American Rose Annual 41: 123-125 (1956)
New Approach To The Breeding Of Hardy Roses
Dr. F. L. Skinner

Dropmore, Manitoba

It has been said that there is nothing new under the sun and possibly my new method of approach to the breeding of hardy roses for the Great Plains area might more appropriately be termed a revamping of the methods used by rose breeders of over a century ago.

More than forty years ago I conceived the idea of crossing our wild prairie roses with the garden varieties and thus securing hybrids that would have much of the hardiness of the wild roses and still retain the beauty of both parents. With this idea in mind, a collection of about 140 varieties of roses was imported including as many as were then available of the old Cabbage, Gallica, Alba and China roses. The results of all the work done at that time were a little disappointing; many of the garden roses were either sterile or produced sterile offspring when mated with the pure wild species. A little better success attended my efforts when hybrids between the various hardy species such as R. blanda X rugosa, rugosa X nitida, spinosissima altaica X acicularis, etc., were used as the hardy parent.

In recent years quite a number of dwarf varieties of the old roses that are sufficiently hardy to flower in Manitoba without protection have become available and the following have all ripened fruit out of doors in Manitoba:

Anais Ségales, R. alba, a variety common in the north of Scotland, Belle Isis, Chamcook, called after the place in eastern Canada where it has been grown for many years, probably a Gallica variety, Duchess de Verneuil, Duchesse de Buccleugh, R. damascena rubrotincta, a Damascena variety received from eastern Canada as the Grannie Rose, R. gallica grandiflora, large blush Gallica, a Cabbage or Gallica variety received from Mrs. Lynnes without name, Marcel Bourgeuin, Nuits d'Young, Rose des Maures, Souvenir d'Alphonse Lavelle and Captain Hayward. Some seed received from Professor Buck of Ames, Iowa, of a cross between R. chinensis and R. c. mutabilis has given me both single and double flowered forms that, though rather tender for growing out of doors, will set seed to the pollen of quite a few of my hardy hybrids.

During this summer, pollen of a wide range of hardy hybrids such as R. rugosa X nitida, (rugosa X blanda) X gallica grandiflora, suffulta var. Woodrow X spinosissima, etc., has been used on the above mentioned roses and the amount of seed now ripening is most gratifying. Judging from results already obtained I feel sure that this line of breeding will produce varieties comparable with the HP and Floribunda roses and be at least hardy to the snow line without protection. Many of them will flower throughout the summer.

Rosa virginiana was one of the American rose species that I used many years ago with rather indifferent results; however in the spring of 1950 I had in bloom, in pots, plants of R. damascena Celsiana, R. d. rubrotincta and a double white form of R. alba as well as a plant of R. virginiana alba. The flowers of the latter were fertilized with the pollen of the three old roses and from the seed secured about twenty seedlings germinated in 1952. Two of these seedlings that flowered for the first time this year had double flowers, one had white flowers resembling R. alba while the other had clear pink flowers like Celsiana in form and only slightly smaller; the foliage of all these R. virginiana alba hybrids is clean looking and nice. Pollen from these hybrids was used this summer on some of the old roses with apparently satisfactory results.

Under label Iowa #9 I received from Professor Buck a semi-double white rose resembling a Rugosa but which I am told has no Rugosa in its pedigree; pollen of Wm. Godfrey (acicularis X altaica) X H.P. was used on this Iowa #9 and four very interesting seedlings of this cross have flowered. One is a coral pink, frilly single that would be quite nice but is very subject to blackspot. A fully double coral pink, paler at the base and reverse of the petals, has cup-shaped flowers that are produced throughout the summer. The other two have double red flowers, with a little white in the centre and on the reverse of the petals; one is of good cup shape, is a rather striking shade of red and has been in bloom from June until late August. All have leaves very much like some of the HPs but of a paler shade of green. Possibly here I may have succeeded in tying in the genes for hardiness of altaica and acicularis with those that control the beauty of form of the Hybrid Perpetuals.

It is in the use of the true R. laxa, however, that I believe I have done something quite new and likely to have far-reaching results in the breeding of hardy roses suited to the Great Plains region. Two years ago I sent seed of this rose to Wilhelm Kordes and he assured me that live plants of the true R. laxa, Retzius, were practically unknown in Europe at that time. I have been using this in breeding work for some time and now have quite a few fertile, double-flowered hybrids in pink and white shades that have pollen that is acceptable to a wide range of both old and modern varieties.

During the past summer I spent a considerable amount of time trying to cross two of the Iowa hybrids of R. Maximowicziana with other hardier varieties and the only fruits that set were those on which pollen of Laxa Hybrids had been used.

This species grows to a height of five to six feet here and while the greatest flush of flowers is in late June it continues to bloom throughout the summer and both flowers and ripe fruit can usually be found on the bushes in September. It seems to be able to transmit this autumn flowering habit to many of its hybrids and also much more of its own hardiness than R. rugosa does to its hybrids.

Rosa laxa has a peculiar scent and few people would call it fragrant, but when mated with some of the Spinosissima Hybrids it has given rise to some quite sweet scented roses. Some of these Laxa-Spinosissima Hybrids have neat disease-free foliage. As one of the parents of a race of hardy double-flowered shrub roses or possibly climbing roses that will require a minimum of winter protection, I believe that R. laxa has a great future.