Chronicle of America 1948 (pp. 179-180)
Making Hybrid Teas Hardier
Percy H. Wright, Sask.
My nursery is in the centre of an area where tender roses are more difficult to winter, probably, than anywhere else in settled America. In fact, another forty miles north of us, and settlement stops. We are right up against the wild and waste northland. The problem of getting hardy roses for the area, which has been a project of mine for fifteen years, is complicated by the fact that everblooming is almost a necessity here, on account of the depredations of the rose curculio or "snout beetle", which often gets fifty to ninety per cent of the flower buds of the June-blooming varieties. It is a marvel that varieties were developed long ago (the German rugosa hybrid Hansa, for instance), which bloom their heads off between August 15 and September 15, are checked in full bloom by heavy frost, and yet ripen their wood up ;sufficiently in the remaining month before winter to be hardy in fifty-below zero weather, and hardy to the snow line every winter. The list of varieties which will do this is not a long one, including, besides Hansa, the very similar English hybrid, Mrs. Anthony Waterer, and the rugosa variety called Kamschatica, of origin unknown to me. There are of course other rugosa hybrids of sufficient hardiness to grow and do well when given some protection, such as Blanc Double de Coubert, and Schneezwerg, our two best whites, but they are quite a way from making that marvelous combination of late fall bloom and hardiness upon which I have already commented.
This short account of our location, our climate, and our adapted rose varieties is given as an introduction to a study of what may be taken as the supreme problem of the rose growers of North America north of a line that would run from the Atlantic coast, not far south of Chicago, and due west to the Rocky Mountains.
For some years I considered that spinosissima altaica was the most promising of the superhardy species for our purposes, for the variety Karl Foerster (also by chance a German origination, produced by Wm. Kordes by pollinating Frau Karl Druschki with altaica pollen) produces a flower with remarkable good textured petals and a strong, if short flower stem, and, most important of all, does not lose the everblooming habit inherited from its Hybrid Perpetual ancestry. However, it turns out that Karl Foerster is difficult to bud, and nurserymen are loathe to undertake its propagation on account of the low percentage of catch, and furthermore, this difficult budding seems to be a characteristic of all altaica seedlings. Of course, there is presumably nothing to prevent the linkage of the other and desirable altaica features with this difficult propagation being broken eventually. However, the failure to break a similar linkage of undesirable characteristics in the case of rugosa is not encouraging.
When the native rose species of the northerly part of North America are crossed with tender everblooming roses, they invariably dominate the hybrid enough to make the plant a vigorous growing shrub and completely suppress the everblooming habit. Mr. F. L. Skinner's attractive hybrid Betty Bland, is the example that comes to mind, and there are dozens of others. And yet, the hardy species that is to satisfy our desires must be one of a relatively few species if it is to be North American in origin at all. These hardy species include nitida, native in New England, virginiana or lucida, native as far north as Nova Scotia, blanda, native in Quebec and Ontario, and the three natives of the prairie provinces of Canada, acicularis, the Arctic rose, suffulta, the three-inch-high "weed" rose of the western wheatfields, and Macounii, which occupies an intermediate position. In my experience, all these roses, with the possible exception of nitida, will suppress the everblooming habit. I have not tried nitida in a direct cross with tender roses, but I did cross it many times with Hansa, and several of the resulting complex hybrids have bloomed in the fall. Evidently nitida is not as extremely resistant to fall blooming as are the others.
Now here comes the point which I wish to stress. On account of the difficulty of obtaining Hybrid Tea and Hybrid Perpetual pollen at the right date, and also the difficulty in getting seeds pollinated by these tender roses to ripen before the first heavy frosts of autumn (which arrive anywhere between September 1 and 15), my own work has been largely the crossing of the first generation hybrids with one another and raising second and third generation hybrids. The resistance to everblooming is something that makes its presence felt in the first generation, and in the second and subsequent generations, such segregations occur that the everblooming habit will appear.
For instance, I crossed Betty Bland with a rose of my own breeding which is one-half Macounii, one-quarter rugosa, and one-quarter Hybrid Perpetual, that is, that resulted from putting Macounii pollen on Hansa. This complex hybrid, which I called Mary L. Evans, blooms in June only, and is without a trace of fall blooming, just like Betty Bland. From the numerous progeny I obtained one, which I call Joyce, which is an improvement over both parents. The flower is larger than the flower of Betty Bland, pale pink about the edges, and deep salmon-pink in the centre, and to us northerners, to whom the sight of Hybrid Tea blossoms is a rarity, very attractive. The plant produces some fall bloom, and is hardy only to the snow line. To explain this variety, one can only assume that the blood lines of the unknown garden rose which is the tender ancestor of Betty Bland, and of the Hybrid Perpetual ancestor of Hansa (probably General Jacqueminot) "got together." Of course, my Joyce is still a shrub rose, and not anywhere near what is wanted as "a slightly hardier Hybrid Tea". However, it might make a good ancestor of Hybrid-Tea-like roses, if its blood were diluted several times. This sort of segregation has happened for me quite often, but then always to give a plant with a valuable flower. Strangely enough, fall blooming is something that can be lost by segregation, and not only occasionally regained. For instance, Mr. R. Simonet of Edmonton (of double petunia fame) crossed the two rugosa hybrids Hansa and Blanc Double de Coubert, to obtain a variety which is at present our only double pink rugosa in the class of hardiness with Hansa, but it, though blooming in the fall, is not nearly as free with its bloom as either parent, about half as free, I'd say. I made many crosses with Hansa as the mother parent and Belle Poitevine as the pollen parent. The numerous plants that sprang from this union are mostly June-blooming only, although a number do produce fall bloom. Evidently hybrids between rugosa and tender everblooming roses are most likely to be everblooming in the first generation.
In conclusion, it is my strong opinion that hybridizers should seen new genes for their roses by breeding with species not hitherto used, and when they have got the first generation hybrids, should not stop there, but should go on to produce further dilutions of the blood of the hardy species, until all combinations are exhausted and man has on record what each species can do as a parent. The room for combinations is almost inexhaustible. For instance, what sort of a rose would be produced by crossing my Joyce with altaica, and then making this rose one-eighth of the ancestry of a large population, the other seven-eighths to be Hybrid Tea or Hybrid Perpetual? We should take note of the fact that a small percentage of the ancestral genes of species roses is likely to improve not only hardiness, but also resistance to mildew and black-spot.