PROPAGATING ROSES FOR BEIJING
By Clair Martin
The Huntington Rose Garden has a long tradition of propagating and sharing the bounty of its collection with rose hybridizers and other gardens. One of the most unusual requests I have received in recent years happened when Alan Lamson of the Pasadena Sister City Committee called and wanted to meet with me to discuss a project that the committee was currently involved with. Alan and several of his fellow committee members explained that they were traveling to China later in the year to celebrate their Sister City relationship with the Xicheng District of Beijing. They went on to explain that Xicheng was planning to dedicate a newly planted public rose garden as part of the exchange between the two Sister Cities marking the five year anniversary of the relationship. They asked if it would be possible for The Huntington Rose Garden to provide the Pasadena contingent a rose to take with them to China for planting in the new garden in Xicheng. The only requirement on the Committee’s part was that the rose should have some connection with the City of Pasadena.
We process such requests on a regular basis but for the life of me it took a bit of thought to come up with an appropriate rose to fit their requirement. Several roses came to mind with connections back to Pasadena. The first ‘Tournament of Roses’, a Grandiflora hybridized by Bill Warriner and introduced by Jackson & Perkins in 1988, was still protected by patents. Others like ‘Pasadena’, a Hybrid Tea introduced by Kordes in Germany in 1982, and ‘Pasadena Star’, a Floribunda introduced by Martin in 2001, were also under patent protection and unavailable for us to propagate legally. These roses had the added problem of hardiness. Beijing is in the northern part of China where the winters can be very cold and the roses may or may not survive those harsh northern winter conditions.
After considering the problem for several days it occurred to me that we had the perfect candidate rose in our collection all along. ‘Pasadena Tournament’ sometimes known as “Red Cecile Brunner” was hybridized by Alfred Krebs of Montebello, California, and introduced by Marsh Nurseries, formerly located at 150 North Lake, Pasadena, California, in 1942. ‘Pasadena Tournament’ is no longer under plant patent and it is a Polyantha rose that is among the more hardy of garden roses. Here we have a rose with a direct connection to both the City of Pasadena and the most famous of Pasadena traditions, the annual New Year’s Day celebration and parade.
Our Rose Garden Volunteers set out to strike cuttings on June 29. They took seventeen cuttings and by late summer five had rooted and survived the move into four-inch pots. We moved the newly potted cuttings out of the propagation greenhouse and onto benches in the nursery to help them harden off and acclimate to outside growing conditions. By late September the roses were scheduled for a pytosanitary inspection and with paperwork in hand the Committee collected them for the long flight to Beijing.
Along with a great name and connection to Pasadena, the distant genetic parents of this rose originated in China! Polyantha roses were developed in mid-nineteenth century France from Rosa multiflora, a species from eastern China that parented several diverse groups of roses in the middle part of that century. R. multiflora, a large climbing and scrambling species, was one of the parents of many vigorous climbing roses and oddly enough it also parented a line of smaller growing roses called Polyanthas, which in the next century melded into the Floribunda class.
For me, and many of the Sister City Committee, taking a rose to China whose parents had originated in China, seemed to close the circle of rose history with an unusual irony.
Clair Martin, E.L. and Ruth B. Shannon Curator of the Rose and Perennial Gardens
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