The Future Development of Canadian Roses

I’m writing an article on the future development of Canadian roses for the National Roses Canada newsletter. I’m referring to new types that meet the needs of rosarians and gardeners. Frankly, it doesn’t look good for several reasons. One of the main problems is the reliance on Agriculture Canada for our roses and their lack of developing new types. Although they have a new series, Canadian Artists, the advanced selections to possibly be introduced have had to be scrapped because their performance is lacking. In any case, this is not a new type of rose since this series as it stands now is recycled Explorer and Parkland rose material.

If a new type of rose is to be developed in Canada, it appears it will be up to amateur rose breeders to do it. But we have few rose breeders to begin with and most of them are getting old. On the other hand, there are virtually no young rose breeders. This is a lethal combination for rose development by amateurs in this or any country.

Even if there are institutional or amateur rose breeders active in a country, there is also the problem of not recognizing the needs of the market. There’s not much point in breeding roses, except for one’s personal satisfaction, unless there is a market for them. Few rose breeders are aware of the present needs of gardeners who like to grow roses.

Canada has had a proud history of developing cold hardy roses that are popular in cold climates in North American and European countries. However, we haven’t been innovative for decades and maybe we never will be again. It’s not the end of the world if we’re not again, of course, but I think it still would be an unfortunate situation.

I would like to hear how you see the future development of roses in your country.

Paul G. Olsen

Edmonton, Alberta

I noticed that, too, Paul. I noticed that their material is dated. Some of the roses are from the 1950-80s when their are superior cultivars out with similar colors/habits.

oh btw, "On the other hand, there are virtually no young rose breeders. This is a lethal combination for rose development by amateurs in this or any country. "

Im in my 20’s :slight_smile:

It would be nice to have some of Erskine’s varieties, such as Prairie Peace, available in US. Apparently they are not widely available in Canada either.

Mr. Erskine passed away recently, which illustrates Paul’s point about the aging of hybridizers.

I think that Paul meant there are no young Canadian breeders - but that’s not a sure thing, because they may simply not be well-connected. I’m in my 20s too (not that I’ll necessarily be introducing anything anytime soon), but it seems the U.S. has enough upstarts around to keep things rolling smoothly. I would argue that it isn’t necessary for Canadian breeding to continue without gaps because much has been written down and mentoring could happen from cold-climate breeders elsewhere to fill in the gaps in knowledge. There might be a bit of a drought now, but even in the worst of circumstances everything that goes around, comes around.

Hi Paul,

Until reading your posting, I had imagined the future was much brighter here in Canada, though you do have better insight than myself and bring up several good points. I

I’ve posted about this one before, it’s a cross between

I feel a bit disappointed too Paul, especially with marketing and distribution at least in the US. They are looking for small roses that look good in gallon pots that can be mass marketed widely from my experience so far. There is a trend for valuing increased disease resistance, but the hardiness component isn’t valued as much as I would hope. I have that apricot climber with the hardiness of William Baffin and a bit of rebloom I mentioned from time to time. I will leave the nurseries nameless, but one nursery I had it under trial with has a group of people with different roles in the nursery look at potential roses. One member of the group saw the large healthy plants resting without bloom on them at one point in the summer and made the decision for the whole group to dig them out and discard them. He didn’t have the perspective of the value of an Explorer type climber in apricot would have. I contacted another nursery I am working with that is interested in my smaller shrubs and they don’t think there is a large enough market for a climber because everything they want they would like to have bloom well in a gallon and be sold in large numbers for mass plantings.

I suspect the smaller rose nurseries that specialize in unique roses in cold climates may be the way to introduce some of the good cold hardy roses we have and maybe if the larger nurseries see the value of a cultivar would pick it up. My Catherine Guelda is a really nice, hardy rose from a cross of a polyantha x Therese Bugnet. Roses Unlimited liked it and picked it up and are selling it in limited quantities. It won a silver certificate at the ARS ARC trial grounds a couple years back and does well in the South in Louisiana too to my surprise. That was fun to learn. I could have pursued taking that one to a larger nursery, but didn’t because there was a situation that would interfere with patenting. THe larger nurseries really want something that is patentable in order to protect their marketing investment. Catherine Guelda was at Brentwood Bay Nursery in Canada under test. They liked it and asked for permission to propagate it to eventually sell locally. I gave them permission. They eventually introduced it calling it my name with a misspelling of my last name even and didn’t follow up with me for a name when they were ready to introduce it. I was surprised when I saw it on their website. I tried to contact Brentwood Bay multiple times through their Email link on their website and in response to Robin’s email asking for permission to propagate origninally politely saying that I was disappointed with what has happened and would like to talk with them to tell them the registered name of the rose. They never responded and the rose is not listed on their website anymore.

Maybe after more disappointment from the marginally hardy or non hardy flooding the box stores in the North marketed for landscape use the market for hardier roses will grow again. I think just a good effort from a key major nursery or two can change things, but so far that is not happening.

There are a lot of steps before the public can have really good hardy roses widely available to them. Hopefully there will be enough of us interested in working to try to develop them and then eventually enough viable outlets to help get them out to the public.

Just my thoughts. I love my hobby and won’t give up working to develop them.



Rather than use the term “Canadian Roses”, I prefer to use the term “Northern Roses” as I feel that rose growers in the northern U.S., Canada, and northern Europe have a lot in common.

Also, as the pressure increases to not utilize dangerous pesticides, I expect that southern hybridizers will be utilizing more “Species Blood”. Hopefully, this will result in many roses that can flourish in cooler temperature regions than the classic hybrid teas of yesterday.

Those are lovely seedlings Terry. I hope you get them out for testing if you haven’t already.

I am trying to use hardy cultivars with my tender species crosses. I’m hoping for greater climactic tolerance and disease resistance.

Cold hardy roses often seem to tolerate heat better than most in my experience.

Wow, I feel like I need to respond to this as a gen-Xer backyard rose breeder living in Canada… This is certainly not just a rose problem. There are HUGE shortages of educated plant breeders for every crop across N. America and some would argue world wide. I have seen estimates from the private sector of what their needs are for the next 10 years and the numbers are staggering. The reasons for this lack of interest in a very rewarding career are numerous and varied. Where I am going with this is that the same factors are most likely reducing the interest in hobby rose breeding.

Paul, sorry to hear that the Ag Canada program is not looking so good. I thought that things were a bit too quite… We have talked about getting our grad students organized to run a trial garden for roses in Guelph somewhat along the lines of the Earthkind program, no pesticides, reasonable fertilizer and water use. They can put into practice a bit of what they are learning, gain some experience outside of their own research area, and probably pick up a hands on experience in extension. Perhaps it is time that I/we stop talking about it and actually do it.

Terry, I really like that John Davs x Morden Sunrise seedling of yours.

Anyway for now those are my random thoughts, Liz

Henry has a point. Scandinavia and Russia isnt too much different from Canada.

Liz, I am always disappointed in universities not promoting agriculture well enough. Only a handful seem to do so.

After a good nights sleep here are a few more random thoughts on the subject…

Jadae, you are right about the influence that Universities do have on subject areas. They follow the money, whether it is granting institutions or the subjects that students enroll in, trust me, class size is a ‘real measure’ of importance of a subject. This is certainly part of the problem. Other parts of the problem, in my opinion, are: that some students have no idea that these professions exist; there is a huge tendency to equate the level of technology used with the importance of the profession; some really do not want to venture outside and get dirty/hot; we as plant breeders (pros and amateurs) really need to promote the profession/hobby. After another cup of coffee I’m sure that I could come up with more to add to the list.

Henry, I do agree that Northern Roses probably captures the breadth of the target area, although I think that ‘Canadian Roses’ has been around long enough that it is recognized as a brand, along the lines of Black Angus Beef (which, btw, I was shocked to learn does not mean the meat came from a black angus!!!).

Paul, Is Ag Canada going to keep the rose breeding program going? Or was the program more or less evaluating what was left in the system, but not making new crosses? I would not give up hope completely on lack of innovation. I always think that we only recognize innovation after it has occurred, kind of like history. Radler spent many years flying under the radar, and I would have to say that his material has certainly changed roses in that past 5 or so years.

David, you have certainly raised an important point. Where do we go when we have a promising new rose? I think that Paul Zimmerman’s new rose trial is one avenue.


There is one situation I’m optimistic about regarding the future of Canadian rose breeding, and that is the work being done by American universities and amateur rose breeders doing interspecific or near species hybridizing. To me, this is the most exciting development in roses today. The problem for Canadian breeders and others in cold climates is when they will have access to this germplasm or cultivars developed from it. It could be many years and maybe never at all. This means we have to step up our own efforts in this regard. But who is going to do it, since most Canadian breeders (like anywhere else) are content to carry on breeding with existing types of roses?

David mentioned the market demand for small roses and this is so true. Generally, this will be the type of rose demanded from retailers and consumers in the future. Even Pillar or Climber roses will have to be smaller and more compact. Whether Agriculture Canada is responding to this situation, I don’t know for sure. But I haven’t seen much evidence of this at the Morden Research Station.

Liz, Agriculture Canada carries on with their rose breeding programs. However, there have been management problems/changes that have slowed their programs. Some of the manage- ment issues are being addressed, but it will be some time before things will be on track again. But even when they are, their secretiveness and refusal to communicate with Canadian rose societies and rosarians, who could provide better direction for their breeding programs, will hinder the development of Canadian roses.

Paul, That is sort of good news about the rose program continuing at Ag Canada. It is an odd organization. They seem to go through ‘re-organization’ about every 8-10 months. Your point about getting germplasm across the border is well taken.

Take heed, Paul; I am young gen X’er, and someday I just may shock you.

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Terry R - I’m head over heels with that yellow rose of yours! If I’m not mistaken, it looks as if it has similar form and substance to Lambert Closse. The foliage is also attractive. I would be interested in knowing how disease resistant it is for you, and subsequent results from crossing it back to Morden Sunrise and Hazeldean. Esthetically speaking, if it’s a yellow version of Lambert Closse, then I would surely be in heaven.

Dee, thanks for the comments on my yellow rose, I really was surprised to get a pure yellow (no pink) from such a crossing, the flowers are also very long lasting and so far there’s been no sign of disease … though, it really appears to want to be a climber and only wished it had the growth habit of ‘Lambert Closse’ … but, hopefully something as such will come out of my work with crossings back onto ‘Morden Sunrise’ … I’ll later post if anything good comes forth.

Terry, I crossed a few roses such as Belle Isis, Belle de Crecy, Apothecary, and Lambert Closse with Morden Sunrise. The seeds are in the fridge and not yet ready for germination.

How old is this yellow seedling of yours? And is it really hardy to -32C? Under what conditions? Where do you live and where have you tested it for hardiness? What about fragrance? I’m totally in love with it! It’s pure escapism at such a bleak time of year.

Henry, there was a photo you once posted of a hardy single yellow rose you created. I recall the photo being a close-up of the bloom with the most beautiful center and colorful stamens. I don’t recall who it was, but someone on this forum asked it you had plans on registering it. I searched all over to find that photo without success. It would be nice if you could post it again.