Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Those crazy crested hybrids.

Back in the 1980's Ralph Moore of California became enchanted by the bizarre Parsley-like sepals of R. centifolia cristata, commonly known as 'Chapeau de Napoleon'. At that time there were no known hybrids from it, and so Ralph set out to accomplish what would be one of the most challenging tasks of his career: to create a Floribunda style modern rose that had sepals like those of 'Chapeau de Napoleon'. As it happens, this was to be a most difficult goal to achieve, and Ralph still did not get as far down that road as he would have liked, even thirty years later.

One of the big problems with the centifolia cristata line is that first generation hybrids are often sterile, and so you immediately hit a wall. However, Ralph was able to obtain two hybrids that proved to be fertile and became pivotal in making a way forward: 'Crested Jewel' and "Queencrest". The latter is just a nickname for a seedling created when he crossed 'Queen Elizabeth' X R. centifolia cristata, as it was never introduced into commerce but only used for breeding purposes. 'Crested Jewel' ('Little Darling' X R. centofila cristata) has been the most significant contributor to the crested breeding programme, being highly fertile as a pollen parent and marginally fertile as a seed bearer. Most all of Ralph's repeat blooming "Crested Floribundas" are the result of crossing a Floribunda with 'Crested Jewel'. (You can read more about this line of breeding at this URL)

Fast forward to 2000: I collected open pollinated seeds from my 'Crested Jewel' and sowed them the following Spring. I don't recall how many seedlings I got, but only one was kept. When it was a year old it was planted in one of the areas assigned as a test beds, along with thirty or so other seedlings, mostly intermediate hybrids engineered to take me to specific goals. Here the seedling remained until January 2009, when I rediscovered it languishing in back of a group of larger seedlings. I dug it up and put it in a pot and moved it into my main breeding house, where it is about to be put into service. It looks almost identical to 'Crested Jewel', with semi-double medium pink blooms on a tall plant, and moderately intense cresting on its sepals. The big difference though, is that it is fully remontant. It sets seed and so I am presuming it will prove fertile when used with other hybrids. *crosses fingers* Why I never pursued this in breeding is beyond me. I should have tried working with this years ago.

I'll post photos of the open blooms in a couple weeks.

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