American Rose Annual, 51: 55-56 (1966)
Creating New Hardy Roses
Percy H. Wright
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

THE mere idea of creating new roses which will substitute for the magnificent modern hybrid teas has fascinated many plant breeders of the present era and more than a few amateurs. The new roses are envisioned as able to withstand the extremes of climate that most of Canada experiences as well as a considerable part of the northern United States.

Hardiness is not the only new feature which it is hoped to add to the hybrid teas. Resistance to the two diseases, mildew and blackspot, is also sought. Such resistance can be obtained by adding genes of the same hardy wild roses that have hardiness to contribute. A rose breeder, therefore, aims high. He knows bliat his creations are likely to be welcomed in all the temperate lands of the world.

Rosarians in the prairie provinces of Canada have been particularly enterprising in the search for "tough" new roses. Among the Manitoba men who have caught a vision of the possibilities and taken pollen brush in hand to realize their dreams are Dr. Frank Skinner of Dropmore, William Godfrey of the Morden Experimental Farm, later H. F. Harp of the same institution and H. Marshall of the Brandon Experimental Farm. In Alberta, Georges Bugnet of Lac Majeau and R. Simonet of Edmonton have been active. Cooperation among these enthusiasts and with others interested in the same ideals has been top-notch and each has built to some extent on the achievements of the others.

Dr. Skinner was the pioneer. His early work, however, resulted mostly in varieties that bloomed only in June-July. It was not until more recently that his discovery that Rosa laxa, a native of eastern Siberia, would cross readily with hybrid teas led to exciting new roses that seem to promise "the millenium" to prairie rose lovers.

Years before this revelation Mr. Godfrey was working with a line of his own. One of his parent roses was a variety of remarkably attractive coloring, 'Turkes Rugosa Samling,' and another was the extra vigorous form of the Scotch Rose which grows wild on the Altai Mountains of central Siberia, R. altaica. From this line, as a result of his work or the work of his successor Mr. Harp, have sprung the Prairie roses: 'Prairie Youth,' 'Prairie Maid,' 'Prairie Charm,' and others. These are all tall, especially vigorous shrub roses, with only partial everblooming. They undoubtedly offer to the coming generation of rose breeders a most valuable pool of collected genes. Their flowers have remarkably good form and good substance.

Mr. Marshall so far has released but one rose, "Assiniboin." It is a hybrid between R. suffulta, the dwarf, almost herbaceous wild rose which becomes a weed in prairie wheat fields, and the brilliant red floribunda 'Donald Prior.' It blooms freely in the fall (like both its parents), and has most of the rich color of its tender parent. Even in the extreme cold of prairie Januaries it needs no protection except normal snow cover.

Mr. Bugnet, too, is famous for one rose, named "Theresa Bugnet." It is, at the moment, recognized as a most outstanding hardy, everblooming shrub rose. Its color is an attractive pink and its fall blooming is phenomenal.

Mr. Sirnonet's creations are little less than a flood. Their value as flowers is undisputable and their hardiness is now being put to the test. Because he used so often as hardy parent the same R. laxa which Dr. Skinner was using at the same time, he has been able to make second infusions of hybrid tea "blood." One of his varieties that is three-quarters hybrid tea survived the winter of 1963-64 in northern Saskatchewan, above the snow line, with no protection whatever.

A short time ago there came news of another line of rose development at the Morden Experimental Farm. Mr. Harp crossed the Shining rose of the Maritime provinces (one of Canada's more valuable wild species, which has been sadly overlooked as a flower in its own right) with 'Thérèse Bugnet.' The Shining rose, R. nitida, has most beautiful foliage color in the autumn and so the new rose from Morden is sure to have a double value.

Breeding into the hybrid tea race new genes for hardiness and disease resistance offers a glorious adventure that is just beginning.

Prairie Canada, it would seem, is destined to be recognized as the home of a great deal of the most important rose breeding of the next quarter century. The need to adjust to the severe climate has been the spur to progress.