My efficient approach to getting 400 seedlings a year including a few with commercial potential

  1. Heavily cross my key female Oso Easy Italian Ice with my key male: Rainbow’s End. The same cross can yield such a wide range of offspring, I don’t worry about redundancy.
  2. As mentioned in my previous post, I do very little labeling. I enable that by having four plants of Oso Easy Italian Ice and allocate each to a particular male–In addition to Rainbow’s End, I use these that are fine cultivars in their own right, consistent with my breeding goal–compact, healthy, HT-form reds and produce pollen near constantly, so I always have a fresh supply: Sunrosa (Red), my seedling #196 and an unnamed PorLaMar pot red. This year, I’m also trying Dragonfruit Sunblaze as female and male, Chuckles as female, and Gaye Hammond as female.
  3. I start with 2,000 seeds, planted in deep flats. My germination rate averages 18% so I scatter them(they’re mainly miniatures) about every 3/4 inch–but don’t bother placing them individually. I just slowly drop a handful so they’re around 3/4 inch apart and then use a pencil to nudge over those that are too close to another seed… If decent-growing seedlings grow too close to each other, I lift one with a teaspoon and replant it in a bare space or a 4" pot.
  4. Because I live in Oakland CA which gets little blackspot, I try to induce blackspot by rubbing blackspotted leaves on my better seedings and spraying them with water that has blackspotted leaves in it. I do that in early evening so the leaves stay wet the needed 7 hours.
  5. I cull ruthlessly, not because I don’t have space but because if it’s not disease-free, at least 12 petals with hybrid tea form and good vigor right away, it’s statistically not worth my time and effort. By the end of the first bloom cycle, I’m down to about 30 seedlings. Any that look quite good, get transplanted into a 4 or 5" deep plastic pot and get a 3|" wide white plastic stake with only the top 2" of stake left. I stick it in the soil and make occasional notes on it in pencil as I walk my seedlings. If one is looking really good, I put a gold toothpick in the soil If one is looking like it’s likely a goner but not definitely, I put a gray toothpick next to it.
  6. By mid-November, I usually have 2 or 3 that I believe are worthy of testing by the rose companies that are testing previous years’ roses. I send them pix, an honest report on its pros and cons, and ask if they’d like me to send wood. I’m a writer so I give each a working name such as, Kiss Me You Fool, Creamsicle, First Kiss, Shy, Blushing, and my favorite, I Love You.

I wanted to add this to my post but somehow don’t see how to edit it, so I’m adding it as a comment. One other aspect of my efficient labeling is this. As I mentioned, I try to have one female plant per male so I don’t have to label it. But if I don’t have enough of that male pollen, I use a 2nd choice. I pick something different in color (e.g., a yellow rather than white-based red), so when the seedlings emerge, I can make a decent guess as to which of the two pollens it derived from.

Also, I leave the seedlings I graduate to a larger pot unnamed–e.g., 2417, which lets me know it’s the 17th seedling I graduates. On average, the first seedlings to graduate are early to bloom, have good bloom, and good vigor. If, as I walk the seedlings, an appropriate name pops to mind, I write that on that large plant label I mentioned above. As of today–2/3 of the way through the first bloom cycle, I’ve graduated 37 and named three : Hot is yellow and orange, Blush is, yes, blushing white, and Kiss Me You Fool is hot pink.

All have HT form–I toss almost all with nondescript form–My belief is that if it doesn’t have HT form, it has no important advantage over the easy-to-care-for geranium. I keep a few excellent geraniums around to remind me of that benchmark.