Weird Spring

Big project that’s soaked up my time for two years is finished, finally have time to go out to the garden and assess the damage.

We had a fairly mild and abnormally wet winter, and I was hoping the roses would have done well. Alas, for the most part, they didn’t.

The big losers this year were the multifloras. Last winter I nearly lost Veilchenblau but the rest did well. This winter, R. multiflora and Bleu Magenta both died completely back to the ground. Taking a short tour of the countryside, I noticed that all the wild (feral?) multifloras suffered similar damage.

I’ve also had enormous amounts of die-back on roses which have never given me any trouble before. Nuits de Young, Marbree, and Ma Ponctuee have all died completely. Morden Fireglow, which of all the roses I’ve got I would have expected would do best, also died to the ground but is now sending up shoots. Even my Paul Barden roses, which normally plug away happily, have all suffered severe die-back. Even the “Fort Pella Pink,” which is believe is probably “Desiree Parmentier” or a close relative, lost most of its canes; and it’s a weed throughout Boulder County.

The only roses that seem to have actually thrived this winter are R. Arkansana and Fa’s Marbled Moss and her various offspring and grand-offspring. With only two exceptions, the fifty or so of them out there are doing very well, if looking a tad chlorotic. So I guess they get their first dose of Ironite today.

Looks like I’ll have a lot of room for new plants after all.

Good to see you online again. Was wondering about the other person in my area. How did you like the snow last week? Me myself I went out of town and just missed it. Saw a friends garden a while ago. Looks like he lost everything except for R. foetida biocolor, simplicity, a few bucks and R. woodsii. All but R. foetida and one of his R. woodsii has died back by about half. He has a few hybrid tea and floribundas left but they do not look that good and all are growing from the bud union itself. It is only a matter of time for them before they too need replacing. For me it is much the same story every year. I wonder what will survive and what will not. This year I had R. glauca, William Baffin survive with 1/3 die back on both. Goldbusch died to the ground and is coming back from the roots. Everything else I left outside has died completely. Luckily I took the miniatures and a few others I wanted to work with inside.

How sad guys!

I guess it gives you really good ability to select for tolerance though - trying to look at the bright side.

Hoping that your roses recover. (Or that you at least find some super-tough ones through all this.)


This illustrates what is for me one of the most important directions of my work currently: the need for complete Winter hardiness in shrub roses. There is so much China blood in our modern roses that its no wonder they don’t survive with all of their wood intact. I’m turning to my native species for a significant infusion of hardiness genes (and disease immunity) and all other considerations like bloom form and color take a back seat for now. Repeat bloom cycles are still important, ultimately, but I feel I can afford to let that drop down the list a place or two for now as well.

If I can breed a few shrubs that grow like R. nutkana, R. virginiana, or R. woodsii and bloom in flushes with sweetly scented deep pink single flowers in the 2.5" range, I’ll be very pleased. These species have a natural grace that more and more I find totally charming and adaptable to a garden setting. In contrast, a few days ago I was looking at a budded specimen of ‘Hinrich Gaede’ I have growing in the main breeding house and thinking “Good lord, THAT is a singularly ugly plant. It has NO architecture to speak of and offers so few blooms for such a big gangly, awkward plant.” Yes, it really is that ugly: canes that cross at every opportunity, sparse foliage, the spent blooms leave dreadful dead ends that guarantee poor placement of the subsequent growth. I haven’t even brought up its proclivity to get all three of the common fungal diseases.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the price we have paid for 100 years of breeding roses for the purpose of generating cut flowers at the expense of all other traits. I will grant you that more modern HTs are better now, but they still cannot be left to grow for years on their own without pruning intervention if you expect to have a presentable shrub.

I’m poised to start from scratch using native species, Rugosas, and a couple of Basye shrubs. I’ll use some of the Moore miniatures when necessary to bring in remontancy, range of color and abundance of bloom, but only if needed. I expect ‘William Baffin’ will figure prominently in my plans, as will the AgCan breeder L83, which is already bringing in superior Winter hardiness and excellent Blackspot immunity in many of its offspring. (Seriously, I recommend L83 highly if you want to improve disease resistance and hardiness! Ask me for pollen)

Yes, I guess I feel rather strongly about this issue. I think its time for a revolution. Bill Radler started one; lets keep the momentum going. Kudos to all my “amateur” rose breeding friends who have the time and energy to pursue the goals that commercial ventures cannot/won’t invest themselves in. (Pardon me for drifting into a “pep talk” style of rant. The coffee is particularly potent this morning)

Either you read my mind Paul or your ideas have rubbed of on me. I willing to bet it is the second one. Hell I know it is the second one. But anyway my whole breeding plan deals with crossing mostly modern miniatures with hardy, disease resistant varieties. Then either crossing these seedlings together or back crossing with the hardier parent.

I know I have said this before but most of the winter damage up here is not caused by super cold temperatures. One reason is the dry climate. While we do have snow some of this snow melts but a lot of it evaporates into the air not because it is so hot but because the air is so dry. The next thing that causes a lot of winter damage here is the sporadic weather. One day you will have 6 in of snow and the next day all across the front range it will be warm and the only snow you will find is what got piled in huge mounds when they plowed. A lot of plants die because they come out of dormancy in some of these warmer spells. Plus you get no protection from the snow because it is never on the ground long enough. A few years back we got a lot of snow that stayed on the ground for a couple weeks but that is the exception.

I am more and more interested in working with the species. Some of these like R. foetida, R. woodsii, R. aciclaris, R. arkansas are found at 7,000 ft and above, are winter hardy, drought tolerate and depending on the form may have better plant architecture than modern roses in general. Granted they all have draw backs. Disease resistance in none of these is perfect, repeat bloom is not there and they may not cross as well as you would hope.

While I was away I was hiking and found an unusual species in the mountains near Alamosa colorado not sure what it is. It was growing at about above 8,175 ft (that the elvation of the town below) and it not above 9,500 ft. But it had to a small extent the reddish stems of R. woodsii just on the new growth. The thorns where small straight and very numerous like you see on R. rugosa stems. The foliage was very shiny like you see on wichurana hybrids. It also branched out quite a bit. It seems like it suckers more than it actually seeds out. It was growing only in patches of rocky soil either it hates the better soil or it can not compete in better soil. It was on the dryer side of the mountain, which is pretty close to desert. I wold consider it a hybrid species but I could not see any other species ever close to it. I also saw this species at the sand dunes in Alamosa. Now it is suppose to be R. woodsii according to the park service information but I have my doubts. Do you think a species can look this far from the norm of the species? I wish I had pictures. I did get some hips from the ones on the mountain side but not the ones from the sand dunes because that was on public land and you need a permit. The ones at the sand dunes also grow in pure sand so in spring they are supper wet but in summer through winter they are dry as a bone.


I’m all smiles reading that you’re “poised to start from scratch using native species, Rugosas, and a couple of Basye shrubs.” But please don’t give up on using your other lines along with these though. From my limited experiences intercrossing species with moderns, I think you can recover a lot of the desirable aspects of the moderns in as little as two generations, while still keeping a majority of the toughness of the species. I’m looking forward to seeing where your path takes you.


I’m not very familiar with the western natives so I can’t help much in identifying your found rose. But one thing I can tell you, is that I’ve seen more than one rose (species or hybrid) that has taken on a quite different look dependent on the growing conditions. For example, rugosa X spinosissima leans more toward spinosissima when the growing conditions are “lean” and dry. It has much more intermediate appearance when conditions are lush.

Good luck with those seeds.


If it isn’t the cold, or the lack of snow, or the drying winds, it’s the heat, the lack of adaptability to sudden and drastic weather changes, or else it’s mildew, blackspot, or downy and botrytis in the cold damp springs. I don’t think anyone would consider ranting about any of these conditions as out of line or anything but the truth about the status of modern roses. Why should any of us risk cancer (or even just aggravating my asthma) just to enjoy pursuing an enjoyable hobby (or avocation)? I am growing some seeds that Henry Kuska sent out to any takers last fall. The two mixes are his #310.(folksinger x(royal Edward x (rugosa alba x (J w fargo x (Donald prior x r. Arkansas) x mixed r arkansana hybrids)))) and his #771 ((Calocarpa X Nutkana) X (acicularis X OP)) which are two varying levels of species and/or species + modern mixes, which have been very interesting to watch and compare to the basic modern X older modern seedling mixes I have. I have been having problems with both Downy Mildew and with Botrytis in many of my seeds, seedlings, and had a raging outbreak last year (the spring of never ending, cold, foggy nights) which seems to have affected the hips, fertility, and germination of this springs seeds. It isn’t the soil–I use promix-new bag, not opened until transplanting. But none, NONE, of the #310 & #771 seedlings, which are sitting in the same soil, same flats, rubbing leaves, pot to pot so to speak, have been infected. Same soil, same water, same fertilizer, same pep talks, and it is remarkable to see the difference in not the growth or coloration, but in the ability of his mixes to just outright resist all the nasties that come along. I know Henry says that his roses have reached an ecological equilibrium with disease resistance that he attributes to “biocontrol” but I’m pretty sure that his willingness to constantly mix the best of the old, the hardiest, the most disease resistant with species of many origins have a lot to do with this ability to resist and tolerate any and all that comes along. I don’t have as many roses as many of the RHA forum fanatics have, but I’m totally sold on the need for tougher standards that the ‘big’ hybridizers haven’t adhered to. Ping Lim and Radler and some of the smaller breeders seem to be trying to select for disease resistance, and Lim at least is working with totally new species. But is it enough, and is it making a difference? Or are we all still suckered by the pretty face on a decent stem? I even wonder if roses should be bred for more of a regional need much like the natives evolved to fill niches? I like the idea of ‘smooth, or thornless’ roses, or BS resistant roses, or mildew resistant roses, or roses for hot tropical locales. I’m sure that this topic has surfaced before, but do we expect to much and thus have more mediocrity dumped on us by having roses be all things to all locations.?

This was the first spring after the first winter of no protection provided to my out of zone roses - moderns and OGR’s (bourbons, portlands etc). However this was intentional as I make a shift to what I should grow to compensate for age hindrance to continuing to do protection. No surprises with nearly all on average dead to the ground and some below. However a large number are re-generating from ground level and below.

Only ones that stand out as having above ground cane are for your interest all the white Albas are okay to good (relative low standard qualitative assessment) , Banshee, Blush - Pink Damask (consistent - one from Europe other from Lynette years ago), Geschwind’s Nordlandrose ll (Radoslav Petrovic’s labeling - did well while again my Canadian version canes are done), Ariana (flexible canes that bent under weight of snow), Alpenfee, Geisha, White Sail. Mercedes, the rugosa h.,