Gardening Articles: Flowers :: Roses

Make Your Own Rose Hybrids

by Michael MacCaskey

More than a decade ago, Frank Strickland daubed the pollen from 'Gold Medal' onto the stamens of 'Brandy', two justly popular hybrid tea roses. No fireworks were reported, and it was only one of many similar crosses he made that year and like other crosses made in other years. Late that fall, he sowed the resulting seeds, and by the next spring he had his first look at some never-before-seen flowers.

Meanwhile, the biggest rose nurseries in the world -- Jackson & Perkins, Weeks Roses and Conard-Pyle -- were doing the same thing. The difference was the numbers. Where Strickland sowed 1,000 seeds, the big guys sowed several hundred thousand.

Beyond its unlikely origins, 'St. Patrick' -- one of four roses winning the All-America Rose Selection award for 1996 -- is mostly unusual for its color and its ability to thrive in heat. Chartreuse buds open to reveal a large (five-inch) yellow-gold flower suffused with a mint green. The actual amount of green varies with the prevailing temperature: Generally, the flowers show more green the warmer it gets.

If you grow 'St. Patrick', you'll also notice that its flower petals are unusually thick, a rare quality in roses in general and especially rare in yellow roses. Thick petals mean the flower is more tolerant of wind, rain, sunlight and heat, and that it makes a long-lasting cut flower. It is also why 'St. Patrick' excels in hot regions -- Florida, Texas and Arizona, for example -- where other roses wither and fail.

The plant itself is unusual, too. It is tall, to five or more feet, and its leaves are a unique gray-green. 'St. Patrick' is a vigorous-growing hybrid tea, meaning it tends to produce large, well-formed single flowers on long stems. Its disease resistance is very good. The past president of the New England Rose Society, Ann Hooper, reports that in her Boston garden, "I was too busy to fuss over my roses last season, and 'St. Patrick' was the most disease-free of them all. It had no black spot and no powdery mildew, two diseases that appeared on other roses in my garden."

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