Dr. Felicitas Svejda: Scientist and Rosarian

An exhibit devoted to the life and plant breeding work of Dr. Felicitas Svejda is available on the Montreal Botanical Garden website.

The exhibit includes a short biography of Dr. Svejda, her personal records of crosses made and the results of those crosses, along with evaluations of seedlings and selections, records of research, a list of her publications (some are available for download), even a list of the books in her library. And many more things.

The exhibit was made possible because through the many years of her work Dr. Svejda kept thorough records. In 2010 she generously donated her personal records, correspondence, and library to the Montreal Botanical Garden library so that there would be a public record of what had been done. Between 2010 and 2014 the materials were inventoried and and an index of the fonds was prepared so that people can easily find what is included.

Creating the exhibit took many months of dedicated work by Claire Laberge and others. Ms. Laberge was the horticulturist responsible for Montreal Botanical Garden’s world-class rose garden for many years, and we owe her and her helpers a great debt for the creation of this exhibit which makes Dr. Svejda’s records so easily accessible. They and the Montreal Botanical Garden have done a great service to those who are interested not just in knowing about the roses and other plants Dr. Svejda created but also in understanding the tremendous amount of thought and work behind the creation of these things of beauty.

You may read the PDFs online, or download them to your personal computer for offline study.

The Svejda exhibit is available here: [url]http://www2.ville.montreal.qc.ca/jardin/archives/svejda/accueil_en.php[/url]

Thank you, Peter!

SVEJDA, Felicitas
November 8, 1920 - January 19, 2016
Dr. Felicitas J. Svejda of Ottawa died peacefully at Ottawa General Hospital January 19, 2016 from brief complications following Alzheimer’s. She was 95. Born in Vienna in 1920, she obtained a doctorate in Genetics and moved to Ottawa in the fifties to breed cereals for Agriculture Canada. However she was assigned to roses at the Central Experimental Farm and with the resources of government behind her, she became arguably our most successful hybridizer of roses that would withstand our extremes of temperature coast to coast. Her introductions are respected in all circumpolar countries. She named them after our early explorers, so she became known as the mother of the Canadian Explorer Roses and they are her only descendants. One such rose “John Cabot” was awarded a certificate of merit from the RNRS in England in 1958. York University in Toronto awarded her a degree of Doctor of Science honoris causa in 2000. Her recollections were published serially in both official languages in the journal Roses-Canada and in English later as a book in 2008 titled The Canadian Explorer Roses published by National-Roses-Canada. She is known around the world. Canada has lost a national treasure. A memorial service will be held in Ottawa at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, April 19, 2016 at St. Bartholomew’s Anglican Church, 125 MacKay St. Ottawa, ON. If anyone would like to make a short tribute to appear in the next Roses- Canada please send it to rosecom@golden.net

Published in The Ottawa Citizen on Feb. 6, 2016
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In the late 1980’s I visited the Ottawa Central Experimental Farm. Although I knew Dr. Svejda had recently retired, I inquired about her. The person I talked to asked if I wanted to meet her. Well, of course I did! She phoned Dr. Svejda and within a few minutes I was on my way by taxi to visit her at her apartment in nearby Nepean. I’m sure I spent at least an hour talking to her about roses. It was the only time we met, but I’ll always remember her as a very gracious lady.

I was very impressed by her rose hybridizing. Her work was very influential in my own hybridizing. I tried to urge others to utilize her rugosa x china crosses (such as Bonavista) in their programs, but so far there does not appear to be any offspring in Help-Me-Find.


I tried to urge others to utilize her rugosa x china crosses (such as Bonavista) in their programs, but so far there does not appear to be any offspring in Help-Me-Find.

I notice in her article in the 1984 American Rose Annual Sveda reported that she herself dropped that strategy because the F1’s are sterile mothers and back-crosses using the pollen gave inferior plants. See the article embedded in this folio:

Yes, I was aware that she dropped that direction, and her decisions to go into the directions that she did speak for themselves. However, all of her work was based on relatively small sample sizes and a colder climate criteria. I was impressed with the winter hardiness, disease resistance, and repeat flowering ability of some of the offspring that I obtained in zone 5, northern Ohio (I used 3 of her 4 - I did not have Sidney - if my old memory is accurate).

I’d like to get copies of any of those because I’m committed to breeding rugosa derivatives for the Rose Rosette Disease Project. Of the four - Bonavista, Moncton, Elmira and Sydney - only Bonavista is commercially available and only in Canada at that. Any ideas, anyone?

This garden had 3 of the 4.

I don’t know if anyone is interested or not, but I believe her rose Quadra is available at http://www.raintreenursery.com/Quadra_Climbing_Rose_2.25_liters.html For $9.50, I think I’d like to make a trip up there and get one myself :slight_smile:

Regarding the Ottawa Citizen article on Dr. Felicitas Svejda and particularly about the ‘J.P. Connell’ cultivar, I want to clarify the history of it. It wasn’t up to her standards and so she wasn’t too happy to introduce it. As I understood it directly from her, there was some pressure on her from Agriculture Canada to name this rose after this bureaucrat when he retired. Indeed, it’s not a very good rose. Partially light yellow flowers that quickly fade to white. And the shrub also doesn’t have very good architecture.

Let’s remember that although Dr. Svejda was a great rose breeder, nearly all her work developing the Explorer Rosa kordesii cultivars wouldn’t have been possible without Robert Simonet’s (of Edmonton, Alberta) development of the ‘Red Dawn’ x ‘Suzanne’ selection, and his generosity in giving it to her for her rose breeding work. He isn’t well known for his rose breeding work, but for his flower and vegetable breeding contributions he is in the Alberta Agriculture Hall of Fame.