Houzz Logo Print

North American vs European rose hybridisers

16 years ago

There is a side discussion on another thread that pitted North American vs European rose hybridisers. There was a suggestion that North American hydrisers "sucks" compared to European hybridizers.

IMHO, such comparisons need to be done on equal terms:

1. Rose hybridisation (and the hybridisation of many other plants) have a much longer history in Europe. The great house of Meilland was founded in 1850, when North American statehoods were in their infancies, relatively speaking. And who can forget one of the pioneers of rose breeding, the French man, Joseph Pernet-Ducher, who, over 100 years ago, was the first to take a systemic approach to rose breeding. Just as old as Meilland, of course is venerable Kordes and Sons. Although Jackson and Perkins was started in 1872, it wasn't until 1901 that the company started dabbling in rose hybridization (who can forget E. A. Miller's Dorothy Perkins?) And J & P's did not employ full time hybridisers till later. And productivity in terms of new roses did not pick up until the likes or Eugene Boerner and Bill Warriner joined the ranks.

2. The economic environment for roses is very different in Europe, compared to North America. This is necessary as Europe is a diverse part of the world. Hence, for example, Kordes sees a need for hardy, disease resistant roses from the very beginning. Whereas US rose breeders concentrated on the modern hybrid teas (until recently). And the Agricultural Canada focussed on cold hardy roses.

3. I am not sure if some Americans may subconsciously think of North America as being the U.S., forgetting Canada. In the same vein, how many of us lumps France, Germany, Britain, Belgium, etc into one basket called Europe? The reality is that they are different countries. The French have the house of Meilland and Delbard. The Germans have Tantau, and Kordes and sons. The British have Peter Beales, David Austin, etc. I don't think it is a valid comparison pitting "American" hybridisers against "European" rose hybridisers. We should, instead, be making comparisons between American breeders and German breeders, or British breeders against French breeders, etc.

4. To "compare" rose breeders, if you ever can, one would probably have to have some kind of measure of productivity. Perahps the number of noteworthy roses produced by a breeder per year of "active service". (I guess, the term "noteworthy" itself, is a good subject for another lengthy debate.) How many of the over 100 varieties Bill Wariner introduced in his career with J&P would be considered noteworthy? How does that compared with his Kordes contemporary?

Comments (50)

  • 16 years ago

    Welcome to the debate.

    First I don't think it is valid to split the European's into countries. They have for some time been the European union where differences between countries are softening.

    Then there is the fact that we were more prominent in the past. Feast hybridized Baltimore Belle in 1843 using what must have been a little known species, Rosa Setigera. Then there is Walter van Fleet, Griffith Buck and numerous others. Considering the size of our country there are a paltry few major rose growers with the massive hybridizing programs of a Kordes or Meilland.

    I'm most curious why that is so? Maybe because there is little money to be made! Or the love of the rose is only an addiction to a small number who operate with little resources and only their dedication to drive them. None it seems with the resources of a Meilland or Kordes. A pity that J&P have somehow lost it.

    Now David Austin has managed to become "American". From the number of new introductions he makes he challenges M&K. But not in quality. Maybe it takes an oldtime breeder to recognize a good rose and reject those who lack the many traits of a good garden rose. Beyond just fragrance and form. Disease resistance for example. And in my case hardiness.

  • 16 years ago

    Jim, the EU countries are very unique from one another, even though they have forged a (primarily) economic link to bolster competitiveness with the US, Japan, etc & the growing economic power from emerging countries such as China & India.

    Finland & Portugal
    Italy & Denmark
    The United Kingdom & France
    Germany & Ireland
    Spain & Poland
    Latvia & The Netherlands
    So very unique, I think it's fair to view their efforts individually, separately.

    But, to me, the debate is futile. Both can learn from each other, North America & Europe. Quantity of new introductions really doesn't matter, quality does. And the quality of a rose is so subject to the individual's tastes, specific growing conditions, & individual concepts of beauty.

    I grow 'Knockout', love it, and consider it a breeding breakthrough. But you better not try to take away my 'Heritage'.


  • Related Discussions

    Regarding 'The American Rose Society Book Of Roses'


    Comments (54)
    Here are some others not to forget: Griffeth Buck Vernon Rickard Paul Barden I don't believe Americans are dissinterested in things that were not invented here. We seem to be quite fond of things with European names like Krupps, Braun, and all those other coffee makers. We eat tons of ethnic food. Lots of us are tourists. When the Beatles came out many of us became Anglophiles and a lot of us still think the English cottage garden is the ultimate. We are a country full of appreciative people, IMO. I have never noticed anyone not wanting to buy a rose because it was bred by a non-AMerican. Excuse me for digressing. Anyway even with it's flaws I bet I could really enjoy looking at that book, Devon. I usually check the big Botanica's out from the library but have my easy to hold paperback copy which I enjoy. My library also has The Rose Bible and Antique Roses for the South, both of which were responsible for a number of roses in my garden. Linda
    ...See More

    Canadian vs. American design aesthetics


    Comments (8)
    If you're talking about the Canadian aesthetic that's been in the grind of deco media starting several years ago up to just a minute ago, it all looks the same to me. If someone were to say to me they prefer the Canadian design aesthetic, one *kind* of design imagery would immediately pop in my head. Candice Olsen, Sarah Richardson, Linda Reeves -- they all do basically the same thing and have the same look IMO. So much so that they might as well all be one entity as far as I'm concerned. You can throw Debbie Travis in there too -- fundamentally, not a lot of diff from the others, she just paints all the stuff she can get her hands on really bright colors. It's a cookie-cutter aesthetic. If someone were to say to me they preferred American design over Canadian, a zillion very different images pop into my head: Jamie Drake's "New American Glamour", Kelly Wearstler's "Maximalism", Mario Buatta "The Prince of Chintz" opposite Steven Gambrel's use of solid colors, or Miles Redd's "Enduring Style", or Bunny Williams' she-needs-to-have-a-garage-sale-it's-too-darned-cluttered-for-my-taste-look. All those images flood my head at once with the words American design aesthetics. All the important Canadian designers I can think of matter in a lame 'HGTV important' way. It's not inspired design like my very short list of important American designers. It's likely the issues I'm bringing up are due to my own ignorance and maybe Canadian design aesthetic really isn't as one-note as I perceive it.
    ...See More

    East/Midwest North American drought developing?


    Comments (124)
    Even though it has been less than 2 weeks without rain with temps in the 80's and a few 90's, it is hard to believe how dry my sandy loam soil can get with sunny windy conditions. My one 7 ft. Paper Birch that is recovering nicely from being planted too deep a few years ago, and raised this spring, had leaves turning yellow even though I was giving it water regularly. Apparently, it wasn't enough to keep the soil moist deep enough to prevent this from happening. A long soaking watering stopped the yellow leaves from increasing in number. My 3 ft. Eastern Hemlock had it's first branch turning brown. I thought being it's second year in the ground, I could cut back on the every 3rd day watering when it doesn't rain, guess not. When you read that Tsuga Canadensis will not tolerate drought at all, believe it. My Black Ash in the front yard, had individual leaf clusters in several spots, shriveling up with no change in color, like it was adjusting to lack of water. So, to prevent further crisis, I'm back to every other day soakings of the new trees planted this spring and the trees that were raised this spring, plus every day soakings of any water loving trees like Red maples as they quit putting out new growth until the watering resumed. And this is all on soil that is a real upgrade (Sandy loam) to the Loamy sand where I used to live. The single biggest factor I attribute this problem too is the lack of shade in my area (due to the lack of any mature trees at all). The mulch makes sure that only the tree gets the water which is a plus but it doesn't prevent the soil from getting sucked dry by the tree in short order. Finally tonight were are getting a nice soaking rain that is supposed to last all night and most of tomorrow, hopefully giving us a couple of inches to penetrate down past the dry layer. Otherwise an inch will help but it won't totally alleviate the dryness. Either way, irrigation will start again in either a few days or a week at the most, depending on conditions of temps, sun and wind.
    ...See More

    NOV. FOTESS SWAP - A Month to Celebrate Native Americans


    Comments (46)
    Good morning, everyone! The Bingo words for today are: DEER and CODE TALKER. I'll update the full list for us again tomorrow. I found out there is a book about the Code Talkers. Many of you may already know this interesting part of history. I think I will look for the book because it sounds so interesting. "Throughout World War II, in the conflict fought against Japan, Navajo code talkers were a crucial part of the U.S. effort, sending messages back and forth in an unbreakable code that used their native language. They braved some of the heaviest fighting of the war, and with their code, they saved countless American lives." The book is: Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two by Jospeh Bruchac (Perhaps there are other books as well. This is the one I found listed. Windtalkers is a movie based on this same theme. Has anyone read the book or seen the movie?) I want to recheck the guesses and will post the winner and then people can guess for today if they like. One time a day for as many members as want to try it. No one has them all right yet. Jeanne
    ...See More
  • 16 years ago

    It seems to me that only fairly recently has there been such an intense interest in, & emphasis on, hybridizers. Perhaps it all started with the market-savvy strategies developed by David Austin; maybe it's a logical extension of society's fixation on designer labels; or it might have always been the case & I just wasn't paying attention.

    Whereas I used to be concerned solely with the merits of individual rose varieties, I now find myself saying categorical things like this: "I want to add more Tantau roses to my garden" or "Isn't it great that Nursery X is going to be increasing the number of Poulsens on their list?" I'm not sure that this new approach is such a good development, but I'm as guilty of it as the next person.

    Very often, European hybridizers withhold info on the breeding behind their new introductions. If they did not, we'd probably be quite surprised at the number of roses by American hybridizers that have made impressive contributions to breeding programs in other countries.

    In the past, I've tried to be conscious of where foreign-bred roses were field tested before being introduced, & how closely conditions in those locales might approximate my own. International marketing is increasingly the norm, and I assume that breeders everywhere are placing more emphasis on plant genetics, & on introducing roses that thrive under a broad range of climatic variables. Let's hope.

  • 16 years ago

    Roses are a crop and in the USA it is all about the dollar. Look at the business cycle @ J&P. Many roses are breed and then plowed under.
    I think Europe is more aware of the history of their breeding lines and are more business savy of the value of patents.

  • 16 years ago

    I'll just take a great rose from anyplace in the world, thank
    you. As long as it's a winner, that's all I care about. The rose
    Just Joey, for example, was hybridized by an amateur, at the

  • 16 years ago

    >> Just Joey, for example, was hybridized
    >> by an amateur, at the time.

    *** Errr, well, no.
    Roger Pawsey, who created 'Just Joey,' named it for his wife.
    He is a descendant of Benjamin R. Cant, and a current partner in the firm, Cants of Cochester, founded by B.R. Cant in 1765, and still owned by the family.

    That said, the contributions of dedicated "amateur" hybridizers should never be ignored.


  • 16 years ago

    In France do not forget Guillot, one of the oldest rose breeding houses.
    In the UK do not forget Henry Bennett, W. Paul, the houses of Harkness, Dickson and McGredy.

    And in the US There was Swimm, Lammerts, Boerner, W. Warriner, just to name a few.

  • 16 years ago

    The list of European bred roses at HelpMeFind that are no longer available due to having died out is endless, figuratively speaking.

    I suspect this has happened for overlapping reasons but primarily because:

    1) They weren't inherently healthy.

    2) They were boring to begin with and no one cared whether they survived or not.


  • 16 years ago

    Thank you Jeri, for correcting me on that. I had read that
    Roger Pawsey was an amateur at the time he hybridized Just
    Joey and it has become one of the world's favorite roses. I
    did'nt know he was part of the Cant family.

  • 16 years ago

    Splitting up Europe in to countries to look American hybridizers look better!!! Now that is funny! It would be like splitting America up into 55 states. And compare hybridizers from Nebraska with hybridizers from Denmark. Europe have become much more homogeneous due to EU. We all hate the French ....that is what we really agree on. Most of us are really much more cosmopolitans. If I see a rose I like I do not care who hybridized it or who sells it. I care about who can deliver good quality plants of the varieties I want. Appearance of the roses, the fragrance (Must be fragrant!), growth habit and disease resistant is far more important than national origin of a rose.
    I think of my Mr. Lincoln roses and New Dawn roses as "American" roses. I adore Meilland roses, even if they come from the country with the obnoxious people. German roses are really good ...Ohhh Tantau and Kordes!!!! Austin roses are to die for. Danish Poulsen roses are really good too!!! All are dwarfed by the Danish rose firms Roses Forever and Rosanova that produces more than 15 million potted roses every year. But I do not care so much for quantity ... I care more about quality. Going over the list of the more than 100 varieties introduced by Bill Wariner, I recognize four names. And I have never grown even one of them. Now compare that to Kordes and I can mention many roses I love ... world wars and all forgotten. So national origin of roses do not interest me ... the quality of the roses do!

  • 16 years ago

    The EU is an economic union more than anything else. The different countries are as culturally diverse as Mexico is to USA, China to Japan, etc.. The climates of the different countries are different, from the Meditaranean, to the Alps, from the English Channel to the eastern shores of the Meditaranean Sea. They speak vastly different languages. Even their foods and dress codes are different. How can we justify lumping them all together?

    The original founding countries consisted of only six, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. The Treaty of Rome which created the European Economic Community (EEC), or ÂCommon MarketÂ, wasn't signed until 1956. United Kingdom did not join until 1973. More than 125 years of systematic rose breeding had passed by by then.

    (May I please pursuit posters not to post any remarks that may be regarded as derogatory, rude or insulting to the people of other countries, e.g., "from the country with the obnoxious people.". What is that supposed to mean?)

  • 16 years ago

    cactus_joe - don't worry. One of the few benefits of the EU is that we are all allowed to insult each other with impunity :) We just don't let anyone else do it, and of course we are far too well-mannered to insult any non-Europeans!

    Of course American rose breeders are best! There - you see- it's easy to be polite :)

    Best wishes

  • 16 years ago

    I am reminded of the existential musings of that superstar of English poetry, William Blake, penned about two hundred years ago:

    Oh Rose, thou art sick!

    Oh Rose, thou art sick!
    The invisible worm
    That flies in the night,
    in the howling storm

    Has found out thy bed Of crimson joy.
    And with his dark secret love,
    does thy life destroy.

    Clearly a metaphor, this classic among classics must've nevertheless resonated with the populace for practical botanical reasons they could all easily identify with, i.e. disease prone roses.

  • 16 years ago

    I really have tried to grow Canadina Explorers, Bucks, Austins and miscellaneous other "native" roses. Unfortunately I have a garden or partly it's me that doesn't take well to roses. Some well touted roses flunk. Even Kordes.

    I lately have discovered that my soil is low in iron. Thanks Berndoodle for raising that question after I mentioned the iron level of a soil analysis. And adding iron has already perked up some malingering roses.

    Well I brought up this subject mostly because I find so many posters are unaware of the many great roses introduced by those pesky Europeans. Exept of course David Austin's that have become Americanized. I came to focus on Kordes because their nursery and market is partly in need of hardy roses. And lately Tantau who is even more obscure to American rose growers.

    I'm sure I would also love many others like Meilland, Harkness, etc. if they hybridized in colder climates. So many of their roses are z6 not the z5 I need.

    Cupshaped thanks for that plug for Kordes and I know from your earlier comments that Tantau is also high on your list as well as others.

    So how does one know what is a good rose? Only by growing a wide assortment and therby have something to compare all your roses with.

  • 16 years ago

    Rose breeders on both sides of the Atlantic have to satisfy the rose buying public and that public differs widely. In the US, most people have preferred hybrid teas, never mind that they are annuals in a large part of the country. When my parents wanted a rose garden, they specified 'roses like they have at the florists.' And that was in zone 4. My grandmother grew hybrid teas exclusively - living in the LA area, she did very well with them. Visitors who look at my garden keep asking if the polyanthas, the shrubs, the Canadian Explorers, are roses and sometimes express disbelief - that's not their idea of a rose.
    Kordes has been breeding shrubs for several generations and it's only recently that the US breeders have gotten on board and realized that's now where the market is. I was struck by the number of shrubs Weeks is offering this year - and quite a few of their so-called grandifloras (Wild Blue Yonder, About Face) are actually shrub roses. There's a potted Home Run sitting in my driveway, waiting for this rain to end so it can be planted.
    I haven't tried any of Heirloom's shrubs but I know they have a big group of fans.
    Jim, have you grown any of the Knockout roses? No fragrance but they should suit your garden very well, being tough, hardy and disease resistant.

  • 16 years ago

    Weeks and J&P hybridize and select roses in inland Southern California, so they release roses that are good for inland Southern California, where the only climate factor is heat tolerance and blackspot doesn't exist.

  • 16 years ago

    Ah well, it's not very useful discussing what part of the world is 'superior' in hybridizing compared to other part of the world. It's all about the rose, not the hybridizer.

    It is interesting to discuss the differences between different parts of the world. For example that some European countries have much more hybridizers per capita than the US or Canada. I wonder why there is room for so much hybridizers on the European market compared to the American market. Maybe it is because European hybridizers cater primarily to their home market. Up until now there was only some variety-exchange, especially the most popular varieties from each hybridizer. Only recently do I see introduction of new varieties in other European countries.

    Also interesting is that many European roses are finding their way into the US, but not the other way around. Not only Austin, but also Harkness and Fryer, and Kordes are succesful in introducing their varieties in the US and Canada (esp. Canada). In contrast, there is almost no recent American rose available here. I saw Knockout in the Meilland-Richardier catalogue and some of the Canadian Explorers are gaining popularity with some nurseries here and there, but that's it. Thankfully, one of the Dutch nurseries is partnered to Ashdown and some interesting American and Canadian roses are coming to the Netherlands!

    Seriously, I think that we can all benefit from more interchange of interesting varieties for gardeners and hybridizers. There are so many interesting American and Canadian roses I would love to try out and use as genetic material (especially since MAT appears to be saying there are no disease prone or boring American roses!) and I'm sure you all think the same thing about interesting European roses.

    Oh, by the way, the obnoxiousness of the French is one of the few collective European jokes we Europeans have, so we cherish that. Other than that we are still seperate countries, with seperate identities and seperate languages.


  • 16 years ago

    Now, now Rob.

    I suggested no such thing and limited my remarks to the European experience of "missing" cultivars with the inherent, if unwritten, question of Why is that? left dangling. That's where my interests are in this thread.

    Moving along to your question of why North American cultivars are lacking in Europe, I'd hazard a guess that the notorious import restrictions and restrictive tariffs that some European nations have historically placed on agricultural products, including roses, might explain the void.

    Of course, who can know these things with any degree of certainty?

    Returning to that inherent question of Why is that?, I think it bears amplifying in that Europe has an intense preoccupation with preserving its heritage regardless of what form that heritage might take: architecture, art, etc.

    In that context, I simply find it strange that so many thousands of European creations have been allowed to die out.

    I suppose one possible explanation is the historical fact that until the full emergence of a middle class with disposable incomes that roses were the province of the fickle upper and wealthy classes who used them as status symbols in the same manner haute couture is used today by those same groups. In that context, I suppose "last year's roses" were simply supplanted by the "latest thing" and quite probably literally ripped from the garden to make room for the new.

    Still, we're talking about thousands of European creations here that simply no longer exist. One would imagine that more of them would've survived.

    In closing, my sincerest apologies if I inadvertently turned this thread from a discussion of the perceived inadequacies of America's hybridizers to the historical record of Europe's hybridizers.

    I certainly didn't intend to do that.

    Best Wishes,


  • 16 years ago

    Another 'possible explanation' of why 'so many European creations have been *allowed* to die out' is another 'historical fact' -- namely, the profound devastation of two world wars. In the WWII bombing of Berlin alone, rare plant species were destroyed that will never be recovered. It's highly probably that certain roses there, as well as elsewhere in Europe, met similar fates. Small wonder 'that Europe has an intense preoccupation with preserving its heritage regardless . . . '

  • 16 years ago

    Let me make a comparison- If we look at hybridizers as we would an author, we would try to read all of an author's books that we really enjoyed. We wouldn't like them all equally. It seems to me if one particular hybridizer is breeding roses w/ characteristics we like, we might be inclined to look at what that one breeder has w/ the desired characteristics before we looked at other companies. It makes sense to me anyway. Brandy

  • 16 years ago

    During some historic periods, it could be argued that the French have dominated rose hybridizing. Always wondered why we rarely have anyone from France post on this forum. Perhaps I know now ... after reading a couple of comments from their fellow EU-ers :-)


  • 16 years ago

    A small factor could have been the move by Jackson & Perkins from NY state to the West Coast. A major rose nursery gone from a colder region of the US to place where hardiness was no longer an issue.

    I came across a HT hybridized by a Frenchman for J&P when they were in NY. Introduced in 1935 and bred to be hardy and healthy in New England. A nice yellow SD that won 3 Gold Medals and is still available from 3 nurseries, It first bloomed in 1932 at the time of a solar eclipse.

  • 16 years ago

    I can only speak for Sweden and my own climate. Swedish rose buyers and nurseries are mostly very conservative and wary of hype. One of the most prestigious specialist growers refuses to sell roses that have not proven their worth at least ten years in Sweden. Others are braver and several of Ping Lim's roses (Macy's Pride is one) are great successes over here and nearly all the Canadian roses are very popular. There is a rising interest in Buck roses. I have few newer American roses but Kleine Lettunich's Lyda Rose has been the star performer in my garden this summer. I got it from Loubert in spring and I will certainly spread the word about this American rose and talk some nursery into importing it for the Swedish market.

  • 16 years ago

    "Let me make a comparison- If we look at hybridizers as we would an author, we would try to read all of an author's books that we really enjoyed. We wouldn't like them all equally. It seems to me if one particular hybridizer is breeding roses w/ characteristics we like, we might be inclined to look at what that one breeder has w/ the desired characteristics before we looked at other companies. It makes sense to me anyway."

    Brandy - thanks! You explained in one short paragraph what's exactly in my mind in the first place. Most companies would like to look ahead, and try and predict trends, but it does take 5-10 years to come up with a commercially ready variety. Hence, the difficulty of trying to be ahead of the game. Still, I agree totally with what you are saying.

    J&P's move to the West Coast does not make rose sense, but it makes economical sense. In order to survive, the later takes precedence.

  • 16 years ago

    You're welcome, cactus joe. Brandy

  • 16 years ago

    Even when J&P were in NY, most of their roses were grown on the west coast - a better climate for prudicing a big plant in short order.
    I been very pleased with some of the Weeks roses in a harsh climate - my local rose society chooses Weeks roses as club project roses so most of the newer varieties that I grow are from Weeks. About Face is a vigorous rose with lots of flowers and Wild Blue Yonder goes very well with my oold garden roses. I've got Soaring Spirits and Oranges and Lemons on order for next year (I'm a sucker for blends).
    Modern Roses 7 listed hybridizers with a list of their introductions - very convenient if you wanted to see what the hybridizer of a favorite rose had in other kinds. I'd hate to think how long Austin's list would be! But I used it to order roses by Skinner (another great North American hybridizer).

  • 16 years ago

    I have thought which roses I like and One American hybridisers have made some of them: Eugene S. Boerner. His roses: Parade, Gene Boerner, Coral Dawn and not least: Aloha. These are remarkable roses! The importance of Aloha in David Austins hybridization programs is perhaps not known to many, but is part of the explanation why Austin roses do so well. I also see these 4 roses doing very well many places in both Europe and America.

    Ahhh and yes French hybridisershad their grand era. Only Meilland has not rested on the Laurels (and perhaps Guillot) but keep producing wonderful roses.

    As for Randys comment as to why not many French people post here on this forum... Well I suggest he try to call or better yet write a letter (In English) to the mayor French vendors. And he will get the real reason why. LOL. I know a few French people who post here, they actually speak and write English.

    The Majority of the antique OGR came from France, when French hybridisers had their grand era. I wonder how many who can actually pronounce the names of these roses correct:
    Try pronouncing: Président de Sèze, Honorine de Brabant, Reine de Centfeuilles, Coupe dÂHébé, Zéphirine Drouhin and Ghislaine de Féligonde. I bet less than 1 percent of those who grow these can actually pronounce these names correct.

    As for Sweden: Se they can never get enough: they just want more! Mariannese we want Halland, Skåne and Blekinge back!!!
    Svenskerne har i det mindste lidt mere pietetsfølelse end de fleste danskere når det drejer sig om havedyrkning).

    Rob: I also hope that the cooperation between Ashdown Roses and Rozenkwekerij de Bierkreek will ease the exchange of good roses both rare Heritage Roses and modern healthy roses. At least Dutch people speak English. I can only imagine the amount of Halls I had to eat trying to slaughter your language.

    Since the title of this thread is North American vs European rose hybridisers lets settle the mater once and for all. European rose hybridisers are far more superior than North American rose hybridisers. Period.

    For those I forgot to offend and who actually have sense of humor: We have some excellent cartoonists!!! Thank God for that 1. Amendment to the US constitution.

  • 16 years ago

    Cupshaped, I, for one, truly enjoy your sense of humor.

  • 16 years ago

    I would imagine when you have a very large rose company that has been in business for many many years, it is easier to take chances and try a different approach. Whereas breeders who work for American rose companies are probably under the gun to introduce new roses. To give you an example. Kordes let their test gardens go down for a few years. No water, no spraying no fertilizing and the rose bushes that survived were used as a new classification called Vigorosa. They also set up a new system in the ADR which is a lot like the ARS. These new roses had to be tested for x amount of years and if they proved to be very disease resistant, hardy and had attractive flowers, they were then given the ADR letters and put on the market. Oh and nye the way, if the rose didn't liv up to it's hype, then the ADR designation could be revoked wich they have done already to some roses. We are talking about ten years in total. How many American rose nurseries can honestly take as much time. Kordes makes it's money on roses for the cut flower trade not the garden roses. They are now going into the own root roses because they can see that budders are getting thin on the ground and people seem to be prepared to accept own roots. So they will grow the own roots in their pots for three years and then sell them so they will be the same as a budded rose in regards to vigour and size.
    In America and Canada, many people have a fair amount of property around their houses with which to make a garden but many homes in Europe don't. This means Europeans may be looking for a medium to small type of rose while North Americans can use much bigger ones. American breeders bred for this type of person and European breeders tend to take the smaller rose seriously. Poulsen's whole breeding program is geared around the smaller rose as is Lens in Belguim.
    Breeders have had to change as they can no longer sell a poor rose bush with a beautiful flower attatched to it. The best rose breeder is the one that can look into the future and see what gardeners want. Kordes has done that so has Meilland, Poulsen, the list goes on. In the States because they are patenting their roses, they are striving to make them good ones, Zary, Carruth, Kern etc are putting out good disease resistant roses.
    Yes there are some countries who are putting out attractive hit and miss roses but in time they will suffer because people on the whole are getting fed up with using different sprays and babying a rose along.
    So who are the best rose breeders? Those that introduce the best kinds of roses to suit their customers needs. Europeans may be in the lead now but the American breeders are breathing on their heels.

  • 16 years ago

    Yes perhaps Europeans are obsessed with their history but is it certain that some roses have actually died out?

  • 16 years ago

    GardenWeb is a pain with Explorer as well as with Firefox.

    Happily I know some better forums.

    Oppose american and european breeders has little meaning.

    Historically rose breeding began in France, Belgium and Dutchland. Decisive impulse being from NapoleonÂs wife Josephine de Beauharnais. Rose growing was a quite elitist hobby that spred over the world. There were nothing notable about rose desease then and as soon as a seedling openned its first flower if different it could be named and sold. Being delicate and fragile was considered a reason for more loving and treasuring it.

    Many rosarians still behave this way. ;-)

    Wars (ornamentals were generally replaced by vegetables) and delicacy are why so many did not survive.

    Actually the number of introduced vars worldwide is a multiple (about x10) of what is needed by business in any country.

    Very few vars are outstanding enough to justify wider diffusion. When there are enough local novelties only clear improvements may be needed. Exceptions like Peace, Mister Lincoln, Tropicana or Flower Carpet more recently got worlwide fame.

    Most markets are rather closed and/or profitability of entering them is not evident.

    Other difficulties may occur:
    i.e: for tens of years Kordess roses were not sold in the US.
    Few Moore ones are sold in EU.
    Exclusive diffusion contracts being the cause in both cases.

    Most larger US nurseries want an exclusivity that allows them not to sell an elsewhere successfull var as McGredy experienced.
    Europe is the sum of a lot of for americans small and diverse (different languages, habits and laws) markets. Not really worth bothering.

    So cv exchanges are low and when occuring are based on dependance, exclusivity that has two sides or rarely reciprocity.

    Since early beginnings breeders meet regularly and do the same job.
    A difference is that european roses breeding is done by family owned nurseries with steady and long term management when american ones are not allways. The larger the less...

    Pierre Rutten

  • 16 years ago

    Rutten has a lot of valid points.

    We talk a lot about past French breeders but much less about the Dutch breeders though they were quite important in earlier times.

    J. Harkness describes how the war regulations requested their nursery to switch producing vegetables and they could just save a small spot to preserve the most valuable roses for the future.

    Also true that disease issues were not important earlier, - it was due not only to the polluted air loaded with sulfur but also because certain 'fancy' roses were grown in conservatories (so I guess, Marechal Niel didn't ball there).

    But my main point is a footnote to Lynette and RuttenÂs reference to the fact that European breeding has been done by family firms. I think that this is very, very important.

    Here is my story, not about breeding but about service. This year I have decided to send some bare root roses to family and a friend in Europe. I sent new Tantau roses to our relatives and new Kordes roses to a friend in both cases I ordered the roses from the breeder's firm.

    At the beginning it seemed that to deal with Tantau is more difficult because they didn't accept credit card payment but required bank transfer and so on. However, as soon as they got the money, next day the roses were on the way; I got a tracking number by email and I knew sooner than my relatives that the roses were delivered there.

    Kordes accepted credit card payment but had some major problems with email communication and shipping. I didn't get any confirmation of the order or answers to my emails. Time passed; it was already April and the weather was unusually warm in certain parts of Europe, so I was eager to know that the roses I ordered get to their destination and planted ASAP. After numerous phone calls to Germany due to the lack of email communication and later to the fact that the tracking number didn't work and the shipment didn't get to its destination (K. used another shipping service than Tantau), one morning (US eastern time) I called again and was told that the gentleman who was my contact there was "busy to come to the phone". I got a bit upset and asked to talk to a manager. My call was transferred. I almost dropped the phone in surprise when the person on the other end introduced himself: as W. Kordes (the III, I guess). ThatÂs what I call customer service by one of the most outstanding rose growing houses. He was not only reassuring but immediately took action. So yes, a family run firm is jealous and proud of their reputation.

    Try this with Star or J&P...

    I have to add though that I once contacted the house of Meilland whose roses I adore. It was about 4 or 5 years ago. I am still waiting for an answer....

  • 16 years ago

    "Also true that disease issues were not important earlier, - it was due not only to the polluted air loaded with sulfur"

    Ceterum I do not believe so. In my opinion roses and rose gardens were rare then. Most roses were gallicas then not desease prone. The more virulent desease strains were not prevalent just as it is now in mountain areas.

    Hybrid Teas and even more Pernettianas are responsible of deseases becoming a problem.

  • 16 years ago

    Very interesting! Rutten, and Ceterum, this has been educational for me. I was thinking, though, about a couple points I didn't notice mentioned.
    Aside from the silly question of which "team" is better, it makes sense that roses bred and tested in one climate/region, would be more easily identified as being a good choice for one market vs. another across an ocean. Obviously there are many marvelous roses from Europe, for example (has anyone heard of a little rose called "Peace," lol) that are worthy of growing anywhere. But think of how many others do terrificly in some places and not others. Even within the U.S. alone, regional differences in performance are obvious. Given what Rutten said about there being a glut of varieties available for every market, and the protectionist tendencies of established players in given markets, different climate and growing conditions in different countries/continents (with the implied need for further test-growing in foreign regions) should present yet another reason for less exchange across the Atlantic.

    Second point that occurred to me; I don't know how much this applies to roses vs. other types of plants, but certainly with the spread of diseases around the world that is directly the result of global trade and travel, environmental interests and regulatory authorities should not be too eager to encourage further exchange of plants from market to market. there is always some risk, even if small, in invasive insects or diseases, etc. being accidentally introduced to a foreign ecosystem with disasterous results. Look at Hawaii as an example. Here in New Orleans, we've seen hundreds of millions of dollars worth (if not billions) in termite damage to historic and other buildings from the fermosen (sp?) termites accidentally brought over from Asia at the end of WWII. Fire ants, too, aren't native but continue to kill off native ant species and threaten people and other animals. And plants themselves often end up competing with native species and threatening them. --not too sure that should be a concern with roses, since we're still talking about the same species, just different varieties. But I hope you get the general gist.

    I'm certainly very happy to have roses available from Europe, Australia, etc. that have been demonstrated as being good choices for where I live. But that just represents that much more work for sellers/marketers. No wonder we don't see more. (Sorry for being a bit redundent)


  • 16 years ago

    Well, in my case Hybrid perpetuals and Portland that I love and try to grow look absolutely awful if I do not spray them. I do not grow albas and gallicas because I doubt that they would bloom in my climate and I have a small yard so I do not want to grow once bloomers.

    1. Yes before the 19. century rose gardens were rare but during the Victorian times they became more and more fashionable - at least that's what I read.

    2. J. Harkness mentions in his book (Roses) that they didn't have to spray before the "Clean Air act" was implemented (1960's? or about?)

    Peter Beales's son also made the comment that "roses like dirty".

    So I guess the time frame you talk about is different from the time frame I refer to.

  • 16 years ago

    but certainly with the spread of diseases around the world that is directly the result of global trade and travel, environmental interests and regulatory authorities should not be too eager to encourage further exchange of plants from market to market. there is always some risk, even if small, in invasive insects or diseases, etc. being accidentally introduced to a foreign ecosystem with disastrous results.

    Mike, I am not sure that this is a determining factor, especially not in the 21st century. Well before the so-called global travel, plant collectors from a lot of countries were dispatched all the time with the sole purpose of discovering new plant varieties (not only roses) and carry or send back home. Just think about how China roses or 'teas' got to England (and France or the Netherlands). On the American side Jefferson was also a famous plant collector, not only with interest in ornamentals (e.g. he tried to smuggle out Arborio rice Âagainst the wishes of the Italians - and get it into the USA and he was quite disappointed that the pocket of rice was lost. It is quite amusing to read that letter in which he combined his main objections against the US constitution and in the same communication he anxiously inquired if the rice got to its destination).

    Nowadays protectionism is more of an obstacle than the issue of spreading disease; again, think about strict regulations and quarantines in place to prevent spreading new plant diseases or insects.

  • 16 years ago

    Ceterum, I agree with you, if I understand what you're saying. I meant that agricultural/commerce rules based ostensibly on concerns about spreading disease or invasive species have the effect of raising barriers for trade. I was also thinking in terms of very recent decades. Look at some of the rules California especially, but also other southern tier states like my own, have about quarantining or forbidding some vegetative material that hasn't been "certified safe."

  • 16 years ago

    But Mike, that's the cost you pay for living in a 'Free Society' :)

    We tried to send budwood of an extremely rare rose to a friend in California (a nursery owner) last year, only to have it shredded at Customs. We shan't try again.

    So now, 'Bio-terrorism' and 'Homeland Security' have been added to the rank protectionism of American agriculture to ensure US farmers and breeders don't have to compete in a free market with the rest of the World. That rather skews any debate about the 'worth' of hybridizers!

    But perhaps I am too cynical, and in time this policy will prove its worth - American hybridizers will produce quantities of superb, disease-free cultivars year after year which will stop consumers wanting to obtain 'foreign' plants. They certainly have been given every incentive and commercial advantage to do so.

    Best wishes

  • 16 years ago

    Graham Stuart Thomas does an excellent job of describing the lack of interest in "old roses" that preceded World War II.

    It's right there in The Graham Stuart Thomas Rose Book.

    "To the few enthusiasts of those days the sale of these two collections and complete disappearance of such roses from commerce seemed to be the death knell."

    It's so interesting to know that was the situation before the war began in earnest and not a result of the war.

    I wonder why that was?


  • 16 years ago

    What time period was GST referring to? From when to when.

  • 16 years ago

    We have stringent rules and regulations for agriculture and ornamental plants and yet everything and the kitchen sink comes from China never inspected. Including agriculture!

  • 16 years ago


    I assume it to be generally known that Hybrid Tea plantings replaced the Old European roses throughout the entire rose world during the 1920's, 30's and 40's, for obvious reasons.

    That the 'few enthusiasts' for the Old Roses were able to combine their collections , preserve them in a few excellent gardens, and then gradually re-introduce them through a couple of specialist nurseries was a major achievement of Graham Thomas, along with the influence of his writings on gardeners around the world.

    Best wishes

  • 16 years ago

    Jon, I do realize my comment followed yours, and I'm always first in line to read your sage advice whenever it appears, but I was simply making a general comment--actually just repeating one made by Mr. Thomas.

    Daun, the import restrictions are really something aren't they.

    Case in point:

    You know, it's only been two weeks or so since England declared itself "officially free" of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (Mad Cow disease--an absolutely horrible way to die, if I may say so!)

    Then they found more cases the very next day!

    Hmmm. I guess there is a need for extreme caution when importing from other nations--dang it!!!

    I mean really, what sort of people do they think we are?


  • 16 years ago


    I don't understand this discussion.

    'Who' isn't as important as the accomplishment, isn't it?

    I don't care who developed the rose or where it came from. The plant should stand on its merit, not the performer who conjured it into being. Or the country of origin.

  • 16 years ago

    Well John normally we are on the same side. But in this case I disagree. My point, badly made, is that in Europe there are many "family firms" that dominate hybridizing. Why not here?

    Jackson & Perkins became dominant for many years. Evidently a corporate entity as they are very commercial. Hyping there stuff endlessly. Hybridizers are for hire with them.

    Whereas with my favorite Kordes or Tantau or I think Meilland the hybridizers are apt to also be the managers. Putting emphasis on creating great new roses rather than selling whatever will sell!

    Of course the result is key but it is also important who did it. And why. I think a great rose firm puts there integrity on the line and is not going to introduce a poor rose just because it might sell for the moment.

    Actually mostly my own imaginings as I really don't know the ins and outs of the rose business.

  • 16 years ago

    Perhaps we can look at this from a different angle:

    I'm growing Lady Hillingdon from England, Duchesse de Brabant and Mme. Joseph Schwartz from France, Blumenschmidt from Germany, and Austin roses from England, and many more than I can name here.

    I'm growing Ebb Tide, Route 66 and Julia Child from the United States.

    The point I'm trying to make is that Europe (and China) have a long and rich history of breeding roses. We are a newer country and by virtue of that alone are later in being on the bandwagon. Big business has also made it more difficult to allow small growers and hybridizers to prevail in the market. Americans like Tom Carruth are producing roses that fit in very well with the antique roses just as the Austin roses from England are doing, but they have a later start, probably encouraged by the success that the Austin roses have had here, which has educated the public that roses can be so much more varied than just hybrid teas and floribundas. Europe and American rose growing concerns are two culturally different environments, and the one has a much longer history to fall back on, so naturally their production of wonderful roses has been the greater. I don't know whether this is an oversimplification of this very complex subject but it does seem satisfying and convincing to me.

    But whatever the answer may be, isn't it glorious that we have such a wealth of roses to enjoy, from both sides of the big pond, more than most of us could ever grow in a lifetime? Isn't that what it's really all about?



  • 16 years ago

    Being an American/European hybrid myself, maybe that's where the future lies . . .? :)

    Best wishes

  • 16 years ago

    Being a European/American hybrid myself, I tend to agree, Jon. I wonder whether the subject of one versus the other is even worth pursuing since for the most part we are able to partake of the best of both worlds. Not growing 1000 roses myself I'm not in agony that I'm not able to obtain rose 1001 "Westfalendorf von der Schulenburg Rote Schoenheit im Abenddunkel". (Okay, I made that one up.)



  • 16 years ago

    I had a point somewhere when I started that thread on this subject which I can't find now. So I'll settle on Cactus Joe's thread.

    Anyway I came across an article on Kordes in my old Rosebank news letters. It was an article by Harry McGee in September, 1995. The occasion was a visit to Canada by Wilhelm III. It has a good history of the Kordes firm.

    It started with Wilhelm the first in 1890 in Hamburg. Wilhelm II joined in 1919 in Sparrieshoop. He was succeeded by a non-Wilhelm but still a Kordes, Reimer. Then came the III. All were in charge of breeding operations. Other family members ran the business side.

    What is relevant in all of this is that the hybridizer was preminent in the firm and therefore put emphasis on that.

    At that time Kordes was the largest rose nursery in the world selling 2 million roses a year. They made 50,000 crosses a year. After a rose is singled out as a prospect it is grown for 6 or 7 years of testing before it is introduced. They probably are still the largest.

    Possibly the odds of creating a superior rose are in favor of those who do the most crosses. Stands to reason doesn't it? Even just blind choice should produce now and then something of value.

    One thing Mr. Kordes said that was interesting is that many breeders have stopped breeding HT's. One reason is that fewer people go to exhibitions. The other is that they are more difficult to get anything worthwhile. Hard to make disease resistant, many are single, fragrance is rare, have fewer hips and what they have don't germinate well and finally they produce fewer flowers.

    The emphasis on disease resistance began as a result of the Green Parties efforts to ban spraying in many parts of Germany. Kordes then stopped spraying. The result was disaster. Their fields became nearly barren of roses. I guess things have improved since then.