THE blend between one rose species, or group of hybrids, and another, may be recognized as unsuccessful, and yet the valuable qualities in both may be carried into combinations by hybridizing.
For instance, the alpine wild rose, R. rubrifolia, makes undesirable crosses with the Hybrid Teas. Dr. W. Van Fleet came to this conclusion a good many years ago when he wrote luminously for several issues of the American Rose Annual. The Redleaf Rose is such a lanky grower, and drops its rapidly yellowing lower leaves so early, that we cannot easily see what good feature it might contribute to any descendent hybrid race. However, crosses with northerly roses as hardy as itself, or hardier, may be valuable. As an example we may take the rose Carmenetta. originated by Miss Isabella Preston, of Ottawa, by placing Rugosa pollen on flowers of Rubrifolia. The healthy foliage of Rugosa is a gain for the hybrid. Its flower is intermediate in size, with a portion of the extra deep pink of Rubrifolia petals. But the feature of Carmenetta which attracts our surprised attention is its tree-like growth. It becomes a great bush, eleven feet tall, with strong, stout stems.
Filled with curiosity as to how Rubrifolia would unite with other hardy species. I placed on Rubrifolia flowers the pollen of Harison's Yellow, Persian Yellow, Pratincola (the double form, Woodrow), and Macouni (the semi-double form, Athabasca). In each case fertilization resulted, and young plants are now ready to be set out in test plots to come to bloom. All four series of pollinations yielded plants with dark foliage, almost as dark as Rubrifolia itself and fully as dark as Carmenetta. The flowers will probably be intermediate also, and most of the hybrids be valuable chiefly for foliage effect. In the prairie provinces of Canada supreme hardiness is essential and the cross with Macouni is likely to possess this. It may be that here is a choice new hedge plant for all the blizzard country, and perhaps elsewhere.
Still another seedling of Rubrifolia interests me. I do not know its origin, and my records show it only as an open-fertilized seedling of the Redleaf rose. Its feature is an absolute lack of thorns, and hence Dr. N. E. Hansen would doubtless be glad to see it.
One is almost compelled to believe that success in plant breeding, like stature, comes not by taking thought, so often does the unplanned-for yield the richer harvest. There is a further instance.
One of the commonest rose varieties grown in western Canada is the Banshee. It came into the country so long ago that its origin is forgotten, and inquiry only elicits the opinion that it reached Manitoba via the Dakotas, and from the Red River settlements was carried into Saskatchewan and Alberta. It may be an old rose, and yet the foliage seems distinct from that of Gallica, and Centifolia. The flower is a very double pink of poor texture, not unattractive, but much troubled by balling. Hence, I suppose, the variety name. If anyone reading this Annual has information regarding the rose Banshee, western Canada would be glad to have it passed on. It is sufficiently hardy for general planting in our provinces, and Mr. F. L. Skinner, of Dropmore. Manitoba, our authority on hardy roses, places it next to the Rugosa variety, Hansa, in hardiness.
This year a bud sport gave a new form, a semi-double rose of much deeper pink and free of balling, and with the loss of petals, fertility was recovered. As soon as I found this plant I attempted to use it in crossing, and placed upon its petals pollen of a wild rose that happened to be in bloom at the same time. This was an unidentified species sent to me two years ago by Mr. W. S. Blair, then Superintendent of the Dominion Experimental Station at Kentville, Nova Scotia. Every pollination gave seed, and the idea was suggested to me that perhaps Banshee itself is a hybrid of this or of some related North American native.
After pollinating the flowers of the sport of Banshee, I went on to work the flowers of Banshee itself. Most of these pollinations, as expected, remained unproductive, but one, to my amazement, yielded an enormous hip, almost as big as a crabapple, and so full of huge seeds that they were fairly protruding from the top. These seeds, 81 in all, were quite the largest rose seeds I have ever seen. The pollinator was this same wild rose of Kentville. Never before had I heard of Banshee yielding seed, though one such case has since come to my attention. The reverse cross, the Kentville rose pollinated by Banshee, also gave a plentiful response in seeds.
What can we conclude but that Nature is less easily fathomed than we suspect in those not-rare hours when we think we know it all, and that she undoubtedly hides from us many plain truths, and many more potentialities. It seems that we should not make our plans too definite, in the twilight as we are, and that we should sometimes trust to luck, trying almost any opportunity that offers.
The special problem of the origin of Banshee attracts investigation, as also does the general question of the possibilities that lie in native North American roses, as yet almost untouched.