Number 42   May - June 2005


By Clair Martin

One of the most difficult concepts for gardeners to grasp is that a new rose cultivar is grown from seed only once in its life and all next-generation plants of that cultivar are produced by cloning. A rose hybridizer may grow a large number of seeds from each cross and out of that batch of seedlings they may select one or two for future introduction to the trade. Rooting cuttings, grafting, or high tech tissue culture is then used to produce all subsequent plants of that cultivar.

To illustrate this concept three cultivars of dark red roses are planted out in The Huntington Rose Garden that were produced by different hybridizers working in both France and the United States using the exact same parents within a year of each other and each of these “three brothers” are unique.

'Papa Meilland'

In 1963 the French hybridizer Alain Meilland introduced the deep red almost black Hybrid Tea he named ‘Papa Meilland’ in honor of the family patriarch Antoine. Alain used ‘Chrysler Imperial’ a brilliant red and fragrant Hybrid Tea as the pollen parent and ‘Charles Mallerin’ a blackish red HT from Meilland as the seed parent.

The very next year the California team of Herb Swim and O. L. Weeks introduced ‘Mister Lincoln’ and ‘Oklahoma’ both deep red, fragrant HTs from the exact same parentage as ‘Papa Meilland’.

All three roses are deep red often deepening to almost black-red in cool weather, intensely fragrant, and very prone to powdery mildew. And all three do best in warm to hot rose growing regions.

'Mister Lincoln'

Their pollen parent ‘Chrysler Imperial’ was introduced by Dr. W. E. Lammerts of Livermore, California in 1952 and it is the progeny of ‘Charlotte Armstrong’ and the deep red, ‘Mirandy’. ‘Charlotte Armstrong’ has an impressive heritage going back directly to the first modern Hybrid Tea, ‘Soleil d’Or’ breed by Joseph Pernet-Ducher at the beginning of the 20th century. ‘Charlotte Armstrong’ was one of the most important breeding roses of the mid-century producing a large number of important roses in her lifetime. Incidentally, we have a local connection with Dr. Lammerts: he designed the original rose garden for Manchester Brody’s La Canada estate now known as Descanso Gardens.

Our three brother’s seed parent ‘Charles Mallerin’ was hybridized by Francis Meilland and named in honor of his mentor, a retired railwayman who was a well respected amateur from Isére, France. It was usual for rose families to apprentice their next generation to other rose firms or breeders to learn new techniques and ways of operating the nursery business.


Charles Mallerin had won a Gold Medal at the Bagatelle rose trial in 1929 for the yellow Hybrid Tea ‘Mrs. Pierre S. du Pont’. He had developed a series breeding guideline by making observations to trace dominant characteristics through his breeding lines. Mallerin was very willing to take on new students and train them well in his new methods. Francis Meilland paid his mentor the highest accolades by successfully breeding one of the 20th century’s most important roses, ‘Mme. A. Meilland’ known in the United States as ‘Peace’.

Of the three brothers ‘Papa Meilland’ is seldom seen in US catalogs but ‘Oklahoma’ and, of course, ‘Mister Lincoln’ are still represented in rose nurseries all across the country.

To think that two teams of rose hybridizers, one working in Ontario, California and the other in Cap d’Antibes, France, would chose the exact same two roses as parents in their breeding programs half a world apart and introduce their progeny within a year of each other stretches the imagination. ‘Mister Lincoln’ continues to be the best-known red rose in The Huntington Rose Garden with our visitors. Hardly a day goes by without at least one request: “where is ‘Mister Lincoln’!

Clair Martin, E.J. and Ruth B. Shannon Curator of the Rose and Perennial Gardens

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