Friday, September 28, 2012

The story of the Champlain rose hybrid

Species name: Rosa "Champlain" (see hybrid discussion below)

Common name: the Champlain landscape rose

Location: Ontario

At the beginning of June I blogged about a rose that we have in our garden, the pink Damask rose. I discussed the modern uses of roses aside from their ornamental use, which you can read all about HERE. One aspect of ornamental roses that I wanted to discuss, is the point that humans go to great lengths to achieve what we consider beauty in nature. This unsuspecting hybrid cultivar, which my neighbours have planted in their garden, is a perfect example of this never-ending pursuit of beauty. In the genus Rosa, there are somewhere between 100 and 150 different species depending on what expert you consult, with each one having drastically different characteristics. If we could find a way to select characteristics from each species to display in different hybrids, we could (in a way) "create" hybrids that would be very successful garden plants. Which we did. Approximately 5000 different times. Yes, there are an estimated 5000 different cultivars of roses of varying hybrid origins. Isn't that incredible?! That's a boatload of determination. So what went into making this hybrid?

To make the Champlain landscape rose, the series of steps to get from beginning to the end product that's planted in my neighbour's garden is no less complicated from start to finish or finish to start. So to be different, let's start with the end product: to create a Champlain hybrid, you must hybridize a Hybrid Tea rose with a Floribunda rose. Seems easy enough.

But, of course, it's not that easy. Because each of those are hybrids within themselves. The Floribunda rose is a hybrid between two different rose species, Rosa chinensis (China rose) and Rosa multiflora (multiflora rose). Easy enough! To get a Hybrid Tea rose, you need to cross a Hybrid Perpetual with a Tea rose. Interesting.

How do you get a Tea rose? This is a hybrid of two rose species, Rosa chinensis and Rosa odorata (scented rose). Again, easy enough. To get a Hybrid Perpetual rose, this is where things start to get a bit muddy. Making a Hybrid Perpetual, an incredibly popular garden rose because of its continuous flowering during the spring, summer and early fall, is incredibly complicated because it's made up entirely of recessive genes. Since most of these genes also carry disease susceptibility depending on species, you need to pick and choose what genes you get from which species. The easiest way to do this? Cross more hybrids to make second-generation hybrids! Yay! So a Hybrid Perpetual rose is created by crossing, in some seemingly random order, Hybrid China roses, Hybrid Bourbon roses, and Hybrid Noisette roses.

Alright, this is starting to get ridiculous. Because now we've got three more hybrids that we need to figure out how to make before we can even begin. To get a Hybrid Noisette, you have to cross Rosa moschata (Musk rose) with Rosa chinensis. To get a Hybrid China, you have to cross various cultivars of Rosa chinensis (can you see why I'm not a rose breeder now? This is giving me a headache). And last but not least, to get a Hybrid Bourbon you have to cross a Damask rose with one very specific cultivar, the "Old Blush" China rose (Rosa chinensis).

This brings us to our last hybrid cross, getting that Damask rose back that I first blogged about: a hybrid between Rosa moschata and Rosa gallica (French rose). Oh, what fun!

So to sum up, the species that go into making the genetic background of one cultivar of Hybrid Landscape rose are: Rosa chinensis, R. multiflora, R. odorata, R. moschata, and R. gallica in what seems like no less than one hundred steps. This doesn't even include the number of times a rose breeder had to cross different Hybrid Landscape roses together to get this specific flower colour, leaf colour, glossy leaves, red border around the leaf edge, red twig coloration, disease resistance, cold tolerance, and odor level. If this sounds like fun to you, perhaps you should strongly consider a career in rose breeding! There are about 5 companies that are giants worldwide for hybrid rose production, and I'm sure they're constantly looking for new staff. I'm not sure what would happen first: a new marketable rose cultivar or insanity...

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