Decreasing availability of roses from Canadian nurseries

In the last couple of years or so, we are seeing a substantial decrease in the availability of roses from Canadian nurseries specializing in them. And this problem appears to be getting worse. The most obvious example is Pickering Nurseries, which had no list in 2015 and it remains to be seen if there will be one in 2016. If there is one, you can bet it will be much reduced from previous years. Hortico has a substantially reduced rose list for 2016. And Brentwood Bay Nursery on Vancouver Island, which has always had a great list of Old Garden roses, will likely be out of business in a year or two. This unfortunate situation makes it more difficult for rose breeders, particularly those in Canada of course, because of the loss of sources for rose germplasm to work with. Furthermore, there is also a loss of markets to sell roses developed by Canadian or other rose breeders specializing in developing cold hardy (Zone 3) roses.

In Canada there are very few public rose gardens to obtain rose propagules from, and sometimes it can be problematic in doing so. For example, locating the person who has the authority to give permission and then coordinating a meeting with him/her at the site where the roses are grown.

So it seems to me more work has to be done in establishing or expanding Canadian public rose gardens and building up personal collections so that rose breeders in this country will have ready access to rose cultivars they want to use in their breeding programs. The same could be said for other countries, of course.

Great points Paul. Owners of nurseries that maintain a large array of cultivars and don’t sell many of each in order to help keep them available are definitely doing it to a large extent as a labor of love and service to the greater community. Several have closed / downsized in the US as well. Hopefully as folks want particular roses in our group someone would have them and be willing to share and help get things further dispersed. You are a great example of helping to that with the roses you sent me and then I was able to propagate more and distribute to others.

Hi Peter,
Like you and David, I’ve observed the same thing. The underlying problem is money, nurseries can not stock plants they
may have trouble unloading.
Young people don’t want the commitment of looking after a perennial garden. I observe that people just want to go to
the plant nursery in spring and purchase a few planters and hanging baskets of annuals and call that gardening.

Concerning getting towns and cities to commit to a Heritage Garden of Canadian roses is an uphill climb. Again it
comes down to money. Those in charge do not want to offend their citizenry by spending money on a " useless rose
garden" when the roads and transit system is falling apart.
A Heritage Garden can be a very positive thing and contribute to the city coffers in the form of tourism, but it’ll take patience to befriend the right people to get things done. It’s as much a political issue as building a school.
Here in my city I’m working on this, next year in plan to invite the Garden Clubs around the city to visit my
garden they are a very important part of this operation.
Some cities allow volunteers to help, some,because of a union agreement can’t allow that. The unions will need to be brought in on any plans.

What if there were a loose organization of heritage rose gardeners—say a Canadian Heritage Rose network—composed of both public and private gardeners? It would be fairly easy to maintain in this age of online communities. Members would agree to a) post their inventory online and update it say, annually; b) alert the network before disposing of any heritage plant material and c) make an effort to propagate anything deemed endangered?



As a resident of Winnipeg, you’re no doubt aware of the planned multi-million dollar re-development of Assiniboine Park. Although I haven’t visited the park for a few years, it contained an unsubstantial rose garden. I don’t recall its exact location - in the English Garden?).

The description for the park’s planned Exterior Gardens at Canada’s Diversity Gardens says: “The main promenade will travel through the middle of the garden giving visitors the opportunity to walk through multiple garden vignettes and horticultural experiences.” Hopefully, if there is a new rose garden it won’t be just a “vignette.” Rather, it should be a main feature of the garden. At the present time Manitoba doesn’t have a major public rose garden, and this needs to change. Let’s work on it.


Again, my primary concern is not being able to obtain rose cultivars from Canadian nurseries for breeding purposes. For example, there is no longer (unless Pickering Nurseries comes through in 2016) a Canadian source for ‘Schneezwerg’, which I highly regard for breeding programs. Fortunately, I picked up a couple plants two years ago from Pickering.

As far as I know, three other Rugosas - Karl Baum’s ‘Monte Cassino’, ‘Monte Rosa’ and ‘Montblanc’, which I think are also valuable for further breeding, are also no longer available from Canadian nurseries. Some or all of these cultivars are located at the Devonian Botanic Garden rose garden and the St. Albert Botanical Park rose garden (both located in Alberta), but they don’t have mist systems to propagate them. Well, the former has one but it hasn’t worked for several years and the inept management of this botanical garden refuses to fix it. So it can be problematic to get some of these wanted rose cultivars propagated. The solution, of course, is to have our own mist system to propagate them, and we’re working on it.

It might be worthwhile to develop a small rose nursery to make some uncommon rose cultivars available for sale, but as Chuck pointed out, gardening has changed, and it’s now mostly about show and not much about gardening. The flashy rose cultivars developed at Vineland, for example, will be in demand but not much else.

It is a mystery to me how one goes from a rampantly successful world class nursery with a sterling silver reputation built up over 40 years to being sucked dry and staggering into nothingness … it all started with the move and went downhill fast … more than sad, it is disgraceful.

However on the bright side I know when I was invited into the motherlode this summer of heritage roses on VI I think my B.P hit 240 over 110 and my palms began to sweat and money was no object to get the material. Need to go back for the rush again and get another 1610 as the blasted moles got mine.

Sharing is the only way this country will protect it’s heritage … also encouraging Palatine to fill the gap more in OGR and hardy supply might be good efforts with payoff.

My biological faux pas… !!!VOLES!!! Been trapping, baiting cementing holes and generally engaged in total annihilation this fall to get their huge numbers under control and only stopped by -14C temps. BTW peanut butter is great bait.

I agree that it’s a frustrating situation- but railing about market forces isn’t going to create demand for heritage roses. Canada is a small populace and heritage roses are a niche product. Few people want once-blooming roses anymore.
If the goal is to conserve and make available rare cultivars, and free enterprise isn’t able to do it, my point is that a volunteer organization might be able to fulfil that mission without too much effort, without needing dedicated land (beyond what members have) and dedicated personnel (beyond the members themselves.) What does it matter that nobody’s willing to sell you Schneezwerg if you can get a sucker or cutting for free? I just got suckers of Gay Centennial and Dr. Merkeley from a generous member of this community- now there’s one more gardener (me) who can help keep these cultivars in circulation.
This is the age of crowd sourcing.


Well said Donald,
I’ve reached out to many people across this country asking for hard to find roses and pollen. I’ve received many acts of
generosity. Offers to pay for shipping myself has been brushed aside. I want all those who are helping me build a
collection to know they are not taken for granted. Your help is deeply appreciated.

Ironically, many of these free grants come in far better condition than when I place an order from some
for profit nurseries. Some nurseries are doing an excellent job and need our constant financial support and encouragement.


No one is “railing about market forces.” Obviously, there is no point in criticizing things that can’t be controlled.

Again, I lament the loss of the availability of rose cultivars from Canadian nurseries, since potentially this situation can be very detrimental to rose breeders.

Using ‘Schneezwerg’ as an example, I only know of a half dozen shrubs of this Rugosa cultivar located in private rose collections and public rose gardens. They’re not going to last forever, and then where is one going to obtain it if it’s not being continually propagated and marketed by commercial nurseries? Even if it is available from European nurseries, for example, it’s problematic to purchase and get the shrubs shipped to Canada.

Sure we can get propagules of rose cultivars for free, if people are willing to share (and most rosarians, being invariably generous people, are willing to do so), but it’s not always that simple. They have to be propagated, of course, and this is sometimes not easily done, especially if there isn’t access to a mist propagation system. The logistics of obtaining propagules of rose cultivars from public rose gardens can be formidable too, if one doesn’t live close to them. And in my case, I don’t.

For many years, a group of us living on the Prairies (I don’t anymore though) have made a great effort over a period of several years to preserve Canadian developed heritage roses. Indeed, we continue to do this. Some of them became available from commercial nurseries. For example, Frank Skinner’s ‘Dr. F.L. Skinner’ was avaialble from Pickering Nurseries and Robert Simonet’s ‘Red Dawn’ is still available from Hortico. But with the decline of Canadian rose nurseries, this situation has changed and will only get worse.

Anyway, as rose breeders, we carry on doing the best we can with the resources available, always keeping in mind that the process is just as worthwhile doing as the product, and being thankful for being gifted with an interest in this great horticultural endeavour.

Absolutely true, in my practical world my concerns about my Kern Moss and Gertrude J. meeting untimely demises due to enlarged incisors of short tailed rats has examples rooting nicely in the basement because I can’t get them easily. The loss of pickerings as a supplier results in red dawn growing in the basement. Airfare required to vi results in Betty will and scandens trying to root. 1610 did not taken down the rates got it. I am Preparing for the future … and my immenent retirement to fixed income life. anybody have a mossman they want to part with ? … Like to see if it is the Kern moss