Gardening Articles: Care :: Seeds & Propagation

Make Your Own Rose Hybrids (page 2 of 2)

by Michael MacCaskey

How Frank Created 'St. Patrick'

The process of making a hybrid rose is simple enough. In a nutshell, take pollen from the stamens of one rose and apply it to the stigmas of another rose. Once fertilization occurs, the flower fades and the rose "hip" swells with the maturing seeds inside. Sow the seeds from inside the hips and see what you get.

Before you begin, commit to good recordkeeping and labeling of every plant and offspring every step of the way. If one of your crosses is truly special, the world will want to know how it came to be.

To choose which roses to cross, look for desirable characteristics, such as color, fragrance or plant growth. These choices are in large measure the "art" of rose hybridizing. If you'd like a disease-resistant rose, for example, it helps to know that hybrid parents such as 'Brandy' and 'Sexy Rexy' are known to pass along this trait.

If the flower was not fertilized, the bud will shortly dry up and fall off the plant. If it was successful, the hip will stay green and begin to swell. It will be mature and ready to harvest some three to four months later.

Harvest the mature hips in late October and store them in the refrigerator in a plastic bag with a moistened paper towel for one month. After Thanksgiving, sow the seeds in a shallow flat or seed tray filled with fine sand. Plant seeds 1/2-inch deep, and maintain the flat in darkness at 55° to 60°F. Germination should begin in four to six weeks and continue for several weeks. Only 20 to 25 percent of the seeds germinate. Once they do, keep flats under fluorescent lights for 16 hours a day. Transplant to individual growing pots once the seed leaves straighten and become green.

You'll see the first bloom about four months after sowing seeds. The first flowers are smaller than would come from a mature plant, but all the important features -- color, form, fragrance and substance -- will be the same. Of a typical 1,000 seeds Strickland sows, some 250 grow. He selects the best 25 to 50 after seeing the flowers, and by the following spring he's down to the best two or three seedlings.

For more information. You can learn more about creating your own rose hybrids as a member of the Rose Hybridizers Association. Visit their Web site www.rosehybridizers.org/.

Michael MacCaskey is former editorial director of National Gardening.

Photography by Suzanne DeJohn/National Gardening Association

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