to use it as a parent this year. It resembles GS but has a few more petals. It does not grow as tall and repeats more quickly, but its petals are slightly narrower.

GSFirst Prize yields wide petals and cane growth of up to five feet in the first season. Obviously, this is a cross for climbers, or so it seems so far. I've observed plants from this cross for only one season and am impressed primarily by their vigor and colors. With yellow from Golden Masterpiece in its ancestry, First Prize pollen should give some yellow plants, and it does in this cross. Colors I obtained from this cross were mostly in two groups of approximately equal size; light pink and pale yellow; however, I also got some plants in apricot-bronze, ivory, chalk-white, and canary yellow, along with some bicolors: pink/cream and pink/pale yellow. Many of the petals of the lighter colors were tipped with carmine in the cooler fall weather. Altogether an interesting cross, but not one for the hybridizer with a small growing area.

Although GS has many desirable traits and sets seed willingly, and the seeds germinate well, the extent to which one uses GS in his hybridizing program will depend on how highly he rates its desirable features in relation to his goals, time, and space available. If one is interested in compact bushes, GS is strictly a long-shot parent. If one's time and space are limited, GS is a luxury. However, if one is interested in breeding yellow roses, particularly climbers and shrub roses, he might do far worse than to consider using GS, which is attractive in bush, bud, and bloom, is vigorous, floriferous, and, among yellow roses, fairly hardy.

The hybridizer using GS should aim to moderate its size and increase its petal count, petal width, and petal substance, while retaining fragrance and floriferousness and hardiness. If any of us can achieve all of these goals in a few intelligent (and lucky?) crosses, the resulting bush will probably be immune to disease and will have non-fading blooms as well.