Identifying and filling niche markets

It occurs to me that with Kordes adding fragrance to their very healthy plants, and Austin starting to improve the health of their fragrant plants, the mainstream rose markets are about to be filled with some extraordinary plants. That could leave only specialty markets for the smaller hybridizers, which, I’m guessing includes most of us. So let’s properly identify those niche markets so that we can then focus on how best to fill them.

Possible niches for us to focus on:
-Development of unusual leaf shapes and colors. Very long strap like leaves, giant leaves, tiny leaves, red or blue leaves, variegated leaves.
-Very shade tolerant
-Unique insect or disease resistance. Japanese Beetles, Root Knot Nematodes, Rose Rosette Disease, Chilli Thrips, etc…
-Extreme drought tolerance
-Extreme cold tolerance
-Extreme poor soil tolerance
-Wet soil tolerance
-Other things I haven’t thought of

What would be the best way to accomplish these goals.

As a marketing professional I would say that all of the categories you listed are good niche markets.
Drought tolerance could be a HUGE market given that around one-third of the US is in a state of drought, and other regions have ongoing water restrictions. A “no killum” rose that can stand around 5-6 days without watering and still bloom well would be a desirable plant.

Central NJ

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I would add, for urban areas with increasingly smaller gardening areas and expanding pot growing requirements, smaller, well shaped, dense and continuous flowering are needed. Plants growing like minis, only on the upper size end (2’ - 2.5’) tall with decent sized flowers (2" and larger) so they make a real addition to color in the space would definitely work well in quite a few situations I deal with. Ideally, they should be self sterile and self cleaning. People (and garden “manicurists”) plant Indian Hawthorne, dwarf pittosporum and other evergreen “flowering shrubs” because they demand NOTHING other than to allow the automatic sprinklers to keep them wet. Roses which remain well shaped, well balanced; flower with as much attention required as these do, only repeatedly and never outgrow their space, would surely be landscaping winners in tomorrow’s garden “dirt strips”.

It seems that the best way to accomplish these goals is by continuing to do what it is that we have been doing. Large scale breeders cannot assign as much individual evaluation to some of these ‘minor characteristics’ as a small or amateur breeder can. And then comes the hard part, i.e., convincing the general landscaping public that this is what is needed and wanted. After they are convinced that a rose can be extreme cold tolerant, drought tolerant, etc., and these roses pass the initial consumer tests, they will be generally accepted and sought out. Even Knock Outs required a lot of consumer education to convince consumers that they were a little more disease resistant as a whole. Now they are sought after by the general rose buying public. This may mean that we will have to evaluate and cull a bit differently than we do now because we are seeking some pretty minor characteristics that may not show up for several years.

It seems that the best way to accomplish these goals is by continuing to do what it is that we have been doing.

Amen to that. There is great strength in being free to ‘grow your own’, so to speak.

Bill Radler is the perfect example for that. Someone who knows him might ask him how many seedlings he produced in the course of creating Knockout. He was a one person shop so I’m sure it came nowhere near the magnitude of Kordes two million per year or even the three quarter million that J&P were reportedly turning out at the end.

Yes we have to select goals we are better at than professional breeders.

Here is where we should have a critical eye on actual roses shortcomings.

First is environment. Extreme climate breeding cold or warm or dry or desease inducing obviously will be easier and better tested either in the right environment or elaborating a different testing strategy as exemplified by Radler and Noak.

Second is as pointed by Kim plant architecture or decorative niche, scent included.
The way i.e. Austin succeded and Poulsen failed.

The later early and ongoing attempts at breeding everblooming garden mini shrubs fail because of too favorable testing environment and limited genetical diversity.
Nevertheless Kent is by far the best in the class.

Last point is that many actual roses if real and beautiful achievements are too sturdy stiff, too much bodybuilt.
They lack a lot of the grace and elegance exemplified by teas and other OGRs.

Strategy to achieve such goals IMHO implies going out of beaten pathes. That is avoiding repeated backcrosses to HT.

On the contrary (many) species derived population breeding is the way to go in order to capitalize features that are out of actual genetical diversity.
Such are i.e. the better roots needed for drough tolerance.

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I like to push the envelope of what is even “possible” in life and roses should be no different. I try to think outside of the box and imagine rose traits that do not exist yet, but one day will. For example, I’ve heard an urban legend about an amateur breeder that crossed a rose with a blackberry but the government took it from him?? Lol, I don’t usually believe in conspiracy theories but about the cross, it’s not such a crazy idea you know. Imagine after generations and generations of recombination a beautiful landscape shrub rose that did not set its fruit as a hip but some type of aggregate berry like a rubus!

A couple of years ago I made an intergeneric hybrid of (Abelmoschus esculentus x Hibiscus rosa-sinensis), one of my coolest accomplishments yet! The seeds sprouted very vigorously but it soon became apparent that they were tall, awkward, and did not know what they wanted to be. All them grew so tall and either fell over and died or made a pair of true leaves then mysteriously died. It could’ve been cultural practices but it was probably some type of genetic issue. I still have a small amount of seeds from this cross that are still viable if anyone does not believe me and would like to see for themselves. Last year I made another intergeneric hybrid of (Petunia hybrida x Nicotiana alata) which was much more difficult to achieve but eventually yielded a single surviving seedling. I’m not the first to do this, I actually got the idea from Luther Burbank who pulled it off a century ago. Was was amazing is this hybrid was fertile as a seed parent! It was weak and only lived to make the single bloom seen below, but you can tell how the traits are intermediate between the parents. I quickly pollenated the bloom with one of my better petunias in an attempt to save the hybrid DNA. A few days ago I potted up some the hybrid’s seedlings in to 4" pots but none have bloomed yet. The leaves are thicker than a regular petunias seedling of the same age and most display a curious type of “down” or pubescence as well. Genetics is so fun, I can’t wait to see when they bloom.

My point from all of this is that we as hybridizers should be aware that intergeneric hybrids can and DO happen, even when people didn’t think such hybrids were “possible” so who knows what new or unknown traits or niche markets may appear in roses one day. To me, the future is what we make it.
Petunia hybrida x Nicotiana alata.jpg

Reading some of the other posts makes me think of another niche market… the market for rose hips themselves.
Rose hip tea, etc are a large business in the health food industry.
Which hips have the most vitamin C? Are there any with high levels of antioxidants, a hot topic in health right now?
If any rose hybridizers have access to labs that can do this analysis, a rose with big, super potent hips for human consumption might be a very hot commodity.

Central NJ

Andrew, that petunia x nicotiana is super cool, and it’s awesome that you got F2’s from it! Please post some pics when they bloom!

Cathy, that hip idea has been tossed around on the forum. One trait that would be fun to eliminate is the presence of those inedible hairs inside the hip. People have mentioned R. canina as having nutritious hips. I think someone mentioned Old Blush as not having the hairs. I think a good old taste test might be able to intuitively zero in on nutritional characteristics, too.

I considered working with hips a few years ago, but Rugosas struggle badly here. My Rugosa alba held on for a year before dieing. My two hybrid Rugosas, Therese Bugnet and Caramella, grow but won’t flower.

I think hybridizing for tasty nutritional hips would be an exciting venture. Of course I am interested in roses for their roses, but one day I hope to explore in this direction. After all in the past sailors used them on voyages to prevent scurvy and currently there are people interested in using hips for tea and jam.

I found an Interesting recipe which uses roses for dessert. Nypon Soppa, or Swedish Rose Hip Soup – Our Life in Meals Has anyone tried this or any other recipes? I think the combination of scientists searching for alternative food sources and rose growers, growing repeat blooming plants coinciding with hardier plants would make this a definite niche! It would be exciting to see roses more commonly mixed in with food producing gardens. I know there are some who grow wild roses for this purpose but i think this would be a whole new marketing opportunity :smiley:

Charles, I live in a place were it seem like Rugosas are the only ones happy…I guess they like dreary weather… :stuck_out_tongue: I’ll trade ya!

I would love to hear any plans or ideas hybridizers have on edible hips? taste preference, recipes and how one would monitor hips for nutrients?

Roxburghii has possibilities.
Rensburg roxburghii health Eur J Nutr 2005.pdf (241 KB)

Andrew, the petunia/nicotiana flower is amazing. Lots of resemblance to both species. Imagine a scape of multiple flowers with petunias size, nicotianas’ fragrance? Do post photos of any 2nd generation offspring.

I think one of the venues in which to experiment in an attempt to fill is the “green” landscaping, xerascaping, permaculture and low maintenance gardens that people are starting to consider more and more. Sort of amp up the no-spray utilitarian usage and I mean utilitarian in a “smart, natural, beneficial” way not so much “bedding plant” way. Sort of make the rose wild again…but not.

My generation (I’m 24) generally don’t own property and we probably won’t be for a while due to the economy and the boomer’s (sorry guys) are making it difficult for us to get into fields even with bachelor’s degrees (hoop hoping through unpaid internships that last 6-12 months etc) however many in more urban areas are community garden minded and many are into design and are into architecture and do garden design/are in that field, try to buy local produce, slow-food, etc. When they do have property I feel they are gardening more, at least it feels like they are starting to again; especially young families who have bought property. But it’s not generally ornamental. It’s more homesteading. It’s food. The roses and ornamentals are #2 on the list; people want to EAT stuff.

A lot of the old OGR and spring yellow blooming species that are tough as nails that get scorned by most people generally WOULD interest them; however size and showiness are both turn offs. Most are too big and not showy enough (bloomtime) for a lot of modern tastes. However that is only partially programed because people still plant lilac, mockorange, flowering quince and spirea etc. I’d like to think a lot of my generation are rather romantic and whimsical than the one before us (a bit more childish overall but in a good way) so pastels and fairy-tale looking roses will eventually be in more demand; however they are still strictly ornamental. Of course blackspot here in MD prevents usage of most elegant older remonant ogr shrubs like teas and most chinas that are foolproof down south and out west. As much as that pains me (Mrs. Dudley Cross’ form, nodding heads, round shape, leaves, it all is pretty much my idealized rose) even with teas and chinas these days we really need to optimize the usefulness of that shrub a bit more.

For instance ‘Knockout’’ here in Maryland and the east coast is pretty fool-proof as are rugosas somewhat in sandier places (they’re nice overall but can get some crud). All you generally see are Knock-Out or Red Knock-Out or Sunny Knock-Out (which I rather like despite its spiny-ness) and a spattering of Kordes. They are nice but they do not have any particular uses other than being pretty. They also get HUGE. That means while attractive they are also something people need to water often or at the least regularly though I’ve seen many do ok on near neglect.

Thus we need to focus on marrying green sustainable “no care” philosophies people are looking for with those said more “flashy” modern colors, scent, possibly edibility and relative 4 season interest.

Tom on here has already has gone this route with his hot pink 3/4 native, 1/4 part HT rose which sort of exemplifies the thicket making shrub outside of rugosa that could appeal to eco-friendly designers looking for “native” East Coast plants to use and provide as bee forage/bank stabilization in wilder parts of a design/peripherals and in drainage ditches (palustis scandens needs to be used more in its own right for that as well) . Kim’s ‘Indian Love Call’ I think is also something that could lead to some interesting things if crossed correctly as it is a good bridge between china-derived repeaters/well balanced species mix and thus probably a good cornerstone to work with and something I’m looking forward to working with.

If we can continue to create tough more compact (1-4 height) interesting shrubs possibly from a well balanced pedigree of said antique rebloomers and modern polyantha/shrubs from Kordes and the like (or start again from scratch with no china blood) and breed them with the old ogrs and shrubs; gallicas, rugosas, spins, roxburghii, hugonis, and primula etc and native US roses in particular (perhaps with careful breeding RRD resistance from bracteata somewhere in there or so we can hope) along with other species we could posit these as more logical choices for general landscaping purposes.

Thus these can supplant traditional spring blooming bushes people still buy in bulk and nursery’s still stock as mentioned before such as flowering quince, lilac, forsythia (while brilliant in color its practically useless the rest of the year/fades into obscurity which does help it but maximizing seasonal interest is a key in being more “green” as the forsythia are otherwise a waste of water) and perhaps for later summer crepe myrtles (which are gorgeous but not terribly beneficial) and firethorn etc. Pushing already existing once bloomers like hugonis or the more shapely and tough varieties/species like roxburghii on top of that could help too as many of those with their ferny foliage look better than these insipid shrubs that don’t do anything after they bloom.

Essentially what we need to do is make the roses similar in usage and appeal to the native rose cousin Aronia as a bedding plant (that seems to be gaining steam as a landscape thing especially dwarf cultivar like ‘Iroquois Beauty’) and Virginia Sweetspire which has gotten very popular over here. Viginia Sweetspire is particularly becoming very ubiquitous around here even in rather “suburban” square and median plantings. I see this as a good thing. Seeing Rhus ‘Gro-Lo’ in similar situations is also nice.

I think many rugosas are already used in this manner a lot on the coasts but if we sort of expand that philosophy?

Max, people continue planting lilacs, spirea, mock orange, etc., because they work and because they have no repeat flowering alternatives. I would bet you dollars to donuts, once someone introduces a repeat flowering version of ANY of them, the repeaters will quickly replace the once flowering versions in climates sufficient for them to provide longer duration color. Of course, the repeaters wouldn’t be necessary where the one annual bloom lasts the majority of the “bloom season”, but where the weather remains sufficient for another crop, two or more of flowers, the old, spring flowering types will become as undesirable as many once flowering roses have in longer climates. Hydrangea flowers repeatedly along the coast, as do azaleas. Inland, not so much. Inland, Endless Summer is planted extensively because it repeats.

True. People are obsessed with the Encore azaleas here even though they are NOT truly hardy enough for our zone 7 and colder winters. My cousin learned that the hard way.

Ditto for the Bloomerang Lilacs here, and who knows if they will even have much of a repeat.

Somewhere, someone said that William Baffin repeats, so it gets lumped in with the repeaters and someone will happily buy it over a more traditional non-repeater like Harison’s Yellow. There is so much room for fudging the truth in this business. I don’t go out of my way to point out that William Baffin doesn’t repeat. I might say something offhand like “where it’s weak is in the rebloom” to satisfy my conscience.

Hardiness, species toughness, compact growth habit, and repeat bloom. How do we accomplish this? I have vague ideas of creating a tetraploid rugosa, crossing it with virginiana, and then recovering repeat somehow. That doesn’t address the compactness. Pierre said in another thread that he is succeeding in creating micro-minis. I’d love to hear more about how he is doing that. And I’d love to hear from anyone who has ideas of where to start in a journey towards vigorous but truly compact plants.

Joe , if you pollinated R. virginiana with Rugosa or vice versa you would end up with triploids. IMO if you pollinated the offspring F1 with R virginiana you would get your tetraploid. Why not just double the chromosomes of a repeat flowering Rugosa, it would be a lot easier. This way would open more doors for you.


In the old Newhall garden, William Baffin flowered repeatedly, Joe. I usually had some color on it spring through fall. I don’t remember it not in some flower when everything else was blooming.

Warren, that’s exactly what I meant when I said “creating a tetraploid rugosa.” Doubling the chromosomes as you suggest. Rugosas are really the only roses here that are fully hardy and fully remontant at the same time. What you said about the triploids is correct, and those triploids would have only one copy of the rugose/remontant gene.

The self-sterility of a lot of diploids is handy when trying to create an allopolyploid. In my limited understanding it might be better to chromosome double the seedlings from a wide cross, one that might otherwise have resulted in sterile F1’s. So I’m thinking of planting a rugosa, Grouse, and Lena near each other and removed from any other roses. Then the OP seeds from them will likely all be crosses between two of the three.

I’d love to find a way not to lean so heavily on rugosas, or at least to dilute their rugosa-ness without diluting hardiness so much. They have problems with chlorosis here and with rust in other parts of the country.

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