Exploring the World of Rose Breeding: Adventure Ahead

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One of the twentieth century’s miracles is the progress made in scientific plant breeding. 

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Unattractive color, shape, or texture in a flower that is good in other respects are no longer irremediable defects. Still, a challenge to the hybridist to produce a plant in which the desirable qualities of another plant replace the undesirable features.

Dr. W. E. Lammerts

A modern adventurer in the field of applied genetics is Dr. W. E. Lammerts, formerly of the research department of the University of California at Los Angeles. 

Lammerts has been associated with several plant-breeding programs, but it is as a rose hybridist that he is best known. 

His creation of the rose Charlotte Armstrong has already won him the unusual distinction of four awards by the American Rose Society, including the much-coveted Gertrude Hubbard Gold Medal.

Charlotte Armstrong Rose

Charlotte Armstrong resulted from a plant-breeding program instituted in 1935 by the Armstrong Nurseries in Ontario, California. 

The program emphasized rose breeding, and Dr. Lammerts, whose previous work had not included roses but who had a sound foundation in other lines, was appointed director.

Charlotte Armstrong was obtained using the rose Sister Therese as the seed parent and the famous red hybrid tea Crimson Glory as the pollen parent. 

The desirable feature of Sister Therese was a long urn-shaped bud with clasping sepals. A high-centered open flower was among the qualities of Crimson Glory that it desired to reproduce. 

Charlotte Armstrong inherited the best characteristics of both parents and also displayed novel traits of its own, such as a high degree of mildew resistance, tall upright growth, and magnificent color, described by Armstrongs as “deep blood-red in the bud, spectrum red as the flower begins to open, and a rather brilliant cerise when fully blown.” 

It was named for Mrs. John S. Armstrong, wife of the founder and President of the Armstrong Nurseries.

Contribution of Rose Charlotte Armstrong

The contribution of the rose Charlotte Armstrong to the rose picture did not cease with its introduction.

By crossing it with Night in 1938, Dr. Lammerts obtained the fragrant dark red Mirandy, winner of the 1945 AllAnierica award. 

At present, several seedlings of a cross between Charlotte Armstrong and Captain George C. Thomas are under observation. 

Captain George C. Thomas, named for the distinguished rosarian, is a single yellow pillar type of rose with large glossy leaves almost completely immune to mildew. 

The object of this cross is good commercial varieties combining the disease resistance and glossy foliage of Captain Thomas with the long bud of Charlotte Armstrong in a wide range of colors and types. 

The pillar rose, Coral Pillar, with double coral-pink flowers and large glossy mildew-resistant leaves, is one of three varieties resulting from the cross, which the University of California released in the summer of 1945.

Used In Crosses By Other Plant Breeders

Charlotte Armstrong has also been widely used in crosses by other plant breeders, so it is justifiable to prophesy that growing its blood will enrich new roses for many years to come. 

Dr. Lammerts has combined its good qualities with the non-fading behavior of Rosa chinensis mutabilis, thus producing a new line of non-fading roses. The flowers darken as they age to pleasing deep shades instead of turning purple or fading to an off-white or unappealing pink. 

One variety introduced by the University of California is the rose-red Polyantha Pink Chameleon. 

One may add to Dr. Lammerts’ ever-lengthening list of successes the Hybrid Teas Sweet Sixteen, Show Girl and the 1948 All-America winner Taffeta, and the Polyanthus China Doll, Crimson Glow, and Pink Cascade.

Development Of Rose Qualities

Dr. Lammerts gives the development of the following rose qualities as the objective of his breeding program

  • Long urn-shaped or pointed buds with clasping sepals 
  • Vigorous growth
  • Mildew-resistant glossy or semi-glossy foliage
  • High-centered flowers with enough (20 to 30) but not too many petals
  • Long cutting stems
  • A clear color that does not fade rapidly
  • A strong neck
  • Prolific flowering
  • Fragrance

Of these characteristics, those upon which the greatest stress is placed are plant vigor, mildew resistance, and long bud.

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