Reuben’s Rose Quest
Reuben has always been a keen lover of roses as well as lavender. One of his new horticultural quests is that of the Isle of Wight Rose, and he is already three years into the development cycle of around ten years to cultivate a really special new and very “smelly” rose.
The real driving element here is Jill, Reuben's wife and business partner, who has the misfortune to suffer from a poor sense of smell. When Jill can smell the fragrance Rueben knows he has created a really “smelly” rose.
What actually goes into breeding the Isle of Wight Rose?
In a word, patience. The process can take up to ten years and so it’s an ambitious long-term goal for anyone to embark on. To start, you need to decide how many crosses to make. The definition of a cross is where two rose cultivars are brought together to create a new one, with attributes of both parents being found in the new creation.
Crossing is carried out in the same general way as Mother Nature does it, collecting pollen from the pollen parent and transferring to the seed parent. Every time this is done it is called a cross. Rather than rely on insects, birds or the wind, Rueben has to carry out this process by hand, carefully transferring the really fine pollen from parent to parent, and then accurately recording exactly what he has done. It’s vitally important to Reuben to understand the history of each cross so characteristics of petal count, fragrance, and disease resistance can be bred in or out.
A few months later, in the autumn, the seed parent’s blooms produce hips. These are berry-like in shape and bright orange to red in colour. Once ripened they can be slit open and the rose seeds carefully extracted and, again, notes taken of their details.
These seeds are then refrigerated until February, when they are sown in seed trays to await the germination process; details of each batch are marked and recorded. Eventually the new rose seedlings will develop, and as this occurs the strongest seedlings will be chosen to mature into full blown plants.
Reuben is looking for Grade One plants (Bare root roses are classified as grade 1, 1 1/2 and 2. Grade 1 roses have at least 3 large canes (branches) and the lesser grades have fewer and/or smaller canes.) At all times the possible grade ones are the final choices that will hopefully become commercially viable.
The above process can take years of crossing and analysing and re-crossing, not forgetting that the actual growth periods are seasonal so you only really see one good cross and development annually. Once Rueben has what he considers to be The Rose it has to be trialled by other rose growers to verify its viability as a commercial rose. Only after this rigorous testing will the rose go into production to be sold to the general public.
On completion Rueben can announce The Rose and give it a name connected with the Isle of Wight. However, this will only happen if it passes the final test; if Jill can smell the fragrance from a distance.
Only then will he know it’s a really smelly rose!