Notes on Tom Carruth

I had the privilege of meeting and speaking with Tom Carruth at the Yankee Convention of Rose Societies in Rhode Island this past weekend. He also spoke about some of his new and past introductions.

For best germination - refrigeration of exactly 8 weeks

They use a blender to extract seeds from hips, as he put it: keep adding the hips until the motor sounds like it’s going to die. He doesn’t tape the blender blades because the scarification from the blades helps in germination.

After seeds are extracted they are directly planted, no soaking.

For sports, mark the stem and snap the flower off right beneath the flower because the mutation can happen anywhere along the stem. Bud wood is collected on the flowering stem only. A good way of telling a sport is it will have different foliage than the base plant. Sports are patented and owned by the discoverer of the sport.

New Dawn often reverts back to Dr. W. Van Fleet. If you notice your New Dawn blooming only once then it has reverted.

Amateur hybridizers are encouraged to submit their plants to Weeks roses. Only a very limited number are accepted and undergo a more rigourous testing procedure that the in house seedlings. Amateurs need to submit 10 plants of their hybrids along with photos and records of performance. Weeks will observe them for 2 years and will send back to the owners the notes taken. They will pick for production what they need - roses that they do not have a similar rose for in their production, or what is a popular trend for that year.

For fragrance he uses Rosa Californica.

For stripes, Peppermint Twist and Rosie Outlook. Check out his new Scentimental, white and red striped and fragrant, and his new Candy Land climber for 2008 (available this year from Edumunds)

For repeat flowering - Betty Boop (pollen parent)

Some popular parents - Top Notch and Raven

He had 3 purple sisters from the same cross - Ebb Tide, Route 66 and Wild Blue Yonder, a rare occurence.

For 2008 Weeks is introducing a Joseph’s Coat lookalike that is easier to propagate called Jacobs Robe (Autumn Sunset x Playboy)

Thanks for this info Lori. I have heard this blender method quoted over and over but I can tell you I tried it one season with some OP hips and all I got was a bunch of ground up seeds.

I don’t know what kind of blender Tom uses but it must not be very powerful and those blades have got to be very dull by now.

A good Margarita blender will makes short work of any seed I’ve ever attempted. Pulsing the blender worked ok but I still lost more seed than I was willing to lose.

After all the work of carefully getting a handful of seed I find it’s much more productive to carefully clean the seed by hand.

I used ‘Playtime’ as seed parent last year and have been pleased so far with the results. It is a very similar cross to ‘Betty Boop’. I dislike the faded look of Betty Boop blossoms.

Wild Blue Yonder has different parentage than the other two.

I think the blender method would be okay when done en mass, but for the rest of us, it is too dangerous because we work with small, multiple quantities. Some of the crosses are quite rare.

8 weeks is good to consider tho. Ive been doing 12 out, but I can see how 8 would be fine.

I use a modified blender for large batches of open pollinated seeds and for “sand blasting”, see:


I too have tried the blender with very little success. I always seem to end up with pureed seed soup! LOL I’ve tried high speed, low speed, pulsating, special tape on the blades…nothing has ever worked well enough for me (i.e. didn’t end up with chopped seeds). So, I will just have to stick with the manual process. It is tedious. But, hey, that is what a TV on in the background is for (or books on CD/iPod)! LOL

As for the purple sister seedlings…it was probably ‘Ebb Tide’ and ‘Midnight Blue’ (these two do have the same parentage)that he was referencing. All of the other recent purples from Carruth have a strikingly similar mix of parents, but not exactly the same combination. He uses ‘Blue Nile’ (also one of my favorite mauve parents), ‘Sweet Chariot’, and ‘Stephen’s Big Purple’ a great deal. Also seen frequently in the parentage is a [‘International Herald Tribune’

When trying to use a blender, do you add any sort liquids to the mix. Would adding more water help? Never tried it myself.

I suppose you could add some margarita mix, ice and a couple shots of tequila so you have something useful at the end of the process if the seeds get destroyed. The hips might add some vitamin C to the drink.

Fun and Nutritious.

Harm Saville used the blender method and told me that he first fills the container with water and then puts the hips in. He would process a few at a time so as not to get ‘soup’.

He also taped one side of the blades.

After years of using this method, he removed the tape.

If you are getting ‘soup’…you most likely are overloading the blender or not using enough water.

Pulsing is also a good idea so that you can see what is going on without damage to the seeds.

For those who are having trouble using a blender. Are you bending the blades so that they are more perpendicular to the direction of motion? This should reduce the potential for seed damage.

Lori, thanks for the notes. You are lucky to have heard Tom speak. Tom is a great guy and truly an expert rose breeder with a very discerning eye. He is an excellent and generous teacher - very much along the lines of Mr. Ralph Moore.

Regarding the use of a blender - I had the opportunity to spend a day with Joe Winchel chopping up hips with his blender. I think he was the inventer of this method of seed extraction. He used a “14 speed” blending set on “7”. The blender was half filled with water and then the hips were dropped into the blender (usually about 12 to 15 good sized hips). He would cut off the peduncle side of the hip to reduce the fibrous material coming from it. Blending was for about 1 min and 15 seconds. The pulp was then put in a small screen (used in cooking), with a one gallon pot having the end cut out of it to hold the seed pulp/mash so that a forceful spray of water could wash off the seeds. This was a very effective way to clean the seeds up and very fast.

I tried this method for about 3 years. Although I had good germination with some seed parents, others produced very poor germination rates blended vs. hand shelled. One of the best was ‘Lynn Anderson’ (one of Joe’s roses), while one of the worst was ‘Singin’ in the Rain’. ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ seeds have very thin seed coats.

I do not use the blender method any longer - it is not worth the losses that result.

Jim Sproul

Ive seen Carruth speak here in Portland, but it was the usual rushed fan faire at a local gardening convention )Portland Spring Home and Garden Show, to be exact). He harped on about breeding low-thorn count roses because “his gals” at the company complain about stripping thorns off. He said their worst complaints were from his favorites, lol But he also stated that the company loses money since stripping thorns to graft is costly.

Yep, I have used water, and I have bent the blades. Also, as I mentioned before, I put tape (aluminum) on the blades. Just didn’t work for me at all.

However, it is important to note I was not putting in 10 to 15 hips at a time…usually just one hip at a time. So, it could be that there was not enough fibrous material as a buffer against the seeds.

I could easily see how the effectiveness (and prevention of damaged seeds) would increase the more hips you put in at a time.

One doesn’t learn as much when one uses something like a blender.

I want to see the color, number, size and condition of the seed I am collecting.

Often I am using an untried seed or pollen parent and I want to see what it produces.

I should mention that Tom Carruth stated that they have tens of thousands of hips to harvest every year and the blender is probably the easiest way to handle all of them.

There is no way that I would put my precious few in a blender. I really enjoy taking the time to study the hips and seeds.

Another thing he mentioned is that his 2006 introduction, Julia Child, looks to be a good seed and pollen parent for yellows.

His 2007 introduction “Strike It Rich” (CHRiscinn x Mellow Yellow) is a grandiflora of a deep yellow with a pink edge, 30 petals, strong spicy fragrance, an All-America Rose selection winner for 2007.

Thanks so much for sharing the information here Lori. I have never heard Tom Carruth speak in person, so it is nice to hear some of what he shared with all of you during his talk.

Thanks, Michelle.

I should also mention that Wendy White of Nor’east Miniature Roses was also there and spoke of their new introductions for 2007. She said that Party Girl was an often used parent for them.

One of their 2007 introductions is Happy Thoughts, an orange blend. She told the story of how she “found” this plant. When Nor’east moved to California they left their Massachusetts headquarters. The Massachusetts stock in the field was mowed down and sprayed with plant killer. Wendy went back after a year and the only plant that had survived the unprotected winter, the mowing and spraying was what she proprogated and later named Happy Thoughts. So it is labeled as very winter hardy and disease resistant.

Another mini she mentioned as setting good hips was Pacific Serenade, a thornless yellow.

I have some minis in my garden but have not used any for hybridizing so I’m not very educated about them.

Lori, I used ‘Julia Child’ quite a lot last year, but only as pollen parent. It produces abundant pollen and the new seedling plants appear to be healthier than most and many of the seedlings are starting to show some glossiness on the foliage. These should start blooming in the next week or two.

I did plant some open pollinated hips of ‘Julia Child’. I handle prospective seed parents that way so as not to waste a lot of time doing crosses on them if germination is not good. The OP seeds have had a 5% germination rate which is not good enough for me to use it as a seed parent unless a prospective other parent to cross with ‘Julia Child’ is only fertile as a pollen parent.

Jim Sproul

Thanks for this information Jim. You just saved me a lot of time.

Robert, I would still use ‘Julia Child’ as a seed parent in certain selected crosses, but would concentrate on using it primarily as a pollen parent. It sure has a lot going for it with absolutely perfect habit.

Jim Sproul

Im not so fond of JC as a yellow floribunda, but I’m guessing it would be an excellent parent for coral, orange, mauve, apricot and russet blends. Personally, I’d use it to get some orange colors.

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