record keeping

I am very new at rose hybridizing and am very green and I do mean green. I need help on ideas in record keeping. I have several Carefree Beauty open pollinated seedlings that are up and starting to bloom. Thanks in at advance for your help Sincerely, Fred Perkins

I think it can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be.

Some folks record everything. Now it’s very simple with Excel spreadsheets and the like. I don’t bother.

Hi Fred, when I first started out, I took all kinds of notes - way more than I needed, but I think that it helped with the learning curve. Take as many notes as what fits your schedule. Consider taking photos of the seedlings that you keep and compare early appearances with more mature plants. That is a learning experience in itself!

It will be important for you to come up with a way to “name” your seedlings, in such a way that you can keep track of the parentage if that is something that would interest you. I used to give seedlings code names that contained two letters from each of the parent roses and then if there were more than one seedling from the cross, I would add a number. And I would attach the year of the cross at the beginning. For example, 92-SBGR-05. That was a seedling that resulted from a cross of ‘Sheer Bliss’ X ‘Granada’, made in 1992, and was the 5th seedling of that cross that I kept for further evaluation.

As time went on, the letters began to build up, so it became impractical for me. Seedlings that I have germinating right now would have to be named “06-CHLYTRHTSRRCTTGDSCBLSO-02”. Each of the two letters in sequence indicate ancestry. That same seedling is now simply named “K80-2”. I adopted the method of applying code names from a major rose company’s hybridizer. The “K” corresponds to the year (the eleventh year that I have been growing rose seedlings in the greenhouse. The “80” corresponds to the 80th cross planted in sequence in the greenhouse, and the “2” represents the second seedling of that cross that was kept for further evaluation. The rest of the data is kept on an Excel spreadsheet. Only seedlings that are kept for further evaluation are given code names.

At the end of the season, I have found it helpful to give a short narrative description of saved seedlings to attach to a list of code-names. For example: J2-3, Peachy pink mini vs. miniflora, good branching and clusters, better than H1-1. “H1-1” was the pollen parent of the seedling named “J2-3”.

As you can see, record keeping can be simple or as hard as you want to make it! The important thing is to keep as many notes as you are comfortable doing - but don’t make it a chore.

Jim Sproul

Hello Fred,

I’ll admit it; I am at the “minimalist” end of the spectrum of record keeping. And I would certainly not say, that my way is best. I do make notes of the crosses that I have done, so that I know what seeds are in a particular hip. And I’ll make little maps of where I’ve planted which seeds. But beyond that I don’t keep any records at all.

Oh, I do like to take pictures of what I’ve got going on. So, I guess that counts for something.

I know it’s a disorganized way to try to get anything done, but for me… a whole bunch of record keeping would take away from the fun. So, I do only what I feel I have to, in that department.


I agree with the others…it can be as simple or as complicated as you like.

I further agree with Jim about taking more notes earlier on. I took a HUGE amount of notes then, that I don’t now. However, it was an excellent educational tool for me. I still take some notes now. However, it is mostly just tracking germination rates and if there is anything particularly unusual. I do still take a lot of early photos of the seedlings. Mostly first bloom shots and photos of a 3rd or 4th bloom cycle. It helps me with the culling phase a bit down the road to see how they have progressed (particularly if they are not in bloom at the exact time I am thinning out some of the seedlings). I have pared down what type of info I track over the years. I have uploaded an example of what I was tracking back in 2005 (see link below). I use these excel spreadsheets to automatically calculate some things, such as when I think the hip should be reaching maturity, germination rates, gestation periods, time to first germination (I like to identify roses that tend to germinate quickly), etc.

I use pre-printed, weather proof tags with numbers on them (LEV07001, would be my breeders code “LEV” plus the year of the cross “07”, and the number of cross made that year “001”). The year is no longer accurate these days as I have started to recycle the weather proof tags rather than printing them up all over again. I just have to be diligent at collecting them each year, even when a hip drops before it reaches maturity. But I think you get the idea. I then record the cross that is associated with that tag number.

Later, after germination, I name my seedlings similar to how Jim initially labeled his seedlings. Initials of the roses, the year, and the number of the seedling. So a seedling from ‘Playboy’ x ‘Moonstone’ in 2005 might be PbMn05-01. Now, when I started using my own seedlings (which has not been often just yet) I ran into the same problem that Jim mentioned - the code names were starting to get a bit long. So, I just started giving my seedlings code names. For example, I would assign the codename ‘Texas’ to PbMn05-01. Then, when I used it in a cross with another rose, let’s say ‘Gemini’, the name on the resulting seedlings might be something like TxGem06-01. The only drawback to this, is that I have to keep a running table listing what I have code named my seedlings. Which is not a big deal, just an added step. I will also make up tags for the seedlings in the garden that contains the same info. So for my ‘Texas’ seedling, the tag will have the code name ‘Texas’ on it as well as PbMn05-01…which automatically tells me everything I need to know about that rose in a single glance.

Of course, all of this labeling I do is made much easier because I have a Brother PT labeler. So, all I have to do is type in the info and print out a tag and then stick it on either a seedling pot or garden tag.

Something else I do for tracking purposes, is use stickers. I keep star stickers and O stickers. The O stickers are really page protector stickers to put around a hole punch to prevent easy tearing of a page in a binder. For every bloom cycle that the seedling shows positive signs of being a “keeper” I put a star sticker on the tag or container. For every bloom cycle that is not so positive, I put an O sticker. I toss any seedling with three O stickers, if I don’t actually get around to tossing it before then. Now, positive signs are more than just the bloom. I look a the foliage and branching habit as well. The bloom cycle just happens to be a good reminder that it is time for another evaluation. As for the stickers themselves, they are nothing more than a quick and easy way to keep track of how I think a particular seedling is doing along the way. Plus, it helps me rely less on having to refer to photos on my computer before tossing a seedling.

My system is probably a bit more complicated than it needs to be. But, I imagine things will become more streamlined and efficient with experience and as my personal preference for various information changes.


I think Tom made an excellent point. Record keeping takes some of the fun out of it for him. For me, to a point, record keeping actually adds to my enjoyment. It really is all about what works for you, AND what is going to make it more enjoyable. I don’t think anyone should feel bad or good for whatever level of record keeping they do or don’t conduct. It just has to be what is comfortable and works for you. Although, I think, parentage info might be the minimal information that probably should be captured in some fashion.



Interesting Henry. I keep most of my breeders in containers and rarely does a seedling go into the ground until I have a pretty good feeling it has potential of one kind or another. I don’t keep any kind of journal at all.

My physical space for planting is limited. Favored seedlings or breeding subjects are kept in 5 or 15 gallon containers depending on their level of vigor.

I only record the pollen parent and the date of pollination on the cross itself as I know my seed parents.

Data is recorded on the stick label when I sow seed.

I make up the stick label when the seed is processed for stratification to save redundancy in labeling.

I’ve only started recording the date of first germination so I can study the differences between chilled and non-chilled germination times and rates.

Like Tom I hate record keeping. I use only the most minimal and time effective means to record data.

The past several years I have done what Jim does now. I have used letters up too quickly though. As I started out I would use multiple letters in a year to distinguish between different types of crosses or objectives. One letter may be for crosses with direct species or close to species, another for crosses with minis, shrubs… After awhile the different lines all kind of came together and it was harder to categorize this way. I also would separate the cross number and selection number by the letter. My handwriting can be sloppy and it helped me to do that. For instance, 1G24 is the first seedling selected out of a cross involving at least one mini parent (G) and that cross number was 24. As I harvest all my seeds and clean them I get to the point where I have all the seeds in baggies with peat and I spread them out on the floor and order them alphabetically or numberically based on parents. I put them in the computer and then assign cross numbers. I print out stickers from excell to put on the baggies (G24) so when I pot up the seedlings I just use the code, even though I wrote the cross in sharpie on the baggie at first as I shelled the seed.

Other breeders like Felicitas Svedja used a letter for each year I think and then a general number for seedling selection of that year if I understand right like L83. I like this other method because the letter meant a type of cross or cross objective and the cross number if it was a good cross has multiple advanced selections and I can remember it and the parents just by seeing it somehow as time goes by and I encounter and am impressed by that seedling or seedlings. I suppose those things could stick in my head too and be remembered with just a general seedling selection number as well like L83. Kathy Zuzek used general seedling advanced selection numbers too eventually. First a cross would have year (2000), cross number (67) in that year and then seedling number based on order in row (22). so 2000-67-22 would be the 22nd seedling behind the main stake of cross 67 made in 2000. If it becomes a selection and is saved she gave it a number calling all her roses Rosa and then some number. For instance, her new polyantha rose coming on the market this year as Sven is selection Rosa 251.

Just some more ideas



Two years ago there was a thread on rose hybridizing database and management tool ‘Hybridizer Pro’:

I wonder if somebody is still using it and what is your experience?


Ilya, I did actually try the Hybridizer Pro for a little while. I found it to be a bit cumbersome for my needs and in the end I stopped using it. I think it is likely a fairly decent tool. However, you have to spend a lot of time just populating data. I think I also came across some naming convention restrictions as well (limits the number of characters if I remember correctly). It has a lot of features you can populate for bloodlines, graphical views of heritage, etc. But, much of this info you can view via HMF. Whereas for this tool, in order to get that display you would have to spend hours manually typing in data.

Again, I think it is a tool that actually works. You just have to be willing to put a huge amount of time into capturing “background” information as well as ongoing details if you are going to make the tool worth while. Or at least, that was my take on my own experience with it.

Magic markers fade badly outdoors.

Is there a better way to write on labels outdoors?

Michelle mentioned a Brother labeler: what is this, how expensive?

I use a #2 pencil. Works great.

grease pens-- horticultural or crafts

Dave, my P-touch Brother labeler prints labels that do not fade in the sun or weather. I use the same labeler to print all of the labels I stick on my regular metal garden markers for my roses and they have not faded in the 3 - 4 years that they have been out there. Brother sells a lot of different models…from the very basic handheld (run about $20 - $40), to much more complex. The one I have falls somewhere in the middle and can be connected to my computer if I want to load a long list of labels for it to print without me having to type it on the labeler itself. The one I bought (can’t remember the model off the top of my head) ran about $80 I think, and it was well worth it. I have used it like crazy ever since.

The only downside is it is a bit more cumbersome than just whipping out a pen/marker to write on a tag. I usually just end up printing my labels ahead of time or keeping the labeler on hand if I need a last minute label.

The link below will show you a variety of Brother labelers available on Amazon. Dymo also sells a similar line of labelers.


Oops…sorry about that…messed up the link.


I use fine tipped black paint marking pens, see:


I have a simple method…

Keep it in your head.

If you have limited roses, then it’s easy. If you’re on a grand scale, then yes… by all means, write down everything.

Although, I admit that I keep a journal since childhood, and I have often written passages such as, “I did this cross today, I hope to get this…”

For me, the most difficult part is labeling the crosses on the rose hips. I use pipe cleaners because, lets face it… Even though I have a limited amount of crosses, I can’t remember all of them.

With pipe cleaners, it’s easy. Each color combo is a rose. For example, an orange and yellow pipe cleaner twisted around each other shows to me that the pollen parent is Livin Easy. A purple and red pipe cleaner combo twist shows me R. kordesii. Two yellow pipe cleaners is for Baby Love. A yellow and white is for Pacific Serenade. A yellow and green is for Golden Angel…

Etc, etc, etc…

I got this type reading on this board. I forgot who was the one that showed me this great piece of information.

Thank you all so much for your advice and comments. I appreciate all your comments. As I venture in to the unknown, I will probably ask a lot of silly questions but please bear with me. I thank you for your patience. Sincerely, Fred Perkins