Cream of the Crop! Butter Cream from Bob Martin Takes the Cake
by Suzanne M. Horn, Master Rosarian, Pacific Rose Society
Article published in The Pacific Rose, April 2020
If have often been asked to name a favorite rose over the 20 years I have been growing and exhibiting roses. That’s always a hard question, but no matter how much I deliberate on the issue, the answer always turns out to be ‘Butter Cream’. This luscious miniflora is the favorite creation of ARS President and amateur hybridizer Bob Martin, and I have been in love with this rose since I first laid eyes on it as a seedling in Bob’s Pasadena garden back in 2002. I guess you could say it was love at first sight! At the time, Bob was trying to decide on a name for it, and a number of visitors to the garden that day were suggesting names. My suggestion, by the way, was Crème Brûlée because it looked so much like that rich dessert. I’ll have to admit, though, that ‘Butter Cream’ was ultimately an even better name. ABOVE: 'Butter Cream' vase of 12, photo & shown by Suzanne Horn.
‘Butter Cream’ (Code name MARButter) is a cross of the hybrid tea ‘Anne Morrow Lindberg’ x the miniature rose ‘Fairhope’. Bob notes that ‘Anne Morrow Lindberg’, which is a favorite in his breeding program, was also the seed parent of the superb exhibition rose and AARS winner, ‘Gemini’. ‘Fairhope’ was and continues to be a top-rated miniature exhibition rose and topped the charts for eleven years straight! The resultant seedling was an exquisite miniflora presenting picture perfect, high-centered exhibition form blooms, which are about 2 inches in diameter and have between 28-32 petals. Those petals have excellent substance and the blooms last a long time on the bush, under refrigeration and as a cut flower.
ABOVE, L TO R: 'Butter Cream' bloom, Miniflora Queen of Show shown by Suzanne Horn, photo by Baldo Villegas. Suzanne Horn with Butter Cream Queen, photo by Baldo Villegas. Vase of 3 Butter Cream shown by Suzanne Horn, photo by Dona Martin.
Classified by the American Rose Society as a medium yellow (my), the flowers are a clean, medium butter yellow, with this hue being particularly prominent in cooler, overcast or shaded conditions. However, in hot, sunny weather they can be a paler creamy ivory shade and sometimes present a rosy blush in the center. See the attached photos of some of my show winning entries, which demonstrate the fluctuation in shades, dependent upon weather conditions.
ABOVE, L TO R: 'Butter Cream' Queen of Show shown by Suzanne Horn, photo by Kitty Belendez. Vase of 12 with Certificate, photo & shown by Suzanne Horn. English Box of 3 Butter Cream shown by Suzanne Horn, photo by Dona Martin.
What follows is the story of how this exceptional miniflora came to be. Bob Martin began his hybridizing program in the Fall of 1992 after joining the Rose Hybridizers Association and doing an appropriate amount of research into the subject. As he always says, there is nothing about roses that does not interest him. Therefore, hybridizing was just the next logical step for him to take in his rose growing journey. He ordered their excellent handbook entitled “Rose Hybridizing for Beginners and read it cover to cover multiple times. For those interested in following his footsteps and trying their hand at hybridizing, a digital membership in the Rose Hybridizers Association is $8.00 per year and includes a quarterly newsletter, and you can now join and renew online. To join, a person just needs to go to www.rosebreeders.org and select the second menu item, which is “Become a member”.
As for Bob, he learned about the way to create new roses through “cross-pollination”, which involves placing the pollen of one rose on the stigma of another. This results in a seedling with some of the characteristics of each of the parent plants. This is the process utilized by all rose hybridizers and involves planning and creativity to obtain such desired qualities as substance, disease resistance, fragrance and form. The planning and creativity lie in the selection of the parents. There is also planning and creativity in the timing, the methods used for germination and of course in the selection of seedlings to keep and nurture on. ABOVE, TOP TO BOTTOM: Miniflora rose 'Butter Cream' shown by Suzanne Horn, photo by Dona Martin. 'Butter Cream Basket' shown by Suzanne Horn, photo by Baldo Villegas. 'Butter Cream' trophy winners shown by Suzanne Horn, photo by Suzanne Horn.
Traditionally, the seed parent (mother plant) is listed first and then the pollen parent, in this case ‘Anne Morrow Lindberg’ x ‘Fairhope’ as noted above. The full process is outlined in the handbook “Rose Hybridizing for Beginners”, and I could not recommend it more highly. For more about Bob’s adventure into hybridizing, I refer you to an Award of Merit article he wrote for the Penn-Jersey District Newsletter back in 1999 entitled “Margie and Ilona”. It’s both entertaining and enlightening.
Bob’s breeding program has produced a number of excellent roses including the semi-double ‘Margie’, miniature single ‘Ilona’, miniflora single ‘Bronze Medal’, floribundas ‘Pasadena Star’, ‘Bolivar’ and ‘Peachy Cheeks’, polyantha ‘Elizabeth Navarro’, shrub ‘Ruth Tiffany’, miniature ‘Peter Cottontail’ and hybrid tea sport ‘Dona Martin’. They have all been really good roses, with the majority of them achieving success on the trophy tables. However, apart from ‘Dona Martin’, which was a discovery and not bred, none has achieved the incredible success and popularity of the beautiful ‘Butter Cream’. What follows is the story of how this exceptional miniflora came to be.
Bob had become particularly enamored with ‘Anne Morrow Lindbergh’ as a seed parent after achieving success with it in producing the spectacular ‘Pasadena Star’, the first of the intentional crosses he had made. He was one of the first to grow ‘Anne Morrow Lindbergh’ after having been instrumental in the selection of the name of the rose. He also consulted legendary hybridizer Sam McGredy IV regarding the idea of hybridizing roses with unusual colors. Bob recalls “Sam said that if I wanted color in roses, I should pick a parent that was multicolored because that would more likely be one that had genes of different colors. ‘Anne Morrow Lindbergh’ has a lot of colors and shadings in it so I thought maybe something unusual could be expressed.”
Vase of 3 Butter Cream blooms - courtesy of Rosemania.com. Vase of 6 Butter Cream - shown by Suzanne Horn at 2017 Santa Clarita Rose Society Show, photo by Suzanne Horn. Dee Bennett Trophy from 2009 Palm Desert National Show, shown by Suzanne Horn, photo by Baldo Villegas. ABOVE, TOP TO BOTTOM: Vase of 3 'Butter Cream' blooms, courtesy of Rosemania.com. Vase of 6 'Butter Cream' shown by Suzanne Horn, photo by Suzanne Horn. Dee Bennett Trophy from 2009 Palm Desert National Show, shown by Suzanne Horn, photo by Baldo Villegas.
This is how ‘Anne Morrow Lindbergh’ became the seed parent of ‘Butter Cream’ and a number of other roses Bob Martin hybridized. By the year 2000, he made multiple crosses with ‘Anne Morrow Lindbergh’ as the seed parent and ‘Fairhope’, which was the top exhibition miniature rose at the time with great exhibition form, as the pollen parent. His goal was to perhaps replicate the success of a top miniature rose of the day called ‘Jean Kenneally’. Since he had learned that the genes of miniature roses usually dominate a cross and would produce a miniature seedling, ‘Fairhope’ was the perfect pollen parent. (LEFT: 'Butter Cream' roses bloom even in late November in Suzanne’s garden).
Bob recalls that this particular cross produced 30 seedlings in early 2001. He noted, “The #4 seedling, designated 01-AnnFair-04, later was introduced as ‘Peter Cottontail’, the #7 seedling, designated 01-AnnFair-07, was ‘Butter Cream’. The other 28 were discarded. My initial notes on ‘Butter Cream’ said "White with classic form”. As it developed it was more yellow and was eventually released as a light yellow. I actually remember the first bloom because it was extraordinary and I knew at once that if I could get a plant under it, I would have something. As it turns out, getting a good plant from an ‘Anne Morrow Lindbergh’ cross is the norm.”
As noted above, Bob was attempting to breed a miniature rose from this cross. However, he notes that the size of ‘Butter Cream’ was evident from the start. He observes, “You will recall the miniflora class had in 1997 been adopted and ARS was considering how it should be shown. I wrote an article on that subject. In time, working with Robbie Tucker, we concluded that the HT standards applicable to miniatures should apply and by 2004 we were instrumental in getting that adopted in the Guidelines. Ben Williams, who is recognized as the father of the miniflora thanked me personally and acknowledged my contributions to the recognition of the miniflora. I suppose I was motivated in part by the fact that I had minifloras with killer form ready to go.”
Bob also shared a fun fact with me. Apparently, of the many seedlings he hybridized in 2000, ‘Butter Cream’ was not his first choice. He actually had another one that he liked better, a cross of ‘Moonstone’ x ‘Kristin’. He noted, “I sent it to Robbie Tucker, who expressed an interest in introducing it. In his greenhouse, however, the rose went crazy and was growing like a climber with one bloom at the end. He called me up to tell me it wasn’t going to work and asked if I had anything else. I said yes, I had this light yellow and I sent him ‘Butter Cream’.” The rest is history.
It didn’t take long before the entire rose world became aware of this sensational seedling. ‘Butter Cream’ made its first public appearance at the San Fernando Rose Society Show on April 20, 2002, where it won the seedling class. A week later it won the seedling class that the ARS National Show in San Jose on April 27, 2002.
Shortly thereafter, it was introduced into commerce in 2003 by Rosemania. It promptly won its first Queen of Show in April of 2003 at the Gainesville Rose Society Show in Florida. Apparently, it was the second bloom on a plant the exhibitor, Steve Felts, had received a month earlier, which was an indication of great things to come with this extraordinary rose. Speaking of great things to come, that promise was realized at the highest level when Bob & Sandy Lundberg won miniflora Queen of Show with ‘Butter Cream’ at the 2006 Fall National in Dallas. Of note, they got there the previous year with ‘Peter Cottontail’ as Miniflora Queen at the 2005 Mini National in Indianapolis.
For me, ‘Butter Cream’ has been a spectacular show rose. I have been winning trophies with it since the year of its introduction in 2003 and have won 91 trophies with it to date. I won my first two Queens with it in October of 2004, and since that time I’ve won a total of six Queens of Show. Attached is a photo of my first Queen of Show at the Santa Clarita Valley Rose Society Show in 2004 taken by Kitty Belendez and also a photo of me with my second ‘Butter Cream’ Queen of Show taken by Baldo Villegas at the Los Angeles Rose Society Show a week later.
I’ve also utilized it in various challenge class including winning the Dee Bennett Memorial Trophy twice (see photos). As of last year, ‘Butter Cream’ had won 118 Queens nationally, and in all has appeared as royalty or in major challenge classes more than 600 times since its introduction. It has been called the best miniflora exhibition rose every hybridized by exhibitor extraordinaire Satish Prabhu, and I would have to agree with him.
Not surprisingly, since Bob is an avid exhibitor, ‘Butter Cream’ was bred to be a show rose; and it has certainly lived up to its promise, particularly in my garden. I have won with it in many different classes including miniflora bloom (Queen), miniflora English box, miniflora vase of three, miniflora vase of six, miniflora vase of twelve, miniflora cycle of bloom, miniflora artist’s palette, miniflora picture frame and miniflora rose in bowl. It has also graced the show table as miniflora spray. In addition, I’ve incorporated it into my IRS Invitational Challenge Class winner, as a Best of Show collection at Desert Rose Society and in a stunning miniflora basket (see photos). It is a must-have rose for miniflora collection classes. In case I haven’t mentioned it, I grow quite a few plants of this rose, and it has never disappointed me.
What makes ‘Butter Cream’ so special? First and foremost, its classic, high-centered exhibition form is exceptional, a trait it inherited from ‘Anne Morrow Lindbergh’. ‘Fairhope’, the pollen parent, looks to have contributed the miniflora size and perhaps more to the form. ‘Fairhope’ also has a lot of substance in its petals although ‘Butter Cream’ has even more. Most blooms come one-to-a-stem, although the occasional spray will present itself. This has resulted in its ranking No.1 in the miniflora spray division in 2008 and No. 2 in Queens of Show that year. ‘Butter Cream’ has remained in the Top Ten minifloras statistically and is currently ranked No. 6 in the nation.
Because of their excellent substance, ‘Butter Cream’ blooms last a long time on the bush, when refrigerated and as a cut flower. In fact, I have brought home challenge class collections from rose shows, taken them to work and have had them last nearly a week afterwards on my desk!
Of note, ‘Butter Cream’ does very well on its own roots and also as a budded plant. I grow it both ways with great success. Exhibition blooms are presented on very young plants, so you don’t have to wait months or years to get the great roses you’re anticipating.
In the garden, ‘Butter Cream’ is a vigorous, upright grower and prolific bloomer with medium green, semi-glossy, healthy foliage. It will grow from 2-3 feet tall and about 2 feet wide on a medium, bushy plant. It also boasts superior disease resistance, which makes it an excellent choice for a garden rose as well as a show rose. In fact, top hybridizer Ping Lim has used it in his breeding program that focuses on disease resistant varieties.
Since introducing ‘Butter Cream’, Bob Martin has continued his adventures in all aspects of roses. As most readers are aware, he is the current President of the American Rose Society. He is also a Master Rosarian, Horticultural and Arrangements Judge, and winner of a number of ARS Awards for his outstanding service. He was the 2001 ARS Silver Medal recipient in the Pacific Southwest District, the District’s Outstanding Consulting Rosarian in 2007, the recipient of the national Guy Blake Hedrick Award in 2007 for lifetime achievement in rose exhibiting, and was the 2009 recipient of the ARS Klima Medal for his lifetime contribution to rose education.
In addition, Bob is the celebrated author of “Showing Good Roses”, the best book ever written about growing and exhibiting show roses. He has also authored hundreds of published articles on roses, many of which have appeared in “The American Rose” and many of which have won Awards of Merit.
Bob is also the National Editor of “Horizon Roses”, an annual publication that contains exhibitor comments on the newest exhibition roses. He also manages a website, www.roseshow.com, that contains information about national, district, and local rose shows and their results. Bob has grown roses for more than 48 years and currently grows about 575 roses with his wife Dona in their Escondido, California home. In his copious spare time, he continues his amateur hybridizing program and has only recently produced another exceptionally fine floribunda called ‘Escondido Sunset’, which he believes to be one of the best roses he has produced thus far, second only to ‘Butter Cream’. We will doubtless be seeing new and wonderful introductions from him as time goes on, and I for one can’t wait.
In summary, ‘Butter Cream’ is one of the finest miniflora roses on the market today. I cannot recommend it more highly. If I could only grow one rose on a desert island, this would be the one. It is commercially available from a number of sellers, and I never pass up an opportunity to add another one to my collection. It’s that good. For me, it’s the cream of the crop!