American Rose Magazine, Jan-Feb, p. 146-147 (1949)
The Work of a Rose Breeder
F. L. Skinner
Dropmore, Manitoba, Canada
When the French rose breeder Pernet-Ducher succeeded in crossing a hybrid tea rose with the Persian Yellow variety, he made possible the raising of the many fine yellow and orange shades that help make the present-day hybrid teas the brilliant flowers they are. However, this did not solve the problem of growing hardy everblooming roses in that section of the United Stares and Canada known as the Great Plains region. It has fallen to the lot of a Canadian rose breeder to take a step forward in the breeding of hardy roses which I believe future historians of rose breeding will consider as ranking in importance with the work of Perner-Ducher.
This Canadian rose breeder is William Godfrey, recently retired Head Gardener at the Dominion Experimental Station at Morden, Manitoba. Mr. Godfrey had been Head Gardener for many Years and the beautiful ornamental grounds of the Station are largely a monument to his skill as a gardener. The Morden Experimental Station, though run by the government, serves both sides of the international border. Many United States citizens visit it annually.
Mr. Godfrey's skill as a gardener, together with the fact that he had the use of the facilities provided by a government institution, has enabled him to make such wild roses as R. altaica (R. spinosissima altaica), R. Beggeriana, R. rubrifolia and R. suffulta flower under glass in early spring and to use them as parents in his breeding work. This fact has enabled him to cross hybrid tea roses with both R. altaica and R. suffulta and to interbreed the progeny until now he has varieties which combine the "blood" of all these in a single plant.
It will be seen, therefore, that combinations such as these are the makings of some very fine hardy roses. R. suffulta, as it grows on the Canadian prairies, is extremely hardy. It has the ability to flower on the new wood, something that very few of the hardy wild roses do. It is quite common to see stretches of prairie that have been swept by fire in spring covered with the flowers of R. suffulta the following August.
R. altaica also is extremely hardy and it can be induced to cross with quite a number of other rose species. (I have succeeded in raising hybrids between it and both the Austrian Brier Rose (R. foetida) and our native R. acicularis.) Thus Godfrey in his work has combined three roses, two of which are extremely hardy and two that have the ability to flower on the new wood.
By continuing to breed roses along the lines started by Godfrey, I feel certain that eventually a new race of roses will be evolved that will be able to flower on the new wood and at the same time be sufliciently hardy to withstand our most severe winters.
Because of his work with roses, Mr, Godfrey was honored by the Manitoba Horticultural Association in August, 1947, when he was presented with the Stevenson Memorial Medal, the highest horticultural award in Canada at the present time.
The late George Batho, for many years a prominent member of the Manitoba Horticultural Association, once said to me, "It is more important that we should raise hardy roses than hardy apples, because people can always buy apples, but gardens with hardy roses in them would induce many people to make real homes on these prairies."