Foliage desires for new lines...

OK, so here ‘tis. In the Hyde Hall thread, the topic of foliage traits – such as glaucous grey color – and their heritability came up. I’m curious as to others’ experiences in breeding for unusual foliar attributes. Some of the things I was curious about include foliage of species such as, as mentioned, R. glauca, R. fedtshenkoana, petite scotch’s and species of pimpinellifoliae with finely textured foliage, and variegated foliage. (Any other welcome as well…)

Obviously, glossy, or rugose texture, or shape and size of leaves, are inheritable. Variagated coloring seems pretty unpredictable…

What goals do you think worth pursueing and what routes do you think might be effective?

Alas, I have no experience along these lines to contribute!


Since I brought the topic up, I’m happy to respond to Philip’s posting. I appreciate his effort to continue talking about this subject. Hopefully, it will stimulate efforts to develop breeding programs that consider all the shrub’s characteristics and not just flowers. Too much emphasis has been placed on flowers, and as a result the rose is not maximized to its optimum use in the landscape.

I think the consensus would be that Rosa glauca has the most potential to develop hybrids with attractive foliage. Considering its potential, the results to date are very disappointing. The best hybrid to date is ‘Louis Riel’. Its white flowers are an excellent contrast to the reddish foliage. But where are the semi-double, deep pink and red flowers that would be a deadly combination with the foliage? They don’t exist, of course.

In an attempt to develop a Rosa glauca hybrid with red flowers, I did a cross with ‘Park Director Riggers’ and ‘James Mason’. I have three seedlings of the latter cross with light reddish foliage. However, they lack vigour and are not hardy to Zone 3. They haven’t bloomed yet, although they may this year because of the mild winter we had comparable to a Zone 4 climate. It seems there are compatability problems to get vigour in Rosa glauca if the cross is with modern roses. I recall that Isabella Preston had the same problem when she crossed Rosa glauca with ‘Harison’s Yellow’, and of course that cultivar is just a species hybrid.

Another striking combination would be grey foliage and deep pink flowers. This is where Rosa beggeriana, R. fedtschenkoana or Rosa laxa, of course,would come in to a a breeding program. Shrubs with grey foliage, of course, are a neutral colour in the landscape, and when they are without flowers they combine well with other woody or herbaceous ornamentals in the landscape. This is something the breeder should be conscious of when using species with grey foliage.

When considering foliage characteristics in a breeding program, there are five things to consider. Disease resistance, while related and very important I consider a separate issue.

  1. Size

  2. Form

  3. Texture

  4. Colour

  5. Fall colour

It’s unrealistic to have a goal of combining several foliage characteristics. Likely two of the five characteristics would generally be the maximum that could be achieved. The important thing is for the breeder to be conscious of the possibilities, decide on one or more characteristics and then develop a program to achieve it.

I’ve noticed a gray and bluish tone to some of the Dottie Louise X R. Fedtschenkoana seedlings. Using Basye’s Legacy, you’ll also find quite a bit of blue tones in the seedlings. One I raised is very blue. It’s a cross of Yellow Jewel X Basye’s Legacy. It’s quite prickly, grows very angularly and is nearly a ground cover. The flowers are about 2.5", semi double and resemble Little Darling!

Paul wrote: “Too much emphasis has been placed on flowers”.

Desease resistance and plant architecture if other issues are quite fondamentals and need more investigations. No beatifull foliage without desease resistance and no beautifull landscape plant without right plant architecture.

I am at the later both. About foliage I work at diversification.

To Paul’s short list of features finish is to be added such as glossy, mate or hairy. Different from texture that combines for effect.

As well as presentation (hope it is the right word?). A nice display is needed.

Durability also as it varies a lot and lasting effect is needed at least for longer growing season latitudes.

A long list of features to look at? Not so: willing or not breeders did not completely overlook this as foliage is flower complement. Combining them all will be from putting together the better as has been achieved so many times. Difficulty is with roses breeding particularities.

A Caninae as starting point is a big challenge.

Pierre Rutten

Roses with foliage like Dortmund stand out in a garden setting. The foliage alone is so beautiful and lush. Rosarium Utersen is somewhat similar.

I think it’s great to see all the excitement for foliage color and form. I enjoy the blue and grey foliage of some species and am glad to see it in some of my seedlings. I’m encouraged by this thread to consciously pursue it in a stronger way. A couple years ago I met Anthony Tesslarr (he markets the Flower Carpet roses and Dream Roses). It worked out that he was on campus looking at the mums in the program I am getting my degree within and work for. There was some extra time and my advisor nicely suggested I take them to my rose garden while he ran some errands. We walked my rose seedlings together which was fun. His impression was that people did not want roses that had foliage that was not a basic dark green. Perhaps as a mass marketer to the general public that may be the case??? I hope that his perspective on foliage, plant habit, color (generally the bolder and more eye catching the color the better so it really stands out in the store)… is too narrow. Maybe he’s right for his market. Even if he is, I think/hope there is enough of an interest among the more passionate gardeners to support cultivars with more unique landscape features including unique foliage. Perhaps as the younger generation who are more interested in paying others to create an attractive landscape for them than gardening themselves becomes a stronger economic force, landscapers will be the driving force to utilize unique rose cutivars and strengthen this market.



Pierre mentioned the importance of plant architecture (form) as a goal in breeding programs. I certainly agree. And like foliage characteristics, this aspect of rose breeding has been overlooked for far too long. No matter how attractive the flowers are, if the shub lacks a pleasing form the beauty of the flowers is diminished.

It occured to me that in a breeding program there are four F’s that always must be considered when planning it. They are: Form, Flowers, Foliage and Fragrance. (It goes without saying that disease resistance is fundamental to any breeding program.) We won’t, of course, ever obtain perfection when working towards the “Four F’s”. However, if we are more aware of their necessary importance, we can sooner rather than later take the development of roses to the next level.

I would expect that any lines attempting to use R. glauca, R. fedt., or other species would require several generations with extreme dedication to the goals of bringing out the species’ foliage as well as improving vigor and bloom form. I have vague, inexperienced ideas of routes I might attempt, but would only be blowing smoke to even address them here.

Given the contrast in leaf-surface texture between the glaucous-leafed roses and many leathery modern rose leaves, I wonder if these roses haven’t evolved very different superficial strategies for contending with disease pressures, and if crossing them wouldn’t weaken the strategies in offspring.

But I strongly feel that foliage is a good (and marketable) goal. Grey is the great unifier in the garden. It clashes with nothing, and sets off so many floral colors. Same thing with bronze too, really. I mean no disrespect to Anthony Tesslarr, David, but I think he’s full of mud personally. (Of course, I would never get it right. I’ve been somewhat surprised at the marketability of some new single or semi-double landscape roses whose individual flower form is not the public’s typical “rose” form, nor whose color is particularly impressive.)

At a local nursery center they are selling an impatiens with a variegated leaf, and at $4 a pop it is flying off the shelves. Same thing for the variegated bougainvilleas. R. glauca is actually used by floral arrangers for its foliage (reportedly, though I have honestly never seen it used.) Foliage is less fleeting than flowers, and I think it is a very important aspect. Foliage in the garden is what actually turns most people off of roses – often seen as thorny clumps of gnarled sticks with coarse (often yellowing and spotted) leaves occassionally throwing a long cane with a pretty flower stuck on the end – or at least it is the turn-off here in the gulf coast. The fine texture of some pimpinellifolias; the cascading architecture of other species; glaucous, glossy, rugose or red leaves; these are some of the redeeming characteristics which this diverse genus should offer the garden.

Kim, a flower like Little Darling hung on a plant with blue-ish foliage is something I should very much like to see. I rather expected Legacy to be somewhat dominant in the flower form it allowed its F1 offspring to acquire. I don’t know why.

Philip, if it’s still out in the mud flow, you’re welcome to cuttings of the Yellow Jewel X Legacy cross. Due to the construction where my garden used to sit, the remaining area has been heavily sand bagged with the runoff channeled through my canned roses. That’s caused a rather deep deposit of silt, which refuses to dry out, to form. I have to tight rope walk the spine of the bags to get the roses watered.

Yellow Jewel X Legacy is not an upright plant at all, but more of an “octopus” with prickles. The colder the weather, the more blue there is to the foliage. It’s deciduous, which is how the most cold hardy and disease resistant seedlings have been. The more offspring of Legacy I encounter, the more I’m convinced that our preoccupation with roses being evergreen is what’s forcing so much awful foliage into our gardens. Let the leaves do their thing, then go away once they’re used up.

Although I’m not pursuing leaves as a direct feature right now, I would think leaflet count would also be an interesting feature to pursue on a remontant rose.


It seems I recall some mention of a hemp-leafed rose a few years back on a forum… Anyone know anything of that one? Any other unique or interesting leaf shapes?