Spots? Or stripes?

A couple of years ago I began searching various nurseries for spotted roses  I didn't have.  One of those listed by one nursery as "spotted" was 'Daphne.'  Last year, I got one bloom which, as with many mauves, was just plain pink with a few darker streaks.  Well, this week it began blooming again, and this is what I've got:

I very highly recommend clicking on the image to see the photo in detail.

'Daphne' is amazing.  It's a pink rose with a purple overlay, but there are short streaks in the overlay where no purple is visible, so that the overall effect is of a purple rose with short pink dashes.  It's not quite striped and not quite spotted.

The moment I saw this, I dove for the pollen.  Alas, no pollen.  Not a jot.  Just a button eye.

Well, I'm crossing 'Daphne' with all kinds of things, and it seems that so far, most of the things I've put on it have taken.  I wish I could make reciprocal crosses, because there are a lot of roses I'd love to cross it with that I can't--because they, too, have no pollen.

What I need, I'm realizing, is a rose that has plenty of pollen but doesn't readily pass on its own traits.  No such thing, I know.  But one can always hope.  In the meantime, I'm using just about every bloom on the plant as a seed parent.  Here's hoping!


Why I breed Old Garden Roses

Well, a picture being worth a thousand words....

As always, click picture for a larger view.

This rose I call "Fort Pella White Merlot."  (Hygiene, Colorado was originally Fort Pella.)  This is an early-blooming alba-type rose with a fragrance that can knock you into next week.  This photo was taken during the first bloom flush.  FPWM produces three flowers per stem, a central one which blooms first, and then two side buds which bloom two weeks after the central flower has shattered.  All in all, there is generally about six weeks of bloom.  This rose produces a lovely fall color too: deep maroon leaves with silver reverses.  The rose suckers slowly and is generally well-behaved.  There are very few thorns.

I know of several different roses of approximately this type that grow wild (or at least, feral) around the county.  Some are a shade or two darker or lighter than this, and one variant, "Fort Pella Morning Stars," is lightly spotted.  All of them produce hips readily, but even large hips contain only a few seeds and these are very reluctant to germinate.  But honestly, it would be hard to improve on this!

By the way, it's still cloudy.  Evidently, the Jet Stream has settled over us, bringing us water from the Gulf of California.  None of the mosses are blooming yet, but I've been hybridizing what is blooming as much as possible.  Hopefully there will be sunshine someday.  And when there is, I will look back on all this moisture, as my pasture crunches beneath my feet, and think how much I hated all the mud...


Hybridizing season begins in earnest!

Okay so! Things are starting to bloom, yahoo!  Crosses made so far:

R. woodsii ultramontana x L83 (Thanks, Paul!)
R. woodsii ultramontana x "Fort Pella Purple"
R. f. persica x "Fort Pella Purple"
R. f. persica x R. w. ultramontana
R. f. persica x "Dots Enough" (R. arkansana)
R. woodsii feldleri x "Dots Enough" (R. arkansana)
'Reine des Violettes' x "Dots Enough" (R. arkansana)
'Scentsational' x "Dots Enough" (R. arkansana)
"Fort Pella Purple" x "Dots Enough" (R. arkansana)
'George Burns' x L83
'Aschermittwoch' x "Dots Enough" (R. arkansana)
"Morning Stars" (spotted alba) x "Dots Enough" (R. arkansana)
'Hot Cocoa' x "Fort Pella Purple"
'Hot Cocoa' x 'Camieux'
'Golden Sunblaze' x R. w. ultramontana

I've also begun collecting pollen from R. glauca, and was lucky enough to find a wild R. glauca seedling growing under the main plant!  It's probably a self-pollinated R. glauca, but what if it isn't!

Sometimes the gods smile on you...

Look what I found!!

I've been searching for a thoroughly spotted R. arkansana for years.  The only really good one I know of is ... well, just a photo of one found in Canada.

This morning I found this!  I found it on a road that I've been walking down for fifteen years.  I never noticed a stand of roses there before.  This year, though, I spotted a fairly large, dense stand of them where the road had just been graded.  Been walking by each day waiting for a bloom, and this morning, there was this!

I nearly jumped out of my shoes!  Ran home (well, waddled really fast!) packed a bucket of water and some tools in the back of my truck, drove down to the rose and dug up as many suckers as I could.

The stand seems to be new and only a couple of the eight or so suckers I pulled up had any appreciable roots.  Those were planted in the garden.  Arkansana is blitheringly hardy and will sulk a few days, then grow like a weed no matter how you try to stop it, so I'm sure those suckers will take.  The others I dipped in rooting hormone and planted in a pot.

I'll be stopping by each day for pollen from the main plant.  Wow!  What a treat!!


Waiting for the Sun. Godot might get here first.

This is without a doubt the wettest late spring I can remember since the early 1980s.  I was hoping to really get going on my hybridising but alas, we've had an entire week of no sun, and -lots- of rain!  The hayfields are already seeding, so it's past optimum haying time.  Really quite amazing.

Persian Yellow and the mysterious Fort Pella Purple are ready to open, and I'm ready to get pollen from them.  I know that Persian Yellow has extremely low pollen fertility, but I intend to give it a go just the same.  I guess it's just part of my general contrarian nature; if you tell me something can't be done I have to do it...  We'll see!

The Fort Pella Pink Damask is ready to spring open, but so far every bud on the plant (and it's a huge plant!) is proliferated.  This plant is very prone to it.  I was especially careful not to feed it, as this generally makes the problem worse, but ... oh well.

The First Rose of Summer!

Always first to bloom in my garden is the Mountain Rose, R. woodsii ultramontana.   This rose is also known as the Fragrant Rose, and for good reason--it has one of the strongest and most lovely fragrances I know of!  Not rose at all, but strawberry and watermelon, and just... just... sooooo mmmm!

Actually, it shouldn't be growing down here, at a mere 1600 meters, at all.  Normally, it's found up in the mountains at 2400 meters and above, in zone 2.  Lower than that, one finds R. w. fendleri (lighter pink, no moss glands on leaf serrations, not much fragrance) and R. arkansana.  So how'd it get here?

I don't know for sure.  All I know is that it suddenly showed up in one of my irrigation ditches about two years after a mammoth forest fire to the west of here, started by some blithering idiot up in the mountains who decided to burn his mattress!  That summer we had tons of mountain birds, some of which, like a pair of Steller's Jays who frequent my feeder, have stayed on.  I figure these, or other, evacuee birds brought the seeds with them.

However this rose got here, I'm glad it did.  Even if there weren't such a pretty flower, the fragrance is to die for, and the hips are just delicious.  It's also fertile both ways and this year I have a few roselings growing which are a cross of this and 'Henri Martin.'  

I plan to do a lot more work with this rose this year.  The Mountain Rose has many features to its credit, apart from its fragrance and rose hip tea.  It makes a very lovely border shrub, has nice fall color, and so far as I've been able to tell, absolutely disease free.  Several times every summer, the county comes by and mows down all the roses that manage to creep out of the ditch proper, and sprays the rest for mosquitos.  No problem; the stand is as beautiful next spring as it was the previous.

It does have a couple of drawbacks, though.  It spreads with determined enthusiasm, so needs to be contained in a garden setting, or have its runners pulled up each year.  Also, it does need some thinning in the garden.  Canes which have flowered and formed hips one year are likely to die over the winter.  So, keeping it does involve some work.  But as soon as a flower opens and that powerful scent comes your way, it's all sooooo worth it!

So, pollen collecting has begun.  It will probably be finished flowering by the time other roses to which I'd like to cross it are ready, so the reciprocal cross can't be made.  First to flower every year, it's also the first to finish and the first to call it a summer and lose its leaves.  But that fragrance... ooooooooooooooooooooooooo!


When is a petal "too thin"?

Recently on one of the forums I haunt, I saw something mentioned about rose petals being "too thin,"  This kind of struck me as odd, because what I really love about R. canina is its thin, translucent petals.

In two cases so far, "Fa's Marbled Moss" has produced two offspring with not only thin, but crinkled, petals, and I love them both.  I think the crinkling comes from the spots; when I dried some of the flowers in silica gel, I noticed that the spots are thinner than the rest of the petals.

FMM offspring range widely in the number and size of the spots they have, from none whatsoever, to a few tiny ones, to huge spots that crinkle the whole petals.  The more and bigger the spots, the thinner and more crinkled the petals.

Here is 'Toujours Gai.'  (Click on photograph for a larger version.)

I registered 'Toujours Gai' as a "Misc. OGR" because it doesn't really fit into any particular class.  It's definitely not a moss.  The leaves are like those of a gallica, and the stems like those of an alba.  The flowers remind me somewhat of 'Old Blush,' though there's no 'Old Blush' in its ancestry (that I know of; FMM is a found rose).  The petals are very thin, the few-spotted (and occasionally non-spotted) petals being thicker than the spotted ones.  Are this rose's petals "too thin?"  If so, too thin for what?  Just wondering...

Here's my thinnest-petalled rose...

This is "Belle Organdy."  Belle is a nice little moss, very floriferous, with a nice fragrance to both flower and moss.  It seems to prefer full sun, but will do well enough in heavy shade. 

So far, Belle is the most extremely spotted rose I've gotten.  Sometimes the spots are so huge they take up the whole petal, as in the outermost petals of this flower.  This gives them an organdy-like crinkle.  Belle sets hips readily but I have not gotten any seeds to germinate yet.

I now have three plants of Belle, in three different locations, to see if location and soil differences have any effect on flower form.  I plan to do a lot of breeding with this rose this year.

So... here's what I'm wondering.  Petal textures... is there a good botanical reason they should be thick and exhibition style?  I'm ignoring artistic taste for the present; I'm just wondering if there is any relationship between petal thickness and the health/longevity of the flower.  In my experience, there isn't--but that's just these two roses.  

Any ideas out there?


Photos vs Paintings/Photoshopping...

Since I started growing roses, way back when, I've always had a preference for drawing them rather than photographing them.  Photographs capture the form just fine but not, in my opinion, the color.  There are several roses that, based on photos alone, I would never have bothered growing; Basye's Purple is an excellent example.  No photograph can possibly capture that color.  Yet once you actually see it, if you're  a purple fan, you can't be without it!

Since I started hybridising roses, I've tended even more toward drawing and painting as a means to accurately describe a rose.  An example here is a miniature I bred called "The Pimpernel." This is a littermate of 'Maman Ichiko,' but won't be released because it has no fragrance.  But it's a nice, sturdy little mini and I've kept it for myself anyway.

The camera records it thus:

Trouble is, this isn't how it looks to my eye.  To my eye, the flower looks like this:

To get this picture, I printed out a very light version of the photograph above, and colored over it with Prismacolor pencils.

Getting back to Basye's purple, I don't have an unretouched photo of it.  They all come out a sort of washed out pink.  Below, however, is a photo that I tweaked in the GIMP, a program like Photoshop but infinitely superior and free. I still am not able to capture the way this rose just sparkles, and the incredible depth of its color, but here you are; this is as close as I can get, with either the GIMP or pencils.

There's an excellent reason why cameras  don't capture what one actually sees, especially where color is concerned.  Your brain doesn't see what your camera sees.  In fact, your brain doesn't even see what your retina sees!  What you see when you look at a thing is your brain's interpretation, interpolation, revision and sometimes downright confusion of the data that the retina is sending it, especially where color is concerned.  There was a really interesting article a few weeks ago in Science News (I believe, I can't find it right offhand), where studies were suggesting that color vision is actually a "hobby" of the spacial orientation system!  You can put a gene for a third type of cone into a mouse (which normally has only two), and not only will that cone arise in the eye, but even though the mouse brain has no instructions for the use of that new cone, not only does it function, but the mouse is able to see, and make decisions based upon, that new color.

This blows me away.  I am a genuine color junkie, and it's been suggested that I may be a quadrochromat, based on my ability to distinguish minute differences in color.  I'm also a synesthete, to an extent: I remember numbers based not on what the number actually is but on what color the number is, to a very large extent.  2 is red. 10 is brown. 6677 is a pale, greyish teal. All numbers in the 30s and 80s are shades of yellow.  I don't actually see a numeral in these colors as the real hard-core synesthetes do, but I get the definite impression of color.   (There is an actual, physiological reason for this, which I won't go into here.)  Anyway, the upshot of all of this is that if something comes in more than one color, I have an almost obsessive desire to collect them all.  Fortunately, 11 cats is enough.  I simply cannot collect all 6 million combinations of colors and patterns...

Anyway, that's my Wednesday Morning Blather.  I am considering drawing all my best roses, just to have a record.  When I'll get time to do this, I have no idea.


Springtime Proceeds Apace

Time to get my pollen containers out and make sure they're clean and ready to go!  There are buds on R. woodsii ultramontana, R. foetida persica, R. multiflora and the mysterious "Fort Pella Purple."

I have plans for the "Fort Pella Purple."  Some of you might remember that "blue aura" I see on some roses; FPP has the strongest of these.  I plan to cross it with other roses in my collection which also have a very strong blue aura (to my eye, anyway), such as 'Stainless Steel' and 'La Belle Sultane.  I was hoping to breed it to 'Veilchenblau' this year, but after a late spring freeze I lost nearly my whole plant of the latter, and doubt I'll have any blooms this year.

What the "Fort Pella Purple" actually is, I have no idea.  There are two plants of it in Greater Metropolitan Hygiene, and they are both huge.  Canes are about 2 meters long.  Flowers come in clusters and do not appear to set hips, alas.  No sign of multiflora influence and, alas, no fragrance.  What's good about this rose, apart from its tantalizing color, floriferousness and cold hardiness, is its incredible ease of propogation.  It's definitely one of those, "Stick in ground, add water, get out of the way" roses.

As I said, I've never seen hips on it.  I don't know if this is a problem with the seeds or the pollen, but I guess I'll find out.  


Buds! Finally!

Noticed yesterday that R. foetida persica and R. woodsii ultramontana both have buds!  Ahhhh!   Spring at last!  I'll be collecting lots of pollen from both; the first because I'm a glutton for punishment, and the second because it will probably be finished blooming by the time the other roses are just starting.  Being native to the mountains above 8000 feet, it shouldn't be down here at all (I think seeds were carried down here after a giant forest fire just west of here a few years ago), it's always the first to bloom and the first to go dormant. Its fragrance is just divine!