When roses first bloom in the spring, it's time to begin breeding them. Cross pollinating produces hybrids that can combine the best traits of both parents while minimising the worst. It takes eight to 10 years from pollination to produce a viable new variety, often the combination of an inspired cross by a rose breeder and a little luck. Producing an AARS (All-America Rose Selection) award winner means personal and financial rewards. Traits to breed for include colour, fragrance, disease and pest resistance, hardiness and flower size.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Canister or cup
- Masking tape
- Indelible ink pen
- Cuticle scissors
- Cotton swabs
- Ziplock bags
Select two roses for the parents. One will supply the pollen, the other the seeds. Hybrid teas, Floribundas, climber shrubs, miniatures and other classes can be crossed.
Collect pollen in the early morning or evening, when the air is still. Find a bud that is unfurling but not yet open. Cut off a 2-inch stem. Gently pull off all the petals and sepals, which are the green leaves at the base.
Invert and insert the yellow stamens and pollen sacs into an old film canister or cup. Write the variety name on a piece of masking tape and label the container.
Dry at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours. Pollen will collect in fine yellow dust in the canister bottom. Use within four days or store in a refrigerator up to four weeks.
Find a just-opening bud on the seed parent. Hold it carefully by the sepals or base of the bloom. Remove the petals, but leave the sepals.
Cut off the tall stamens with nail scissors. Remove the pollen sacs. Cut a circle around the short stigmas in the centre of the flower.
Check stigmas after 12 hours. They will produce a clear sticky fluid within 12 to 24 hours.
Record all pollination in a notebook: the date, seed parent first x pollen parent second, a.m. or p.m.
Dust the sticky stigmas with the pollen twice a day for two days, using the stem as a handle. Get all the pollen out of the cup with a cotton swab, using a clean swab each time.
Write the pollen parent and the date in indelible ink on a label and tape it to the peduncle, the stem below the bud.
Harvest hips when the penduncle turns brown and dries out in about three months. Put hips in ziplock bags clearly marked with the cross code in indelible ink. Store in a refrigerator.
Collect seeds from the same cross by cutting hips open with a sharp knife. Clean the pulp from the seeds.
Prevent mould by dipping seeds in a solution of 1/2 tsp of 50 per cent captan to 1 pint water. Store in the marked baggie wrapped in a paper towel moistened with the captan solution. Keep in the coldest part of a refrigerator.
Plant seeds in December in Southern California; indoors in colder zones. Expect only 25 per cent to germinate. If any seedlings display unusual colours or shapes, consult a rose society, roasarian or nursery about commercial production.
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