Rhapsody In Blue

Has anyone done any hybridizing with ‘Rhapsody In Blue’? What kind of results can I expect? I’m planning on using it as a pollen parent on hardy shrub roses such as L83. I’m looking to get hardy purples. The reason I’m using ‘Rhapsody In Blue’ is because it is the bluest rose that I have ever seen. When I first saw it at Austin’s nursery I thought it was a clematis.

Apparently it’s a poor doer in warm climates. The blossoms don’t last well from what I’m hearing. I usually wait awhile before I acquire anything new. If it sounds to good to be true, it usually is.

Those in cooler climates seem to enjoy it. It has a track record as pollen parent.

I think it is ugly here in Oregon. It’s petal quality is plain and simply worse that some species. If I were to use it, I’d cross it with something to counter this bad quality. But I bought Night Owl instead.

I just saw it in person last week for the first time. A couple years ago I had the opportunity to visit with Ian Smith and Anthony Tesslaar (the marketers/horticulturists the promote Flower Carpet and other mass market groups of plants). They were talking about it and that the color is what will make it sell, but the plant leaves more to be desired. The breeder from England (Frank I forgot his last name) really likes purples and intermated them again and again to get ‘Rhapsody in Blue’.

The color looks amazing. The key to the color is probably vacuole pH. In a RHA newsletter issue heavy in inheritance of color in roses articles I had an article where I tested petal pH of different roses and observed a clear trend. The higher the pH the bluer the petals. Some roses that blue as they age had a spike in pH, those that were purple/lavender from beginning to end seemed to start and stay high. Clearer reds started and stayed lower. All I did was grind up some petals in distilled water and measured the pH. Roses that are yellow or white and lack anthocyanins vary in their pH. For instance, Rise 'N Shine has a spike in pH, but it is hard to notice a color effect due to it because it does not have any or much anthocyanin. However, in crosses with roses that develop anthocyanins one may get a rose like ‘Distant Drums’ that has a warm background and a petal pH transition from low to high allowing new petals to have pink tones and older ones to be more purple.

In trying to generate hardy purple landscape roses it may take multiple generations to recover very high petal pH when using parents like L83 and other Explorer roses. I may be wrong though. Perhaps if one tests the pH of various hardier rose parents one can find some with higher pH or a transition to higher pH that can help allow for offspring with higher pH and more purple coloration.



Here is a discussion about anthocyanin that I enjoyed reading, hope you do also.

Link: www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/s1310369.htm

Rhapsody In Blue is a horrible plant hear in the UK, and black spot is a major issue.

I do have a soft spot for purples but I cant even say the colour is anything special when grown next to Veilchenblau and Cardinal de Richelieu.

I scraped the plant after a few months, it just wasn’t worth the space.

If you do use it you will need to make sure that the other parent is bullet proof where disease is concerned, but personally I wouldn’t bother.


David, the information about pH is fascinating, it sounds like an easy test to do also. If we test our various roses for petal pH, we could discover some with unusually high pH but with low anthocyanins, which when crossed with high anthocyanin roses could produce very deep purples.

I’m a noob and have never attempted to make a purple, but this sounds interesting.

One interesting thing about Rhapsody in Blue is that it has R. californica as a third generation ancestor which may explain its legginess (which is evident from the HMF photos).

Other roses by Frank R. Cowlishaw that seem to share a seedling of californica as a close ancestor are ‘FRAnlac’, Forever Royal and Clarice Weston Flower Maker, which also has R. bracteata.

I remember reading David’s paper on pH and the shades of mauve and seem to recall that Sterling Silver ranked highest in pH. The color of Rhapsody seems very blue in the photos so I wonder if maybe californica influenced the petal pH.

These might be good candidates for continued work but seem to not be available in the USA.

I can report to you on the hardiness of

It’s in my garden also. woul dbe great to use it. Has people allready have seedlings from RIB?

Rhapsody in Blue was a new plant for me last season. The color and blooms remind me a great deal of the OGR ‘The Bishop’, which I would consider the more attractive of the two. I have to give credit to the breeder for achieving the blue coloration in a repeat blooming rose, but I did not care for either the growth form or foliage of RIB–it just looked rather untidy and the foliage was a rather odd shade of green. I can’t comment on the disease resistance of this plant as it was new and I grew it in my greenhouse to push it a bit for bloom. I only got a limited number of blooms on RIB and I was interested in testing it for female fertility. I performed only 14 crosses using 3 different pollens. The only pollination that took (and is actually of most interest to me) was with pollen from one of my darkest seedlings–but it is more purple that blue. Four hips were collected from 8 pollinations. There was a total of 6 seeds (only 3 were sinkers). Four seeds have germinated. I have had a lot of germinations this spring and I don’t keep track of the seedlings that germinate but are quickly discarded for stunted growth, damp-off, etc. I know one seedling (for sure) is still alive, but my recollection is that the growth form was rather spindly looking–it almost reminded me of Spinnosissima seedlings when they first germinate–rather wispy and pliable with small foliage. I have to admit that I gave RIB away at the end of the season, mostly because I just didn’t care for the general appearance of the plant–and it is rare for me to not give most plants second year.

Hi Don!

pH in Rhapsody in Blue is perhaps influenced by gallica, as there should also be pretty much gallica genes in it.



I have to give credit to the breeder for achieving the blue coloration in a repeat blooming rose, but I did not care for either the growth form or foliage of RIB–it just looked rather untidy and the foliage was a rather odd shade of green.

Yes, it’s leggy and looks like it lacks red in the leaves. The point of working with it would be to target the color and the remontancy, using it as a bridge to move those into progeny with more desirable form and foliage. I can see potential for turning it into a low climbing cluster bloomer.

I was interested in testing it for female fertility. I performed only 14 crosses using 3 different pollens.

Wouldn’t it be better, as a survey methodology, to use the available blooms with a more broad assortment of pollens?

I know one seedling (for sure) is still alive

It would be interesting to see how it looks if it makes it through infancy.

Rhapsody in Blue certainly doesn’t do well here in zone 9 in the summer, but a commercial nursery here had several cans of it in bloom for most of Dec, January and Feb. and I was almost tempted to buy, it looked so good. And of course it held its’ color and the blooms lasted really long. Nites were in the hi 30’s to mid 40’s F. It and Vavoom where the only roses blooming outside of the Icebergs, and made quite a show.

The lax behavior prolly comes from Veilchenblau. It sure itsnt from Summer Wine, although it could be from kordesii, too. (It is hypothesized that Summer Wine is a kordesii descendant).

Jackie R.:

I, too, am in zone 9 in New Orleans. Are you any where near the Gulf Coast?


I have ‘Summer Wine’. It won’t flower here for some reason. It certainly grows vigorously enough.