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Makers of Heavenly Roses

by Nanette Londeree, Marin Rose Society, Master Rosarian

When you admire the beauty of a rose blossom, marvel at the health and vigor of the plant, or inhale its intoxicating perfume, in most cases, what you’re experiencing is no accident or fluke of nature. The incredible rose is the result of some imaginative, resourceful, and patient person – the hybridizer. The men and women that create these wonders of the plant world are found around the globe and have been busy crafting their magic for more than two centuries. 'LEFT': Charlotte'.


Early in my rose life, I sought information on who these people were, for it seemed that to create a rose was a marvelous thing. I happened upon two books; the first was by Herb Swim, creator of one of the most popular roses of all time (and certainly one of my very favorites), ‘Double Delight’. In the forward of his book, Roses – from Dreams to Reality, Swim says, “My own interest in roses and rose breeding has been a lifelong experience. It has been deeply fascinating for me and I am convinced that all rose breeders find it so whether it be for them a vocation or avocation.” Similarly, in the opening of The Makers of Heavenly Roses, author Jack Harkness, another master of rose breeding says, “In writing these seventeen short biographies, I have succeeded in educating myself, if nobody else. At times, I felt like the compiler of Lives of the Saints, except that my subjects are of more earthy character, not obvious candidates for canonization, although to be sure they have performed their own miracles, and suffered their own trials.” I don’t think there could be a more apt description for a rose hybridizer than Maker of Heavenly Roses! ABOVE: Double Delight, photo by Rich Baer.

Painters and musicians develop styles that reflect the available technological tools, past history, current fashion, or trends of the time. The same is true of plant hybridizers. Most hybridizers have their own goals and inspirations, and as artists, seek to develop their own unique characteristics in roses. Just as you can distinguish a Rembrandt from a Monet, or Mozart from the Rolling Stones, you can begin to see each breeder’s unique style. Examples that exemplify style in roses are David Austin and his pursuit of modern roses with an old-fashioned rose appearance and fragrance, like ‘Gertrude Jekyll’. Another is Sam McGredy of New Zealand, creating roses whose coloring appears to be “hand-painted” like ‘Old Master’, ‘Picasso’, and another favorite, ‘Stretch Johnson’ (ABOVE).

While hybrid teas are by far, the most common type of hybridized rose, many other types of roses have been touched by breeders. There are hybrid chinas, gallicas, perpetuals, musks, rugosas, floribundas, kordeseiis, and the most prolific group, miniature roses. Familiar names in rose breeders include Dr. Keith Zary – creator of ‘Gemini’, ‘Veteran’s Honor’, and ‘Crescendo’ (LEFT). Ralph Moore was considered the Father of Miniature Roses, developing new varieties for more than 60 years. ‘Beauty Secret’, ‘Magic Carousel’ and ‘Rise n’ Shine’, all ARS Hall of Fame Miniatures, are just a few of Moore’s’ successes. David Austin created so many wonderful roses that they now use his name to describe a type of rose! Medilland, Kordes and Poulsen from Europe have produced between them some of the most well- known roses in the world. Boerner, Swim, and Lammerts from the U.S. can be credited with even more stars of the rose world. And the list goes on and on. Over the next months, we hope to introduce you to many of these makers of heavenly roses and their wonderful creations.


All photos by Nanette Londeree unless stated otherwise.


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