Friday, November 7, 2008

Rose Ramblings

One winter day I bought a $5 bunch of flowers from the grocery store and enjoyed them for several days before they dropped their petals. This single rose far outlasted all the others, and defying the odds, opened into an enormous blossom. I just had to take a picture.
The $5 was well-spent, if you ask me, as I get so hungry for flowers, especially roses, in the winter. The temporary fix will never fully compensate for the lush reward of my own rose garden, however, because this gorgeous, florist-grown rose had absolutely no scent.
It's astounding to me that, in the course of developing roses for the florist trade, hybridizers went so exclusively for form over substance. In breeding for a perfect, high-centered bloom that lasts long in the vase, little thought was given to fragrance or disease-resistance.
Nowadays, we've seen a complete turnaround in rose hybridization. William Radler developed Knock Out roses, with foliage seemingly impervious to black spot. Black spot is probably the most dreaded rose affliction--and the reason many people consider roses too persnickety to grow. Not only does Knock Out rose foliage radiate healthy indifference to disease, but the flowers come on continuously from spring to frost. The only thing that would make it perfect is scent. It has precious little.
David Austin, probably the most famous rose hybridizer of recent history, has bred a whole new type of roses, the so-called "English roses." Austin's roses remind you of those that bloomed each spring on grandma's farm with their profusion of petals and heady perfume. Unlike grandma's roses, however, these roses bloom again and again all summer long. Thank you, David Austin!
Will the next generation of roses bring about a blending of Knock Out's disease resistance and bloom power, and Austin's form and fragrance? What a wonderful thought! Unnamed rose photo by JulenaJo.

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