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Breeding new roses takes patience

Rose breeding is both an art and a science for patient, detail-oriented individuals with a clear view of what is going on in the flower industry. The process of bringing a new rose to market normally takes around five years and crosses are made in the following way.

• Pollen is collected from the stamens, the male part of a flower that consists of the filament and the anther. The process involves removing the anthers from the chosen parent and placing them in a petri dish until they dry sufficiently for the pollen to separate from the rest of the anther.

• At the same time, the rose plant that is to be used as the female in the process has the stamens removed with the pistil left behind, with its stigma, style and ovary.

• A small paintbrush is generally used to paint the pollen grains on the sticky stigma.

• It takes several months for the rose hip, the fruit, to form. Not all crosses produce a rose hip.

• When the hip has formed, with up to 25 seeds inside, the seeds are removed and cooled for around three months to imitate the winter in temperate climates.

• About 15 percent to 30 percent of the seed will then germinate. No two rose seeds have exactly the same gene combination.

• The process of selection starts, with color, shape, number of petals, size, thorns, etc.

• From 50,000 seeds, which can be the product of some 4,000 crosses, the approximately 10,000 individual plants are planted.  

• As soon as possible, the majority of the seedlings will be eliminated to concentrate on the ones with possibilities.

• As the numbers get down to around 150, the quantities of each code are expanded to be able to test vase life, production, sensitivity to diseases, transportation, etc.

• The selection is tested in other parts of the world including Ecuador and Kenya to determine the suitability under different climatic conditions.

• Once a variety passes these tests, it must be reproduced to commercial quantities.  

• A trademark name is then given and the variety is introduced to the market.

Dean Rule is the general manager of Conectiflor S.A. in Quito, Ecuador. He can be contacted at drule@conectiflor.com.