RHA Newsletter 37(1): 16-17 (Spring 2006)
Bicolors in my Hardy Crosses
Peter Harris

Developing hardy roses is a daunting enough task, but to do so with the objective of developing bicolors is more than I am willing to sign on for. Nonetheless, bicolors have appeared entirely by chance among seedlings resulting from my crosses intended to develop hardy yellow shrub roses. Like other hybridizers, I get some results I don't expect, but I'm happy to accept anything good that comes along. Anyone who tries to breed roses for any particular color needs to be ready to accept a lot of pink roses. Sometimes it's OK to accept bicolors—even if, like me, you're really more interested in developing a better yellow.

In recent years I've found quite a number of bicolors among seedlings with my R15 as a parent or grandparent. R15 has the parentage 'Golden Showers' x 'Hazeldean'. 'Golden Showers' traces back to 'Crimson Glory' through 'Charlotte Armstrong'. In fact, quite a number of bicolors have 'Crimson Glory' in their pedigree. Perhaps we shouldn't make too much of this, since there are other roses that might be involved in the bicolor trait, but this rose seems to be involved in more bicolors than one might expect. 'Hazeldean' too seems to bring with it some tendency toward bicolors, as you will see later.

R15 (originally, R15-01) grows about 10 feet tall and has dark canes with needle-like prickles. Its leaves are glossy (a trait that seems to come from 'Golden Showers', but 'Hazeldean' also seems to have relatively glossy leaves), and the blossoms, a very bright yellow—almost a chrome yellow with red filaments and stamens, are cupped like those of 'Hazeldean' and its parent 'Harison's Yellow'. R15's blossoms of 15-20 petals come mostly in clusters of 3-7 at the axils (the buds at the bases of the previous year's leaves) along the previous year's canes. The flowers are very fragrant. R15 blooms heavily for about 3 weeks in early spring, and then it makes a few flowers on the tips of new shoots about 3 or 4 weeks later. It is essentially a once-bloomer. It has been tested in Morden, Manitoba, where it freezes to the snowline every year. Here in West Virginia it survived a temperature of about -20° F in 1989 and 1994 without losing even a millimeter of cane. Apparently something like -25° F is its practical hardiness limit. Because it is quite a lot hardier than most garden roses and it is yellow, and it has a repeat-blooming modem climber in its parentage, I have been using it in an effort to create hardier repeat-blooming roses. Did I mention that it's pretty and has very good pollen?

CybeRose note: [(Happiness x Independence) x Sutter's Gold]

In 1997 I put R15 pollen on the red Meilland grandiflora 'Scarlet Knight'CR (in Europe, 'Samourai') simply because 'Scarlet Knight' is highly fertile as a seed parent. Believe it or not, I was hoping to get some yellow seedlings. "Hope" is probably the right way to think about it since 'Scarlet Knight' has a very heavy dose of red in its background and when left to pollinate itself will generally produce (in my experience) about 85 per cent red seedlings (and a few red/white bicolors). But I got lucky. I got ONE (only one) seedling with some yellow: a lot of yellow on the petal face and yellow on the reverse. At the time I had not identified the rose as 'Scarlet Knight' and was using it under the study name of Bookstore Red (BR for short) since I'd found it near the bookstore at WVU Tech. My code for the cross of Bookstore Red x R15 was BR5, and the improbably-yellow seedling was BR5-04 since it was the fourth seedling kept from that group.

BR5-04 repeats well, and has a pleasing fragrance. It is upright in habit and has needle-like prickles on its canes. The flowers have 10-20 petals of a good width and substance. The center of the blossom is a bright yellow, and the upper surface of the petal seems to have a base of yellow with an overlay of rose red. The reverse of the petal is bright yellow. The leaves are glossy and attractive, with a reasonable level of disease resistance. The bush grows to a height of about four feet. [See Picture C on page 20]

Since 1999 I have tried to use BR5-04 as a seed parent, but it does not set many seeds, and even when it sets seeds the hips usually drop off before 8 weeks. As a pollen parent, it does better. Although it does not produce a lot of pollen, the pollen is good, and I have been able to get a fair number of seedlings with BR5-04 as the pollen parent. The seedlings are typically tall and very upright in habit, with attractive, dark, glossy leaves like those of the parent. The canes are well armed with needle-like prickles inherited from R15. The seedlings are also, more often than not, bicolors. So far this year I've had 4 seedlings bloom from the cross 'Cal Poly' x BR5-04. All have been bicolors, with the top of the petal either light pink, light red, or medium red, and the reverse a shade of yellow, usually light yellow or pale yellow. This cross, coded C4, has yielded a high percentage of bicolors in the past, and I will repeat it this year. My objective is not to get bicolors (although they are welcome) but to get yellows (which would be more welcome), with the hope that these yellows are hardier than average and can be used as parents in further crosses to create hardy yellow roses.

The 'Hazeldean' connection seems to bring with it the chance for bicolors. I have not been the only hybridizer working with hardy roses to find bicolors among the seedlings descended from 'Hazeldean'. Percy Wright, the great Canadian hybridizer who originated 'Hazeldean', unexpectedly found a red/yellow bicolor among his seedlings one year. He had been lucky and no late freeze had come along to kill the buds on his once-blooming shrub seedlings that tried to bloom early. He named this rose 'World Peace'. Of it he said, "My new bicolor is from 'Hazeldean' pollen ... on some unrecorded rose plant but probably my 'Moose Range' rose. The latter is ('Hansa' x 'Macounii') x 'Hansa' " (letter of Nov. 27, 1978). 'Hazeldean' has the parentage R. spinosissima altaica x 'Harison's Yellow'.

In the spring of 2000, I put pollen of R15 on seedlings grown from open-pollinated seeds gathered from 'Ross Rambler'. The seedlings, both once-bloomers, were quite similar, with one white and the other slightly pinkish. Germination of the resulting seeds was fairly good, but most of the seedlings looked like seed parents, with bluish or grayish leaves. Two looked different, having glossier leaves and a thicker cane. In the spring of 2002, the more attractive of these had a single large bud on it. This seedling, given the name RC-01 (Ross seedling by the Creek—a lot of thought goes into these names), is a bicolor, with a silver reverse and a fluorescent red upper petal surface. The filaments and anthers show considerable influence from 'Ross Rambler'. [See Picture D on page 20]

RC-01 is a once-bloomer, but since it has a repeat-blooming climber ('Golden Showers') as a grandparent and since 'Ross Rambler' often repeats late in the season, I think that RC-01 has a good chance of bringing hardiness into a repeat-blooming line. Accordingly, last year when I had 5 blossoms on my RC-01, I took all the pollen and used it on 'Cal Poly' (a mini which is yellow and fertile, and will, I hope, help moderate the height of seedlings derived from R15 and RC-01). The pollinations yielded 86 seeds, and already I've had 9 germinations. I'm pretty interested in this cross. Check that—I'm excited about it. Be expecting a follow-up report on the seedlings by this time next year. And, yes, I will repeat the cross this year. No, I'm not looking for bicolors, but I'll bet I get some.

C —BR5-04
D —RC-01