The Rose Annual, 1955, pp. 97-99
My Masterpiece
Livermore, California, U.S.A.

You ask as to which of my roses is "my masterpiece". Until several years ago I would undoubtedly have said Charlotte Armstrong.

But now I am fully convinced that my newly introduced coral-pink All-America Rose Selection, Queen Elizabeth, will far surpass it in both general garden utility and unique distinctiveness, for it combines most of the best features of the hybrid tea and floribunda classes in a plant of remarkable vigour, producing an abundance of roses of a superb and delicate pure pink colour. The flowers are larger than is typical of many of the more modern floribundas and the plants, because of their hybrid vigour, tend to be taller and more robust in growth. The interplay of various factors in the origin of this variety may therefore be of interest.

Ever since 1938 I have been keenly interested in combining the wide leathery glossy leaves of the mildew-resistant Captain Thomas with the long bud and open flower quality of Charlotte Armstrong. Until 1945 my only source of these worthwhile foliage characteristics was the Captain Thomas-Crimson Glory line, from which I eventually introduced the Descanso Pillar, now making such a fine showing for itself in gardens of mild winter areas.

About 1945 the variety Floradora began to be widely distributed, having been introduced by the Conard-Pyle Company in 1943. This variety, originated by Mathias Tantau, immediately attracted my attention because:

(1) It is a hybrid of R. multibracteata x Baby Chateau. Accordingly, being a wide cross and a species hybrid, it not only showed a great amount of hybrid vigour but could be expected to transmit a great deal of this vigour to its offspring. Fortunately, the form of R. multibracteata used was tetraploid, i.e. had twenty-eight chromosomes, the same number as Baby Chateau and most of the modern floribundas and hybrid teas. Accordingly, most of the pollen grains of Floradora were viable and it proved to be an excellent parent.

(2) The foliage of Floradora, inherited from Baby Chateau, was very large, glossy and disease-resistant. Here, at last, was another source for the wonderful foliage and disease-resistant qualities I so much admired.

(3) The brilliant scarlet red colour of Floradora was absolutely unique at the time.

It seemed to me, therefore, that a combination of this unusual scarlet colour, large glossy leaf and disease-resistance with the bud and flower form of Charlotte Armstrong would be worth while. To this end I made a large series of crosses in the spring of 1946 from which I obtained 270 seeds and eighty-one seedlings.

The variation shown among these hybrids was startling, the petal numbers, for example, varying from completely single flowers with five petals to such fully double types as the glowing rose opal Dean Collins with fifty to sixty petals.

One of the first seedlings to flower was an outstandingly vigorous one, having very large leathery glossy foliage. This plant immediately attracted attention because of its lovely coral-pink flowers. Transplanted along with the rest of the seedlings to the field, its growth continued to be remarkable, being the most vigorous plant in the population. By the fall of 1948 the performance of this hybrid as regards floriferousness and general elegance of bud-form was such as to indicate that we not only had successfully combined the beautiful bud-form of Charlotte Armstrong with the glossy disease-resistant foliage of Floradora, but had also developed a new class of rose, for the individual flower-stems were very long and graceful, and yet were produced in such abundance as to rival the best floribunda. Even the flowers in clusters were on stems sufficiently long for cutting. It soon became apparent that flowers when cut were unusually long lasting, and possessed of a delightfully elusive fragrance and a really new coral-pink colour which actually increased in charm as the flower aged. The opening colour of carmine-rose to dawn-pink gradually changed to light carmine-rose, heavily peppered with carmine where the sun struck the petals most strongly.

The original objective of combining the scarlet-red colour with the bud-form of Charlotte Armstrong had not been realized. Instead, here was a lovely new colour with the elegant bud-form and magnificent cutting stems of hybrid teas.

CybeRose note: 'Floradora' was actually bred from Rosa roxburghii. See Wulff (1954)

Aicardi: My Masterpiece (1955)

de Ruiter: My Masterpiece (1955)