Friday, November 13, 2015

Restoring moldy tags

As I've posted previously, I use the Avery paper string tags to mark my crosses. The positive points are their ease of use, decent cost and availability. The negatives are that slugs and snails LOVE eating the paper surface, particularly the side with graphite on it where you have written the cross. My Toy Fox Terrors are finding them great sport to pull off and eat before they harvest the hips, which remind them of tomatoes. Every tomato within reach is already gone, so the "balls" on the roses are the next "harvest". 

Because of the long season and wonderful weather, I can use the same tag two or three times a year before it is too worn and needs recycling. But, due to the heavy fogs and dews and the temperatures, the paper supports the growth of mold, often making the tag unreadable by the end of its useful life. 

I harvested some ripe hips this morning from seedlings I raised this spring, and was disappointed I couldn't read what pollen parent had been used. I was excited by the seedling's performance and apparent fertility and I honestly wanted to know who the other parent was. The tag was too dark gray/black from mold to read the graphite writing. I had an idea, which worked like a charm. Unfortunately, I hadn't photographed the offending tag prior to trying the idea, but I did photograph the next worst tag to demonstrate how successful the idea is. 

I put the tag on a dirty breakfast plate which was slated for the dishwasher anyway, and dropped two drops of straight bleach on the paper. Almost instantly, the mold disappeared, leaving the tag perfectly legible! I have my information and the tag had served its useful life anyway, so it was ready for the trash whether I could read it or not. Simple! 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Puzzlement...And Beyond!

I tried raising seedlings from the very few seeds R. Stellata Mirifica produced for years with no results. My plant was quickly growing backwards as it hated the place I had it on the hot, dry hill in Encino. It seemed to "know" it was not long for this world as it set more hips and seeds than it ever had. I planted them all and two seedlings resulted. One is very Stellata-like, only with foliage that is a bit too sensitive for the high UV here on the coast. The other is a "Puzzlement"

I've chosen to call this seedling Puzzlement because it is quite a puzzle. The seed was absolutely from Stellata mirifica. Only two seedlings germinated from all those final self set seed the plant produced as it died. There as nothing overhanging the seed tables and these were the only species seeds planted in that end of the table to avoid any mix-ups. All those surrounding them were from modern X modern crosses. This one is NOT a "modern" seedling. 

R. Fedtschenkoana grew just a few feet from Stellata mirifica and Puzzlement looks for all the world like a natural hybrid between the two.

 It seems to have inherited the flower color and more rounded foliage from Stellata with the general coloring of the plant and growth habit, as well as the summer-long flowering from Fedtschenkoana. Stellata mirifica scattered its flowers over summer, with not quite as frequent, nor as heavy flowering as Fedtschenkoana. Puzzlement first flowered in late August of its first year (2011) and has scattered flowers virtually continuously since. 

Unlike either suspected parent, it has smooth ovaries and sepals and, unlike either parent, there doesn't seem to be much scent. Fedtschenkoana in my climate, will set some self set hips. Mirifica set even fewer. Puzzlement so far, sets none. But, its pollen is fertile! It doesn't release much, so it requires as many flowers as are available to get enough to do much with. 

Jim Sproul shared a very healthy, deep, bright, saturated red single seedling with me several years ago. 

It's incredibly fertile and seems to breed with nearly anything I pollinate it with. The first hybrids with Puzzlement pollen have resulted from this single, red mini. 

There are several seedlings showing varying levels of hybridity. They range from extremely glossy, dark green foliage like the seed parent, only with climbing, prickle-free stems to heavily textured, embossed green foliage with less gloss and well armed with very sharp prickles. More on these as they grow after transplanting from the seed tables. 

One of the prickle-free seedlings is now flowering for the first time, just five months from the seed being planted! It has foliage quite like the miniature seed parent, except for its total lack of prickles and its extremely vigorous, almost climbing habit. Puzzlement is a pastel pink. The seed parent is brilliant, saturated deep red. This seedling is a light pink and also single. 

There is actually a sweet scent, something neither parent is very strong on. Several of the cane tips terminate in three and four buds. I don't know how these may be for breeding, nor really even what traits they may possess worth using, but they certainly are interesting and fun!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Grey Pearl

This rose created a sensation when first introduced seventy years ago. Then, as now, people either found it irresistible or they loathed it. And, that was simply based upon its flower. Those who got to know it intimately, eventually learned to loathe the awful plant under that unusual flower. Jackson and Perkins imported the rose from the House of McGredy, in Ireland. There, due to its shy growing plant and grayish coloring, they had nicknamed it "The Mouse". Gene Boerner received the comment that it reminded the viewer of gray pearls. The Wisconsin farmer dressed up and visited a famous New York jeweler asking to see gray pearl shirt studs. He asked their price and was told they were $3,000. Remember, this was right about the end of World War 11. He conjectured if people were willing to pay $3,000 to wear gray pearl shirt studs, surely they would pony up the $2.00 per plant to grow it in their gardens? 

Roses of Yesterday and Today was this rose's champion for several decades. All through the 1950s and 1960s, they touted how glorious the color of the flowers was, then apologized they, once again, were unable to provide plants as they simply refused to grow. 

I had read the description in Modern Roses 8.."chocolate, olive, saffron and tan". I HAD to grow it! The Combined Rose List reported only ONE source for Grey Pearl in the world. Marissa Fishman at Greenmantle Nursery in Garberville, CA courageously attempted to offer it. I placed my order for two, as she had warned me the plant had a "death gene". It will slowly build, then throw a strong basal, topped with up to twelve of the most glorious flowers, then die to the root. She suggested the only way to maintain it in a garden or collection was to grow multiples, permitting one to flower some, while keeping all flower buds pinched off the second until it developed into the hoped-for plant size, then reverse the process. She required a year to produce my two plants, but they finally arrived and were very neurotically worried over. 

Of course, I had to allow them to flower! I had waited so long to finally see a "chocolate, olive, saffron and tan" rose, those buds simply MUST be allowed to open. In the high heat and brilliant sun of the San Fernando Valley, I saw little of those legendary tints. The flower was a dirty, pale lavender, generously washed over with dirty dish water. Yum! She was right. The only way to keep it going was to have more than one and not allow it to flower itself to death. 

While it wasn't a 'strong' plant, it was healthy. In all the years I had it, none of my plants every expressed any fungal issues. The only one with any diseases I'd encountered were the plants grown in the greenhouses at Sequoia Nursery. In the open, the foliage was always completely clean. Under plastic, they mildewed. 

During the late 80s and into the 90s, I actually had two "versions" of the rose. Liggett's Nursery sold the one The Huntington Library grew. It had (as this one does) yellow petal bases with a slight yellow wash over the petals. I tagged it as "Huntington-Liggett clone". The Greenmantle rose had white petal bases with no yellow tints to the flower. I tagged that one the "Greenmantle clone". The last plant of the Greenmantle Grey Pearl I knew of grew in Barney Gardner's garden in Los Banos, CA. I took it to him from my garden before I lost my last plant of it. There is no hope of it existing there as Barney passed in 2007. He owned an enormous lot with a huge old house, just a block off the main street. I'm certain it's been cleaned up and the rose would have required extra attention just to survive. 

I watched one of my two latest budded Grey Pearls decide it was time to go to the "Great Beyond". It began dying back and didn't slow down until the symptoms reached the bud union. The other plant languished. I determined that if it died, I would not attempt to replace it. The plant continued shrinking until it finally responded to something, and threw about a six inch cane. I had rooted stocks of both Pink Clouds and VI Fortuniana, and I figured nothing ventured, nothing gained. I used the only buds available from the shrinking plant to produce one plant on Fortuniana and one on Pink Clouds. If only one survived, at least it wasn't gone yet. If both survived, I could possibly test which stock was better suited to the rose. Fortunately, both survived. The older, shrinking budded plant died. 

Grey Pearl is NOT a "great" plant. It has been offered own root, and it can be grown (for a little while) on its own roots, but not very well. Even budded, it requires propagating new plants regularly just to keep it alive. This photo on Help Me Find-Roses, I took at Sequoia Nursery years ago. The large plant in the rear of the photo is a budded Grey Pearl. The yellowish, smaller plant in the foreground is an own root. Both were propagated from the same plant, at the same time, in the same green house; grown in the same soil and received the same treatment. 

The Pink Clouds plant grew much more vigorously than the plant on Fortuniana. I watched both religiously to make sure nothing happened to them. While the one on Pink Clouds pushed new growth and a flower, the plant on Fortuniana simply sat there, doing nothing. This was thirteen months ago, back in mid June. After my recent move, the Pink Clouds plant defoliated and began pushing new growth from every bud, something Grey Pearl is notorious for doing just before it collapses and dies. The Fortuniana plant has developed more slowly into quite a nice specimen. It pushed one bud on a straight, strong stem, which I permitted to flower. I HAD to! 

Grey Pearl on Pink Clouds, budded June 16, 2014
 On VI Fortuniana, budded within minutes of the Pink Clouds plant. 

I obsessively shot over one hundred photos of the plant, bud and opening flower over the several weeks it required to finally open. Those tints are extremely difficult to capture! 

I tore up that one flower to pollinate it with a Banksiae X Laevigata cross. There were 59 petals and petaloids! Love it, or hate it, Grey Pearl really is something completely different!