Saturday, April 18, 2009

"Tusc-o-jam", the rose pictured in my blog banner.

About 13 years ago I started down a tedious road to what I hoped would be the production of some Gallica-based remontant shrub roses. As all hybridizers do, I started with what I had on hand; a very limited selection. 'Tuscany Superb' was an obvious choice because it represented an ideal: rich color, a growth habit I liked, ease of culture and exceedingly good health. To introduce genes for repeat bloom, I turned to what I now regard as a far less optimal choice: 'Othello', a David Austin red. Still, you have to start somewhere, and 'Othello' did offer some features I wanted, such as its exceptional fragrance.

The resulting seedlings (about 8 of 'em) varied from downright hideous to quite beautiful. One of these eventually was named 'Ellen Tofflemire' and is available in comerce. Several of the seedlings bloomed very dark but had problems opening. Some never opened their blooms at all, and these were trashed promptly. One other sibling still exists in a corner of my garden; a 12 petaled medium reddish (read: muddy crimson/red) Gallica that I used in breeding one more step towards the shrub type I was seeking. This Gallica, nicknamed simply "Tusc-oth" was crossed with the beautiful dark Hybrid Perpetual 'Souvenir du Dr. Jamain' and a handful of seedlings resulted. Ultimately only one was kept and this is the seedling illustrated here.

"Tusc-o-jam" is a reasonably strong shrub that will grow to 8 feet easily, with arching canes that give it a graceful natural form. It is Spring blooming only, with bicolored deep lavender-pink deeply cupped blossoms showing a paler reverse. It has a rich Myrrh scent that some people think is more like Licorice. Not everyone finds that scent attractive. I think it is very curious that the Myrrh scent has come spontaneously out of a breeding line that (to the best of my knowledge) doesn't involved 'Ayreshire Splendens' which has often been held responsible for generating that scent. It is my experience that the Myrrh scent can surface in any crosses involving Gallicas in combination with modern shrubs.

It is pollen fertile only but the pollen results in seed from most any seed setter. A portion of the offspring (approx. 50%) are remontant. I have not done a lot of work with this in breeding but one hybrid, 'Siren's Keep' is the result of a cross involving "Tusc-o-jam". This Spring I am going to be evaluating a couple of new crosses in which it has been used. If there's something to report, you'll find out about it here!

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