I'm new here, so I'd like to say hi!

Hey, I’m Josh.

I got into rose breeding this year, and I’ve been reading/soaking up everything I can find.

I’ve been lurking in the forums for a few months now, but I’m only now posting because I haven’t felt ready to be involved in any serious conversations yet.

I’m originally from Michigan, but I recently moved with my wife back to China (she’s Chinese) to help my father-in-law start a new rose nursery and online shop. He’s the one who suggested that I learned about rose breeding. To be honest, I wasn’t too excited at the begin, but the more I learn, the more fascinated I became! Through his connections, I got a chance to volunteer at an institute in Beijing that has their own breeding program. It was really cool to apply some of the knowledge I had gained and learn a bit more.

I have a few questions I’ve been compiling, and I’ll post those once I’m ready. At this point, I’m definitely a newbie on the practical side, but I hope to eventually give back to this group more than I get!

At this point, I’m still trying to decide which direction I want to go with my first serious year of breeding (next year), but I really want to focus on disease resistance. I really love black/red roses, so I may play around with those.

Oh, and more importantly, as I read both of the RHS booklets, I saw how some people use Excel and Microsoft Access to create databases to track everything. Well, I’ve been playing around with something called Airtable, and I think I have a pretty decent system set up. I’ll share it later for anyone who is interested. I’d love feedback on it, and I hope it’ll be useful to others!

Looking forward to getting to know you all.


Hi Josh,

Welcome! You have done the right thing to read the RHA booklets. They have a lot of great info.

I wonder if you met with the same group that I saw in early May. Prof. Shiwei leads a rose breeding team in Beijing. They have some very nice roses in the pipeline. They are a wonderful group.

With disease resistance as a goal, I would recommend that you use whatever Will Radler roses that you have available in China. I would combine them with whatever other type roses that you like. Rose breeding should be fun and it helps to breed toward the rose types that you like most.

I tried using an Access database several years ago, but it was too much information heavy and I got bogged down with it. Almost all of my years of rose breeding are on MS Excel. It works very well to calculate seeds per hip and germination rates, etc., to help you be more efficient in your breeding.

While you are in China, I hope that you have the chance to visit Nanyang, their “City of Roses”.

I am not on the forum as often as I would like, but will try to check back once a week. Best wishes in your rose breeding!

Jim Sproul

Thanks for your response!

Yes, I really liked your section on record keeping in the Next Steps booklet. I’m using it as a basis for creating my system. At this point, I feel like I may be keeping track of too much information, but I’m sure I’ll figure out what info is good is which is unneeded as I test things.

Yes, I believe that’s the group I was working with! I just asked my wife, and she said she believes it was them. I wasn’t directly working with Shiwei. I was working with some of the other staff, but I did get to meet him very quickly. They were very friendly. Have you visited here in China, or did you meet them elsewhere?

I will definitely check out Radner’s roses.

I’ll also definitely look into the City of Roses in Nanyang. Apparently, they had the WFRS Regional Convention this year, and I didn’t even know about it! I would have gone if I had. Were you there?

Looking forward to hearing back from you and learning more about roses and breeding!

Hi, Josh.
Welcome! I don’t know that you should worry about not being “ready” to be involved in “serious conversation”. I consider myself exceptionally green at this, and that never hindered my chiming in. :wink: Having said that, DO take comments from me with a grain of salt!

From my limited experience, I would suggest that a number of Kordes’ strongest roses are, IMO, at least as desirable as offerings from Radler, and they might be more readily accessible in your area. Kordes roses take longer to establish, and may not bloom quite as profusely as e.g. Knock Out – certainly not right out the gate – but many offer some stronger colors in more formal forms, and often with better fragrance. You can check out the German site for pretty fair evaluations of their cultivars. Many are extremely resistant to BS and mildew. I’ve also been pleasantly surprised by the heat tolerance of some of them.

Having said that, you might have access to species and cultivars that many of us can only dream of obtaining. I’m not sure how well the distribution channels work for roses from the West, and vice versa.

It’s a long and improbable road to get marketable cultivars from your efforts, but the road itself is worth the journey to those of us who have been on this forum for a while.

All the best.

I assume you have learned of the two camps and the traitors. Diploid and tetraploid sometimes they cross mostly they do not. I breed diploids. They are tough. (Rugosa are one ) tetra like English and Hybrid Teas are weak. This is only my opinion. The latter is lovely with more colour and shape but with time…A lot of work was put into diploids 1920-1950 ish they could be helpful. I could send you crosses for a trade. Just an idea

If you happen across any of the surviving “traditional” Chinese roses, give them a close look because they might be useful for breeding. Never mind that some of the old ones are a bit delicate, in part due to inbreeding. Crossed with stronger garden varieties, they may have hidden treasures left to share.


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Thanks, everyone, for your advice and encouragement!

I really like the idea of testing out Kordes and Canadian Explorer roses. I’m not entirely sure I can find the Explorers here in China (I’ll have to ask my wife). However, I really like the idea of testing out using species roses from here in China. It’s possible I could get something unique come of it. Although, I haven’t done any research yet to see what is actually available and what the unique traits of the species I can get my hands on.

Also, I’d love to connect with any of you on Facebook! If you don’t mind, send me a private message, and we can connect.


Not to try talking you out of looking into the China roses, but Paul Barden, who made some rather beautiful roses, has often stated that black spot was introduced in to many of his lines when Chinas were added. Does that prevent me from messing with them? Nope. Just a piece of information to store in the back of your mind.

Thanks for the heads up! That is very interesting. However, I also know there have been over 80 species of rose from across China, and China is quite large, so it’s possible that not all of the roses tend towards getting black spot. I’m definitely going to do some research before starting anything up.

You’re welcome. “China” as in things like Slater’s Crimson, Old Blush, Mutabilis, etc., not necessarily the other Chinese species, though it appears from the results I’m having that Primula is far more susceptible to fungal issues when crossed with moderns than either Hugonis or Xanthina. Using Primula with the same seed parents as either of the other two has shown its genes to yield combinations with more foliage issues.

Ah, yes! I couldn’t tell if you were talking about the 4 Chinas or Chinese species roses that some of the other posters referred to. At this point, my goal is to focus both disease-resistant roses and also trying to bring in some interesting traits from species roses–potentially ones rarely used. I really appreciate your advice about the 4 Chinas! I’ll have to do a bit more digging and reading on that, but it’s really interesting. Do you know where Paul Barden wrote that? I’d love to see if he has anything more written on it. Thanks!

It might have been here on the RHA, I don’t remember off the top of my head.

First off, there were more than four. And I think it is unreasonable to assume that these four, and the several others, are all of the same one or two species.

The article I linked above mentions this fact: “The history of rose cultivation in China is long, 40 choice cultivars, all everblooming and double-flowered, being in cultivation during the North Song Dynasty (960-1127 A.D.).”

In the 1950s there were at least 200 traditional varieties growing in gardens and parks. By 1998 (the date of the article) there were only around 100 remaining. ‘Zizhi Xiao’ (purple twig small) died out a few years before the paper was published. Now I want it!

I read a true story about an old variety. I think it was a turnip that was replaced by a supposedly superior type. Some years passed, and people began to regret the change because the old variety was resistant to a blight that was damaging the “superior” replacement.

We have no reason to suppose that the dozen (maybe) China roses that reached Europe were actually the cream of the crop.

Andrews illustrated some of the other China roses.


Wow, Karl! I really appreciate this information! I’ve been trying to read up on as much rose history as possible, and somehow I never came across the notion that there were more than 4 Chinas used (the Stud Chinas). I’ll definitely check out that thing on Archive.org. I’ve downloaded quite a few books from there, and I wasn’t sure what to read next. Also, I only got a chance to glance over the article you shared, so I’m definitely going to read through it carefully.

I recently met with a rose breeder and expert here in China. Apparently, he has access to quite a few species roses from around China and potentially other roses. I’m not entirely sure if many of those have been used very much in breeding so far, so I’m interested to see what happens if I can get my hands on them and use them.

The early 19th century was a strange and exciting period. Trade with the far East was expanding, and many people would receive plants that they had no idea how to cultivate. Thousands of such plants were packed in boxes and delivered to nurseries with no return address of explanation of where the plants originated or who sent them. Each botanist and nurseryman chose a name to suit his needs, with little regards for self-appointed authorities. Names were deliberately altered … just because.

Then there was the little matter of Napoleon. When he was defeated in 1815, and France was able to rejoin the civilized world, nurserymen on both sides of the English Channel ran to the nearest dock to get passage. This also led to much confusion. For instance, Knight had been raising self-seedlings of the Crimson China. Maybe 10 or 12 of these were in the trade. They were much alike, but professional gardeners could make good use of their small variations in mass plantings. Meanwhile, at least a few such roses were raised in France. After 1815 or so, no one could be quite sure where a given Crimson China originated.

Then there was Knight’s ‘Animating’, a hybrid of Crimson China and Blush Tea-scented, that caused a bit of a stir in France, as well as in England and the U.S. The scent must have been distinctive because Vibert named a rose ‘Noisette odeur de Bengale animating’. Alas, the rose seems to have become confused with a very different variety named ‘Animated’ and introduced by Hibbert & Buist.

AND THEN, 1816 was the year without summer. It was cold. And no doubt the nurserymen had a jolly time replacing plants that were lost that year.

By the 1830s, Parks’ Yellow China Rose, which was not Tea-scented and did not have the characteristic glossy leaves, became confused with the true Yellow Tea-scented rose. This was apparently a self-seedling of the Blush Tea-scented raised in France by Dr. Cartier and sold by Cels as ‘Bengal Jaune’. It was apparently first distributed in England by Knight in 1823. By the late 1830s a flock of Tea-scented roses arrived from Italy, and all hope of sorting out the mess was lost.

AND THEN came the devastating winter of 1837/38.
Again, the nurserymen kept very busy propagating everything in sight and selling all they could raise.

Loudon tried to explain that the true Yellow Tea-scented was not the same as Parks’ rose.
Loudon: An Encyclopaedia of Trees and Shrubs p. 343 (1842)
Rosa indica

  • R. i. 11 ochroleuca Bot. Reg. has large cream-coloured flowers, deepening almost into yellow in the centre. It was introduced by Mr. Parks in 1824, and appears to have been since lost.
  • R. i. 12 flavescens.—This, Mr. Gordon assures us, is the true tea-scented yellow China Rose, and not the preceding variety, which is generally considered as such, and confounded with it.

Loudon soon died, and the confusion has become solidified as “absolute fact”.

And before I end this, here are some morsels I found in the Asiatic Journal and Monthly Miscellany. I copied only the roses. However, I cannot find any hint as to who wrote the lists, where in China the plants originated, or where they ended up.

Oh, in 1830 the Ghent Botanical Society published a note. This is a third yellow China rose that, so far as I can learn, has not been mentioned elsewhere, but may have been used by Belgian breeders.

It is further resolved, that in a token of gratitude, the Society shall exhibit plants for Mr. Th. Beale (), a merchant in Macau, Province of Canton in China;
) List of Plants sent on January 18, 1829, by M. TH. BEALE, of Macao, and which Dr. Moke, on his return to Europe aboard the ship Raymond, had been kind enough to undertake to hand over to the Society.
5. Rosa chinensis, jaune. Not yet introduced in Europe

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That is really interesting, and it makes sense based on what I’ve learned so far. I know that, for example, the early modern roses (and the hybrid perpetual that came before them) are hard to trace their ancestry. If there was a lot of misinformation and inconsistency with names and origins, that would explain a lot of that!

I have a few books which include lists of species roses, but they don’t always explain where certain species (and close hybrids) originated. Do you know of any list or a way to find/create a list of species roses originating here in Asia (specifically China) that may still be available? Secondly, do you know of any species that may seem interesting, but they haven’t been extensively used in any breeding programs? I’m really interested to see what kind of new blood I could bring into modern roses and what could come of it. I recently watched a lecture by Tom Carruth, and he explained one of the best ways of getting unique and interesting roses is by bringing in new and different blood into a gene pool.

Thanks again!

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Little has been done with the three yellow Chinese species, Hugonis, Xanthina and Primula. I have several Hugonis hybrids using Ralph Moore’s mini breeder,1-72-1 and I have been working on getting something similar with the other three, but they don’t yet provide anything quite as elegant. I would think being in China, you should have a leg up on the rest of us as you have the double Xanthina and possibly double forms of the other two, already. When Frank Meyer brought Xanthina seed from China and germinated them in the early 1900s, he obtained both double and single forms. Double forms of Xanthina were available in the US for a long time, but it now appears there is now only the five petal form. No one who sold the double is either in business or still has it and the folks who listed it in their gardens with whom I have been able to correspond have all lost it. This image is of a double form from Baidu. I would LOVE growing one of those!
double xanthina.jpg

Thanks, rosegeek, for those ideas! I’ll definitely do a bit of research on those and see if I can get some of them.

Some breeders just couldn’t be bothered to record even the seed parent. Too much work, they wrote. One of them only separated seeds by class: Teas in one bed, Bourbons in another, Noisettes … It was all very slip-shod. Many breeders were very vague on the influence of the pollen parent. They understood that foreign pollen increased diversity among the progeny, but that’s about all they cared about. The idea of deliberately crossing this with that began to catch on in the late 19th century.

There had been many deliberate interspecific crosses in other plants such as Amaryllises, Dahlias, Geraniums, Gloxinias. But even in these cases there was no thought (or very little) about what we call “recessive characters”. They would cross A x B, then cross one of the the offspring with yet another species.

Some experimenters used foreign pollen … way too different to make a cross (I would guess) just in the hope of stirring up variation.

Oh, and the problem of unstable nomenclature. Some years back I stirred up some doubt as to whether the Autumn Damask and Blush China were actually the parents of the first Bourbon. I found lists of plants cultivated on l’ile Bourbon and neighboring Mauritius. There was no sign of any Damask rose, let alone an Autumn Damask mentioned on either island. Well, I goofed. The Bourbon catalog was written in French (aside from all that Latin), and the author often referred to French authorities. The Mauritius catalog was in English, with English authorities. Both relied on Linnaeus, more or less, but not consistently.

Well, it turns our that Rosa semperflorens in the Bourbon catalog referred to the Autumn Damask, relying on a French authority. The same rose was still lumped under R. centifolia L in the Mauritius list.

Of course the Mauritius list used R. semperflorens as the name for the Crimson China, while the Bourbon catalog had this China rose as Rosa bengalensis var. à fleurs pourpre doubles.

This sort of confusion sometimes came into the 20th century. Rosa fargesii is a tetraploid species akin to the diploid R. macrophylla and the hexaploid R. moyesii. For a time it was regarded as merely a darker colored form of R. moyesii, so breeders made use of it under the latter name. Not many people were counting chromosomes in the early years of the 20th century. And so, folks who care about such things have puzzled over a tetraploid cultivar that should be pentaploid because it was bred from R. moyesii. Just the wrong Moyesii.

Hi Josh, Greetings from Manitoba, in Canada.
I am where you are 20 years ago. You didn’t say anything about the geography of the area you
are working in.
What is the USDA climate zone?
What kind of soil you are working with?
What is the rainfall amounts, and in what season?
and finally, do you plan on breeding roses for the cut flower market, or garden roses?