RHA Newsletter 6(2): 14 (Summer 1975)
HOW TO TAG YOUR POLLINATED FLOWERS
Percy H. Wright

The late Frank L. Skinner, one of Canada's most active rose hybridizers in his time, once tried to persuade me that it is not necessary to enclose pollinated flowers in paper bags, since (he claimed) if all petals and stamens are removed, the emasculated heps will not be visited by insects. I agreed that the chance of vagrant pollen falling on the pistils, already well covered by the pollen we have deposited, is very small, and so I tried it out. The result was that the chosen heps, marked only by a short length of string, were difficult to find among so many open-pollinated heps when fall came.

The next year it occurred to me that a longer string, in some bright color, might mark the heps. But I rejected this idea out of fear that nesting birds, in search of string for their nests, might pull at the string and possibly dislodge the entire hep with its petiole. So I went back to the method I had before used with satisfaction.

This is to fold a bit of paper over the pollinated hep, tying it with a short string below the sepals, but making sure that the string is not so tight as to exclude all air. If there is a little air coming in at the bottom, the hep should be as well ventilated as if covered with a large paper bag, or so I figured. The presence of the paper also allows for a place to write the name of the pollen provider, under a little fold at one end. If one wants to have a record of both pollen and mother parent, it is no more trouble to write it on the protecting paper cover than to provide a special name tag.

I also had another motive for returning to covering the hep. I had tried to pollinate apple blossoms with pollen of our "saskatoon," the local Amelanchier, and had left the flower parts uncovered. I got quite a few seeds and was hopeful that I had succeeded in making this interesting trans-genera cross, but when I grew the seeds, they were all pure apple. This reduced my faith in the no-visitation theory.

In any event, I doubt whether it takes me, using my original method of tagging, a moment longer than it would do to leave the pollinated parts uncovered. Nevertheless, I agree that saving time can be quite important, especially when me makes 500 or more pollinations per season, as I was accustomed to doing.

The more experience I have, the more I realize the importance of using only pollen which is dry and so unaffected by mould or heating, and to apply lots of it. I don't try to apply it with s brush, or with my fingers, but turn the pollen-laden flower bud from the pollen parent right aver the pistils to be pollinated, and make a circular motion to insure that the pollen comes off. It is much easier to make sure of the presence of the new pollen if that pollen happens to be well colored.