American Rose Annual 1: 41-43 (1916)
Father Schoener's Endeavors
By Jesse A. Currey, Portland, Ore.
ROSARIANS throughout the world who have known of the great work being carried on by Rev. George Schoener, the village priest of Brooks, Ore., were greatly shocked early in October when they heard that fire originating in an adjoining house had destroyed his church, home and garden. His choice collection of wild roses, representing practically every known species, were burned off close to the ground and the chances are they will never recover, for in the intense heat of the fire the earth was baked, and probably the roots have been damaged beyond recovery. Not only did Father Schoener lose his collection of wild species but he also lost practically all of his seedlings of the last few years, and nearly all of his seeds of this year.
This year Father Schoener expected to have some interesting facts regarding rose-culture to give to the public, but his library, his notes and his records were also destroyed. When he received a request from the Editor of the Rose Annual for an outline of his achievements during the past year he was too ill to write; therefore at his request I shall endeavor to tell something of the work this remarkable man has undertaken.
Father Schoener's study of the rose has been profound, and all the experiments have been based on the strictest scientific lines. In the fall of 1914 he harvested 120,000 good ripe rose seeds from hybridization, having started the pollenizing early in May and continuing until August 5. During the previous winter he studied the pedigree of the best roses and also did a vast amount of research work regarding the characters and possibilities of untried forms of the lutea, Wichuraiana, rugosa, microphylla, bracteata, rubiginosa, sericea and many other species. It was from this extensive line of study that in the spring he started to work, with the result that he harvested his 120,000 seeds.
In speaking of this work Father Schoener recently said: "Max Singer's 'Dictionary of Roses' enumerated 35,000 pedigreed varieties, mostly all originating from gallica, damascena, indica, odorata, Chinese and Bengal blood, also some moschata, while a few show sempervirens and lutea infusion. Having seen that the great number of present-day roses have originated from only a few of the species, I realized the vast field in front of us for development. To get order out of the very chaotic condition of today it is first necessary to establish in your mind certain ideals and work toward them, and this is what I endeavored to do. The first ideal to get established is a standard of requirements of the rose for the present, of which healthy constitution stands first.
"Having fixed in my mind the ideals I desired to reach I outlined the other requirements I thought necessary, and after fixing such outlines I studied the dominant, latent and recessive characters of the best pedigreed roses. Just according to what I wanted I selected my mother or seed roses and on them used the pollen of what I considered the necessary father roses. In all cases I endeavored to avoid any inbreeding. Furthermore I predisposed the seed of the mother roses by special feeding or starving as the individual cases required, and I treated the pollen parent the same way, so that I got the bushes and seed just in the condition I desired."
Father Schoener did all of the rose work alone, often laboring from 5 o'clock in the morning until 9 o'clock at night in high summer. He made over 1,500 combinations in roses that year, to say nothing of his other work with vegetables, fruits, ornamental shrubs, corn; and his work also with the gladiolus was considerable.
Of the 120,000 rose seeds harvested in the fall of 1914—and immediately sown, and it must be remembered that all of the hybridizing was carried on in the open air, the pollenized blooms being carefully covered with bags securely tied to prevent insect disturbances—about 25,000 seeds germinated. Not having any greenhouse or equipment to carefully protect these he lost quite a number. The weak ones he pulled out; and the net result of the 1914 work was about 4,000 very promising seedlings. All these, except seven, perished in the fire in about twenty minutes.
During 1915, the result of hybridizing was far greater, but all save about 10,000 seeds were destroyed in the fire. His combinations in 1915 represented some which have always been regarded as quite difficult. Despite the fact that Souv. de la Malmaison is considered sterile, Father Schoener nevertheless succeeded in pollenizing it with the Lyon rose. He had five fine seed heps of this combination which the fire destroyed. Among the other notable combinations he succeeded with this year were Macartney on the Lyon, Soleil d'Or on Wichuraiana, Macartney, R. ferruginea and R. microphylla. He also succeeded in crossing the Lyon with Conrad F. Meyer, and made a number of other combinations, all of them entirely new so far as any pedigreed list is concerned.
Many of Father Schoener's efforts are directed toward overcoming the faults of the wonderfully colored Pernetianas, particularly in regards to establishing a better foliage. His efforts in this direction far surpassed his own expectations for the first year. Father Schoener when asked about his work said: "My work of the past year was systematically based on the Mendelian laws of heredity. Some experiments I made especially with regard to the relation of the color-pigment in the pollen-germ, and I believe there is a big field for development in this line. In working on the Mendel theory it must be taken into consideration that the Abbot Mendel experimented only with peas. While his theory works mathematically correct in many annual and perennial plants it is a far different proposition with woody plants, where no fixation of seed is the object. In roses the differentiating characters must be found out beforehand and the application of Mendel's theory to roses is a great field for further investigation."