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Notable Rose Breeders

As this is a somewhat longer than average page, we have provided links for you to skip down to the various breeder information. Check the group of links below to find the oneyou want to view, and click that link.

Meilland   McGredy   Kordes   Weeks   Jackson and Perkins

Rose breeders are a patient bunch... it can take a lifetime to produce the perfect rose. If you ever do. How many of us actually consider the time, work, patience, and expertise that goes into producing the latest varieties in your local garden center?

The best breeders through the ages have been part gardener, part scientist, part rose historian, and part artist. Just wafting a bit of pollen around a rose then hoping you get some viable seed to plant next year is never going to produce anything of note.

Each new generation of rose breeder builds on the work and advances of the previous ones... we have never had such a wide variety of beautiful roses as we do today. So here is a tribute to some of the best, the notable, the people who gave us varieties that have become the backbone of our rose gardens. These are in no particular order.

Meilland

Who hasn't heard of perhaps the most famous rose produced by Fench company Meilland, "Peace"? Perhaps the most poular Hybrid Tea ever, the "proper" name for this is actually "Madame A. Meilland".

Peace Rose
Peace, AKA "Madame A. Meilland"

In recent times, they seem to have specialized in low maintenance ground cover roses. You will be familar with the names of their most popular, "drift roses" and "knockout". They also produce a lovely group of roses known as "Romanticas".

They have been in the flower business since the mid 19th century. The survived the world wars by sending out cuttings throughout the world. However, many of the older breeds were lost in a diseased nursery in the 1930s and so most of their flowers are dated from the WWII era to today. Certain nurseries in the United States now carry these types. Conard-Pyle is the main grower and distributor but Hortico is also a sales point as well. Palatine also has a handful of these varieties available.

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McGredy

Sam McGredy may be Irish, but he has done his best work when he relocated to New Zealand.

One of my favorite McGredy roses also happens to be one the most popular red climbers in NZ, Dublin Bay. This rose has so much going for it - strong color that doesn't fade, easy care and very disease resistant (in fact it seems to thrive on neglect) and extremely easy to grow from cuttings. The only (slight) drawback for me is that in common with many McGredy roses, it is somewhat light on frangrance.

If you watch the video, Sam says it takes around 10 years from that first pollination until a rose is ready for sale. So that just goes to show that breeders have to be in it for the long haul... no quick bucks in this field!

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Kordes

They were first founded in the late 1880s in Northern Germany. They expanded gradually after the turn of the century. 1920 saw this group begin to breed their own varieties. They were reduced somewhat in output during the World Wars, but resumed their expansion in the 1950s. Currently, they're selling over 2 million plants per year.

One great general trait is that their selections are all very hardy. This comes from being bred in the tough growing areas in Deutschland. For those in the Northern reaches of the US or Canada, this is much appreciated. In addition, they pay special attention to making sure that they are tough against diseases or pests. They are good for the newbie or gardener that doesn't have a lot of time to babysit their plants.

Many people think of the English or David Austin, or perhaps the French Meilland brand as the top European breeder. I think Kordes should be included in the mix. They have won more ADR awards than any other breeder.

They don't sell directly to growers in the states. However, many of the most breeders in the US also carry these as part of their selection. Nature Hills carries a stock of some of these, including the Westerland.

Some notables from their selection:

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Weeks Roses

They were first founded back in 1938 by the Weeks family. Wasco, California was chosen as the location as its climate was ideal for good growing. They operated things until 1985, when they were bought out by Charlie Huecker and Bob DeMayo. Roger Thulin has run the show since 2006.

They have been innovators in many new types and produce enormous amounts of flowers. Recently they introduced the Tops in Pots and Table to Garden varieties. They have everything from hybrids to minis to climbers. They even have trees available. Their facilities in Southern California contain over 1000 acres of growing area. Glad I'm not in charge of that pruning job!

In recent years they have really cleaned up on the AARS awards, since Tom Carruth came aboard in 1988 as the lead researcher. Tom has been called "King of the Roses" by more than one publication. He is responsible for more ARS winners than any other breeder. Since 1996 they have had sixteen winners, including the Dick Clark in 2011. You'll see his name among many popular and award winning varieties. They usually have between 8-10 new introductions each year. All of the following have been winners:

Weeks Roses Julia Child
Julia Child
Weeks Roses Memorial Day
Memorial Day

In the fall of 2010, they had to enter bankruptcy reorganization proceedings. Even rose growers aren't immune to the recession! However, every indication is that they are still a viable firm and will still continue on with business as usual.

Unfortunately, they don't sell direct to the public. You either need to buy wholesale or from a nursery. Their catalog is a good source of information on all their products.

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Jackson and Perkins

Jackson and Perkins roses are an old-school American breeder and nursery. They have been operating for almost 130 years.

The firm was first founding in the early 1870s in Newark, New Jersey and was originally a fruit distributorship. They decided to push harder into flower propagation by the turn of the century. They are often (incorrectly) credited with being the originators of the floribundas. As an FYI, Poulsen was probably the first to produce this type, although the name "Floribunda" wasn't used.

In the 1930s, they started churning out many different varieties of rose. The 1939 World's Fair was the huge marketing push, and really made J and P a household name. They started shipping and mail order deliveries in earnest.

The next few decades were the heyday for these guys. Eugene Boerner, the lead breeder ultimately won 14 AARS awards. They were also responsible for leading the charge of celebrity names for their roses.

In recent years, J&P has gone "corporate" after getting bought out by RJR in 1984 and rolled up into a series of global conglomerates. At one point, they were owned by a Japanese pharmeaceutical company. However, like most of Wall Street, they fell on hard times and filed for bankruptcy in spring 2010. Some people who ordered at that time had problems with their orders, obviously. Since then, it seems they have cleaned up some things on the operations and seem to be back. They are still rolling out new varieties including the Always and Forever, the 2011 rose of the year. However, some of their older favorites may not be available due to some continuing inventory issues.

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