I really enjoyed the article updating your work in a recent American Rose magazine.
That is a great question and one I struggle with myself here in Minnesota. As you know, Bailey Nurseries, has been the key nursery licensed in the US for the Explorer and Parkland/Morden roses. With their own rose breeding program there has been a shift towards their own hybrids. They started their rose breeding program, in fact, due to the closure of the Explorer program. Many of their roses are marginally crown hardy in Minnesota, so hardier roses would be great for the consumer. Some of their roses have greater cane hardiness and it will take some time for the public to sort through these roses under the umbrella Easy Elegance. The roses are bred in Oregon and shipped to MN for more testing before release. Since they sell into warmer zones, the more marginal roses for us in zone 4 do have a market further south. The true hardiness information is still being learned or is just kind of limited. I think you will have a hard time connecting with Bailey Nurseries to take on your roses no matter how great they are.
Other nurseries like Conard Pyle (Star Roses), Weeks, and Jackson and Perkins are all fine nurseries, but don’t really pioritize very hardy landscape roses. They may sell a limited amount of Ag Canada varieties, but that has dwindled it seems over the years. Perhaps you can convince them that a very hardy rose collection for the North would be worth marketing and developing.
One of the few major propagators that still prioritize Explorer climbers and Explorer/Morden bush roses is Greenheart Farms. They sell liners and young plants of mainly miniatures since they took over Nor’East, but they also want to get into the landscape rose market very strongly. They are licensed to grow some of Conard Pyle’s/Meidiland landscape roses and also has remained one of the few main propagators that still sell a good collection of hardy Ag Canada roses.
I think you can of course get your roses patented and work with the many smaller specialty rose nurseries to introduce and get your material out there. They sell smaller quantities than the major propagators. These include of course Heirloom Old Garden Roses, Sam Kedem, Northland Rosarium, and Spring Valley Roses. Perhaps you can work with Greenleaf and encourage them to expand or make a new designation for rose liners that are hardy in the Northern zones. At one time they sold more Ag Canada roses as well. Lately they shifted more heavily to propagating and selling the Conard Pyle/Star Roses/ Meidiland landscape roses and Easy Elegance I think too.
I think you have to decide your goals and move on adjusting them along the way. If major propagators do not take on your roses in the US,would you be willing to allow the smaller ones to have access to them? Will you patent or not? What ways can you market your roses to stir demand? WHat testing programs can you enter them into to help promote them if they win?
It’s great that you have the Ag Canada connection and that should hopefully help. Wide testing of clone adaptability of course is helpful. Once can come to the table with data to these rose distributors. It is hard though for those with limited resources to do have multiple test sites over wide regions. Even nurseries have a hard time doing that and tend to introduce clones with limited performance data beyond their company owned sites.
Good Luck Neville. I’m excited about the work you are doing and wish you every success. Oh, one more option is to contact Ball Floriplant. They are getting into shrubs and have a huge impact on the bedding plant industry and will introduce their shrub line with a lot of marketing.