If you had a regional rose trial...

Since I keep lamenting on the lack thereof in the U.S., I figure I should start a thread for thoughts on such. Essentiallly, you’ve all heard me beef about the notion of an “all American” rose selection when most of us have our roses planted in only one place in America with very specific regional anomolies.

How, in your opinions, might amateur friendly trials operate in various regions? How would they solicit entries? What would requirements be? What categories? How would growing and judging be done? How would the thing be funded??


I suppose I should offer up some thoughts too…

I have no idea how one would cull through entries to determine which roses even warrant real estate for growing, if you open your trials to amateurs. I would suggest that attestations from other known breeders might be warranted. Obviously, an entry fee would be required, as well as the breeder supplying the mature plants. Ideally, I would have multiple gardens, and hence a cummulative assessment in any region. Categories would include the usual forms, fragrance, landscape, and a “people’s choice” category with a running tally from visitors to the gardens. Weight of judging criteria would obviously vary according to category, and landscape roses might ideally be grown in a no-spray garden…

But I have no real ideas as to how much the thing would cost, how to solicit gardens, how to regulate the judging, and then primarily, how to disseminate the information to make the whole thing be of use to the entrants and gardens doing the evaluation…

One would hope that being a designated evaluation garden might have some draw to it, but that’s questionable if the roses aren’t pretty darned nice…

Hello, Philip,

My thoughts on reading your above postings are of “guest” plants, grown at designated display gardens, or other gardens open to touring in season.

Am I correct in thinking that your primary objective is for the breeder to obtain feedback on the performance of his rose under varying conditions across the country?



These are great questions and things to consider. I’ve been brainstorming developing a regional trial for almost a decade with others, but we haven’t gotten very far. As an extension agent in Minnesota now I have the possibility to work to help develop an evaluation program for MN performance for various plant materials. After brainstorming with Dr. Steven George I’m excited to partner with him and the Earthkind program to establish a MN test site. The roses evaluated are predetermined and are on the market already. That is great and serves the objective of identifying superior, widely grown roses that should do well for the public under low maintenance conditions under regional specific conditions. There will be regional and multi region Earthkind rose designations. Perhaps some will prove to be fairly good national performers.

Brainstorming a regional evaluation program for new roses these are some ideas which have come to mind as Kathy Zuzek and I and others have brainstormed.

Identify the regional specific traits that are important and prioritize them giving them the appropriate weights. Bring together a good board of people to help do this which should include local industry reps (someone from a landscape firm, nurseries, rose society members…). There needs to be ownership of stakeholders to generate support and to serve a realistic purpose for as many people involved. If exhibition is overprioritized for instance, those trying to sell easy to grow nice garden roses may find the winners less than useful. It also helps breeders enter appropriate cultivars that can reasonably win.

Do the testing in a scientific manner. Use consistent check cultivars in each trial for a reference for disease pressure and winter hardiness and other factors. Replicate the roses throughout the planting- do not just plant all 4 selections in one location. Break them up to see the effect of different areas of the garden. For instance, at Lake Harriet rose garden in Minneapolis, MN there is an AARS test site. There is severe iron chlorosis in the garden which is evident on many roses right next to AARS trials. Some entries may do poorly because of being at a disadvantage due to where it is planted and since all 4 are together there is no way to really see that. We should take data more often than 2x per season to get a real season long idea of performance. Clear thresholds should be in place for which roses win the award to remove subjectiveness and place for manipulation by biased individuals of the process.

Entries should be open to as many as intersted in trialing roses to make it more impartial. Price of entry should cover costs and offer extra money for marketing to promote winners. Data from all entries should be available to make the trial have greater usefullness. Let interested people have access to the reports to see which roses rated best in the traits they most prioritize. Some selections will be introduced that did not win. Having the point system open for others to view and therefore the reasoning for what won promotes the trial’s integrity and gives the trial usefulness beyond just the award. Perhaps the number of total entries need to be limited and there can be a formula developed for how many anyone can enter. If one had previous award winners that can help secure additional spots and so on. Everyone interested must say so by a certain date and everyone should hopefully have at least one spot open and beyond that more allocated.

Just some thoughts so far. I hope to get a regional trial off the ground in the future for new roses as well. The Earthkind trial will go in at UMORE park. It is an educational garden with a nice rose garden in it already. That helps because the garden’s objective is education and if the roses look shabby because they are not well adapted that is fine. Also, an established garden is in place with many cultivars for people to see nicely grown roses that are well adapted.

I would love to learn of other people’s ideas and thoughts.



Some thoughts:

To find a public garden that would take on this trial would be difficult. Maine, for instance, has only a handful of public gardens and they don’t have any extra resources for this type of trial.

Private gardens would not want public imput or paperwork.

I think realistically it would be up to us as a group to furnish garden space to a few promising plants that fellow members would like to try in different climates and conditions. We can trust our members to take good care of the plants and maybe have a standard questionnaire filled out at different times of the year. Pictures with evaluations can be posted on a web site. Possibly plants could be sold through the web site. We could each individually be distributors of our own plants.

It’s not much but small steps towards a larger goal may be successful.

The question to ask ourselves is “what do we want to achieve by sending our roses out to a trial garden?”

The objectives would obviously be honest meaningful evaluations of cultivars performance in various regions which, hopefully, might enable both breeders and consumers, give exposure and provide marketing tools, and which, in a perfect world, might serve as a tool for the gardens involved to attract visitors. Obviously, most gardens would prefer to grow proven cultivars they know they can show to great effect. Consumers typically purchase plants they percieve as proven, either through recommendation in a catalog, having seen in full flush in a garden, or through friends and even (to a lesser extent) the AARS denomination (or JP’s “rose of the year” designation, etc…)

David, you hit many of the points I have thought about. Some notions of how to execute the trials ideally are pretty easily drawn up, but others are trickier to my mind. How to locate gardens and ensure their full participation, how much to charge entrants, and how to determine which entries will be accepted and which – in the interest of not flooding the garden with ratty plants – will be rejected, how to oversee the judging, and how to utilize the results – are all big questions. The administrating of such programs would be pretty cumbersome. I would love to know the specifics of other existing trials – both at home and abroad – to know how they operate.

I think it

Yeah, there is no way I can effectively cull for cold or mildew tolerance. I can cull the first year for mildew by not spraying. I can cull for cold tolerance only if theyre less hardy than something like Brandy or French Lace.

There are a few european rose trials designed for amateurs even if most international trials are totaly open to amateurs like pros and free here; only breeders duty being in supplying the plants. Only limitations are in the number of vars and plants by var.

As much as northern or southern latitude related breeding is obvious for me as little advantage I see in breeding for regional adaptation.

Why not then select for a single location?

I. e. here french Riviera roses undergo either hot or cold and dry or wet weather. Only the more frost tender vars may thrive and autumn flowering continue at times through winter in sheltered places.

There are a lot of species with wide to very extended adaptations. So I am breeding with them for widely adapted vars.

This said knowing if my roses fail in other climates is a necessity for the breeder I am.

As a conclusion there is another point: in my experience Trial Ground Awards do not necessarily induce sales. Years ago a Ground Cover with outstanding plant attributes I entered won Certificates both at Bagatelle and London with better notations than many from known nurseries breeders. The later were introduced when I did not get a single contact.

That is why proposals like Paul Zimmerman one are interesting.

How regional and how small are you talking about? Flipping thru a Sunset rose book a family member had given me at christmas I noticed towards the back a list of roses determined by a small group of rosarians to grow well in certain regions. I think it was one person per region, which didn’t seem very comprehensive to me. Anyway, I think there is a growing sentiment that this is a good idea. The catalouge of my local rose place will sometimes have a note inserted into the description that such and such a rose does unusually well in our area. So I would imagine that as well as nurseries and landscapers there might be some interest in sponsership by companies that write regional gardening books. Places like Pheonix, AZ for example have fast growing populations that despite water lack are still wanting landscaping, even if it isn’t a lawn. So for each region I’d imagine judging would be different. FOr roses in that area I’d say roses that can tolerate low water would be what gardeners and landscapers would most desire. As to how they’d solicit entries I’d imagine a combination of word of mouth through society meetings plus advertising on places like this on the web. I’d imagine you’d get more support from larger companies to test roses that were already proven and on the market, so I’d imagine you’d want to fold amateur trials into that larger trial area. Perhaps push it as a grassroot way to garner interest in the idea of regional roses? Have space set aside for such and such number of well known roses in commerce, and then set aside a certain number of openings for the amateurs. But then you could judge them seperately.

One thing I’ve noticed about how the way roses are marketed is that (in my opinion…and I don’t know if this is because of my generation or what) in many ways the way they are marketed seems to be stubbornly old fashioned. Someone mentioned on here in another post that (Paul B?) that he was unable to sell a seedling because he had once posted a picture of it on the internet. To me, this seems very bizzare. Most companies would happily PAY to have potential consumers interested in and looking at thier products before they hit the market…generating ‘buzz’. Even big budget studio movies will try to get an ad campaign to ‘go viral’ get lots of people looking at it on the internet and they’ll come up with all kinds of clever ways to try to trick people into looking at thier stuff on the internet. And here with roses there’s a bunch of interested people wanting to look at and talk about these products yet an extreme reluctance to let people do that. In addition, you’d also think that niche marketing would be a great way to recoup losses on the r & d of roses to a company. If you spend x amount of money on x amount of hours to develop each seedling…wouldn’t it seem worthwhile to try to find a secondary market for a rose that’s not an ‘all american’ rose but does fantastically in a certain area or has another exceptional quality? Even if you couldn’t sell it all over america, wouldn’t it be worthwhile to sell it in one region, and to develop regional markets generally? If you were to look at average rose consumption per person all over the united states I’d imagine that the average rose comsumption was pretty low. Sure rosarians have a ton of roses but there are a lot more ‘average’ people then rose nuts who don’t really want to exhibit roses etc, they just like how they look and want one or two in thier yard. If they go to the store pick one out and find it’s easy to grow and works well with little care then they’re more likely to think to themselves, well, that was easier then I thought and put more in thier yard. If the rose has a tag on it that says something like ‘easycare- perfect for the northwest’ I think they’d be a lot more likely to take that rose home.

Amber, the Sunset zones, which make much more sense than mere hardiness zones, begin to illustrate the regional needs. Where I am, the heat is a bigger problem than cold-hardiness. Similarly, our damp winters do not allow the type of dormancy many plants require which might otherwise be well-adapted to our temperatures. I imagine a good half-dozen distinct regions would be required for any meaningful U.S. rose trials.

Anyone on this forum work at a public garden? Would you take a stab at the question: what would it take for your garden to be willing to give the real estate, effort, and attention to being a designated test site? What would you expect/hope for in return? Would it not fit your garden’s mission?

I Have some lights on the subject Amber expose. Here is what I know or think I know:

About: “wouldn’t it be worthwhile to sell it in one region”

Only if you can reasonably hope to earn more than you spend protecting this var and gathering royalties.

Knowing also a var has to be protected before it is sold somewhere. Protection is territorial and initial territory cannot be extended after the first sale or offering. Never more. If a var is protected and sold in i.e. Swiss or Belgium and not from the beginning protected elsewhere; even if it appears universally worthy, if not for the nurseryman, it is lost for the breeder as a source of monetary returns.

That is why so many very good vars do not go out of the original continent or country.

So regional breeding has little if any possibility of returns for the breeder.

No wonder then that many successes at new niches were from people that owned a rose nursery. Moore and Austin are good examples.

Another point is that a smaller adaptation will surely fail. Vars that are less adaptable will be ruined with an uncommon climatic event be it rain, heat or cold. Even if sprayed.

When another more adaptable will better perform.

Those are good points. What exactly does it take to define the initial territory? By which I mean, is there a required unit/volume? Must it be avaliable to a person to pick up from a store in that area or could it be shipped?

And…maybe I’m not understanding this right, but are these laws actually beneficial to the consumer? Because they seem to a certain degree to be a lose/lose situation. It seems like it reduces choice for the consumer and lessens potential profit for the breeder.

That is why marginal breeding i.e. for frost resistance or winter flowering has often to be considered as a non profit hobby. At least initially.

Professional marketers do not like to spend money without some certitude and are unlikely to invest into possible new niche. They allways prefer a small difference in a well established market.

But there are many species with ample adaptation we can inbred from.

This said regional rose trials are a necessity as performance cannot be presumed.

How often are amatuer-hybridized roses selected and sold by the big distributors? They spend millions on their own hybridizing efforts and select from millions of crosses in their own fields. How open are they to outside efforts?

Lori, RE: “How open are they to outside efforts?” I can only speak for the one company that I’ve dealt with, a large one at that. They seemed excited about a seedling of mine that resulted from one of their own varieties. My seedling went through several years of testing but in the end didn’t bloom as often or as much as the company had desired. Even though this seedling of mine wasn’t successful the company expressed an interest in anything new I might have in the future. For me, my thoughts are why not approach a company regarding a new seedling. The worst that will happen is for them to decline an interest in testing. There’s nothing to lose in approaching a company or several. Hope this helps.

Thanks, Rob. I’m glad to hear that they are open to outside efforts. Good Luck in the New Year!

You’re welcome Lori. The best in the New Year to you too.



That’s a great question about how objective a rose company is in trialing seedlings of amateurs. I have sent seedlings to one company with their own breeding program and feel like they did not follow through with reasonable testing. They were going to take data periodically and update me. They did once the fall of the second year, but not thereafter. Eventually the plots where those roses were, were removed. The trial beds went to another farm. They didn’t even update me about that and their removal and destruction. I think there are advantages going to firms without a breeder because they truly are looking outside of their firm for good roses (where ever the source it seems) to introduce. Otherwise, if we are going to a place with an established breeding program I think it would be helpful to have seedlings very different from what their breeding goals have been, but still would hopefully serve a good niche and have sales potential.

I think there is good potential to introduce roses through smaller firms to get good ones out there like Heirloom, Sam Kedem, Spring Valley Roses…, but there probably would not be the sales potential to justify the cost of a patent. If the rose is a good rose hopefully one of these firms would be willing to introduce it. Robert Smith introduced his Dakota Song and Dakota Sun eventually through Sam Kedem.

Some firms these days in order to connect to breeders who have good roses, or other materials, have an exclusive testing agreement. In exchange, they say they will update one on their performance on a regular basis, start propagating it from the start to test its propagation capacity, and also at the end of a timeframe decide if they will introduce it or not. At that time they have many propagated plants from which to bulk up the cultivar if the decision to introduce it is made. That sounds very nice to me compared to the first company I connected to who would give me little and then no feedback and no real timeframe. That is even after politely contacting them through letters and voice mails. The excuse was they are so overwhelmed and busy. Well, I put a lot of effort into the few seedlings that are picked to send to them. If they don’t have the time to follow through on a little data, well then, they are not really interested and do not warrent the mutually beneficial opportunity to test my roses. There seems to be so much more than if a rose is one of the best performers around for if it gets introduced. When I first started breeding roses I really thought getting a rose introduced would be so fantastic and like the efforts were successful. As time went by I kind of given up on that hope realizing I need to be satisfied in making progress in my breeding goals and sharing good seedlings with others to enjoy. Now I’m somewhere in between. Connecting to places that may introduce good seedlings would allow for more people to enjoy them and sharing germplasm with trusted friends is beneficial to making progress in roses in general as well. Some roses get shared earlier and some get held back for trialing with nurseries because they have more cultivar potential. In the next year or so I’ll get word back on a recent group of seedlings I have at a nursery that has an exclusive trialing agreement on them. It would be fun to see something introduced.




On your Dec 26 post you said that, “most international trials are totaly open to amateurs like pros and free here; only breeders duty being in supplying the plants.”

How are the trials funded, and how are number of entrants restricted to prevent everyone who ever germinated a seed from entering it?