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What's Up With That?!

AARS entry 09R408This is sure a unique rose with its purple-red petal bases!! It is the new All-America Rose Selection (AARS) floribunda entry coded 09R408. Why haven't we seen this dramatic petal trait before in the roses at the local garden center? The answer is that this trait has been very difficult to bring it into modern rose cultivars and is coming from a source other than rose. One of rose's closest relatives, Hulthemia persica, is the source. Over the past 30+ years dedicated breeders have painstakingly made crosses between this wild rose relative and rose and then have made repeated backcrosses to rose.  The backcrosses to rose have been to gain more rose characteristics while still trying to retain the attractive red petal bases. Hulthemia persica is native to the region once part of the old Persian empire. It is typically found growing in very dry areas and has been difficult to cultivate in typical garden settings due to relatively high humidity and soil moisture compared to where it is native. It is different than rose (Rosa) in that it 1). does not have the two pointed paired stipules at the base of the leaf where the leaf attaches to the stem, 2). has only a simple leaf with one leaf blade rather than a compound leaf with multiple leaflets, and 3). it has a deep red blotch at the petal base. Hulthemia persica typically has rich yellow petals with deep red blotches.

Plants of H. persica tend to be more spreading and raspberry-like in growth habit than rose. Early Hulthemia / Rose hybrids have been available at a few specialty nurseries and have tended to have an awkward growth habit, be susceptible to mildew and black spot, bloom for a limited time, and be difficult to grow in the garden. Breeders are now making great strides in developing compact, floriferous hybrids that possess this highly sought after blotch and the more favorable garden characteristics of rose. Perhaps 09R408 will be the first such hybrid to win the coveted AARS award (aiming to be a 2013 winner). You can see this trial rose in the AARS trial beds in Minnesota at both Lyndale Park Rose Garden in Minneapolis and the Virginia Clemons Rose Garden in St. Cloud.   David C. Zlesak

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