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'Rose Rage Interviews George Mander'
(A transcript - reproduced by permission)

George Mander of Coquitlam, B.C. has been hybridizing roses for 30 years. I welcome his interview to this site and I know that any of you who are interested in hybridizing will learn something from his wealth of knowledge on this subject. Although we met briefly at Shreveport in 1997, I have only recently had the opportunity to get to know him from our phone conversations with each other.

Even without my asking, he continues to send me valuable information that I will be able to use in my future rose hybridizing. Who would have thought that rose hybridizing could also breed new friendships? Check out George's new site Roses of Excellence

What are your current goals as a miniature rose hybridizer?

My current goal is to come up with some high centred, exhibition type, disease resistant miniature roses preferably with purple/gold or purple/cream bicolorations. I have been trying for 5 to 6 years to find the right combinations of parents to achieve this goal, but so far I seem to only get other bicolors like Glowing Amber. At present, I am testing a red/orange mini seedling with one of the highest needle point centers I have ever seen.

What varieties have you found to be superior seed and pollen parents?

For years now my superior seed parent has been June Laver. I am now trying Hot Tamale for the first time along with many unnamed seedlings which give me good seed set and germination. For pollen parent, I am using my Rubies N Pearls mostly. I am also using ‘Glowing Amber’ along with many different seedlings that are extremely mildew resistant.

Do you use only miniatures in your hybridizing program?

I am now using only miniatures. Eleven years ago I started with Rise n Shine as a seed parent and used a seedling of mine, a HT (reg. code name 'Manpurple'), as the pollen parent. As 'Manpurple' is the grandfather of all my minis, I am still getting about 20% to 30% floribundas and hybrid teas in my seedlings. It is for this reason that I am staying away from using big roses as much as possible.

Does luck play the greatest role in hybridizing? Have you been able to predict color, growth habit, and flower form in your seedlings?

I would definitely say yes, and I always say it's 99% luck and only 1% planning. I have never been able to predict color. It took me 15 years to get the purple/cream bicolor of Manpurple' into one of my seedlings. I have been able to predict growth habit about 50% of the time, but as for flower form I have been lucky to predict only 10% of the time or less.

Can you have a successful hybridizing program without the benefits of a greenhouse?

Yes, I can, but only if I have my seed parents in pots because of our short growing season. My roses never come into bloom until mid June and by mid October most of my hips are still green. At this time I take all of the pots into my basement and put them under lights. By the middle to end of November the hips will turn orange. In my first 20 years of hybridizing (1969 to 1989) I was only working with big roses. All of my crosses were done in the open and my hips never ever really ripened enough which lead to poor germination.

How do you decide when the seed hips are ready to be harvested?

It was always my belief that the seed hips should be as orange as possible before shelling the seeds. On one of my visits to Ralph Moore I asked him, " Do you always try to get your hips as orange as possible?" "Yes', he said,' You will get better germination!" On my 1999 crosses, half of my hips were only 90-95% orange when I took out the seeds, but they are all germinating very well right now. (end of Feb. 2000) Sometimes there are a few hips that have only 70-80% color. I will take these if all of the other hips are off.

How do you prepare your seeds prior to stratification and planting?

I extract the seeds right away and soak them in a disinfectant solution before I store them temporarily in moist paper towels in the fridge at approximately 40 degrees F.

Usually within 4 to 5 weeks all seeds are harvested. I will then soak the seeds again in this special solution for about 2 hours prior to planting them into 2" high seeds trays. The disinfectant that I use was recommended by the late Wilhelm Kordes in his book Roses. The name of the product is 'CHINOSOL' and it comes in water soluble tablets. I get it from Germany and the active ingredients are 8-Hydroxychinolinsulfate and Kaliumsulfate.

Wilhem Kordes also recommends using 1/4" to 3/8" layer of sand on top of the seed trays in order to cut down on the damp off of the seedlings and also to keep moss from growing on the surface of the seed trays. I also put a layer of sand on top of where I plant my germinated seedlings. I am currently using a professional planting mix called SUNSHINE MIX #4 for germinating my seeds and for planting the seedlings within a day of their germination. All these things combined have cut my damp off losses down to zero with most seed parents, and with certain seed parents I may have only 1-3% losses.

What process do you use in order to maximize germination? Have you found that temperature fluctuations increase as well as speed germination?

I have been experimenting with everything that everyone else has tried during my 30 years of rose hybridizing., but nothing ever really gave me better germination. Finally, in 1995 I tried fluctuating temperatures for the first time. At least twice a week I took my seed trays our of the fridge (36 F.) for about 10 to 12 hours to warm up to appr. 60-65 F. This gave me what I called a "GERMINATION EXPLOSION" at the time. My June Laver seeds germination increased from about 20% to almost 40-45%. Strangely, now at the end of Feb. 2000, my June Laver seeds are germinating very poorly at only 15-20%.

Hot Tamale seeds, however, are coming up twice as good as last year. Maybe we should say that germination requires as much luck as rose hybridizing itself.

When can you start fertilizing new seedlings?

I start fertilizing with 1/4 strength only after the seedlings are at least one week old. When they are two weeks old I go to 1/2 strength, and after one month I give them full strength. I only use water soluble fertilizer. When directions call for one teaspoon per gallon I always use a level teaspoon and never a heaping teaspoon.

What advise would you give to an amateur hybridizer who has a promising seedling that might prove marketable?

First of all I would make at least 15 to 20 plants for myself. If it is a miniature, it is very easy to make a few dozen own root plants within a few months time. If it is a HT or FL , it could take two years to get mature budded plants. In the meantime, find a good, catchy name and apply for the registration of the rose with I.R.A.R. If you have a friend who is the owner of a rose nursery, you are lucky. He or she may want to test your rose before putting it on the market. A mini should root easily and fast in about 3 weeks. I have had

some good miniatures over the last few years which took 6 weeks to root. My friend, who is the owner of the local Mini Nursery SELECT ROSES, tried those minis but gave up on them. I am now using them as seed and/or pollen parents. Here is some advise to those who have no connection to any nursery and have a promising seedling with great exhibition potential. While you are waiting for the registration to come through, or even before you decide to apply for a name, you should try to enter the rose in a seedling class in one of your local shows. If it wins the seedling class, your rose has had it's first exposure and many of the top exhibitors may ask you for a plant or two of it. You may choose to wait and win with it yourself first in the regular classes after the application is accepted. You can then exhibit the rose in as many shows as possible in your area. If you win a few trophies in these shows then your are well on your way and will probably find a nursery willing to give your rose a try.

20 years ago I had my first good exhibition rose and no connection to a rose nursery. So I did exactly what I described above.  First, I won the seedling class. A year later, after I got my registration, it won two trophies at our local show. In the meantime I had made many more plants of it. The following year I went all out and exhibited in 5 different shows in the Pacific NW from Vancouver, BC down to Portland, OR, It won different trophies at every show including a Queen. It did very well here in the Pac. NW but I made the mistake of not having it tested in the hot, southern US. It turned out not to do well

there at all. It was just inexperience and I had learned my first lesson.

Since I started breeding miniatures  in 1989 I have always sent any promising seedling to friends for testing down south in states like CA, TX, AZ, and OK.  Just before my Glowing Amber (my best hybridized rose so far) got it's name approved I had my first reports from Arizona. It was "doing very well in 100 F plus temperatures".

What have been the high and low points for you as a rose hybridizer?

My low point came in my third year of hybridizing. I had been doing all of my crosses with big roses in the open. Because of our short growing season I had many hips still on the bushes at the end of November. We had a unusually cold snap one night with temps down to about 15 F. I must have lost a hundred big, fat hips. All were frozen black and I did not get any germination at all that year.

My first high point came exactly 25 years later in 1996. The registration for Glowing Amber was excepted in April, just in time for our rose shows starting in mid June. I had about 60 own root and several budded plants of it for myself. Again, I exhibited this rose at every rose show possible form W. Canada to Portland, OR. In a total of 6 shows Glowing Amber won 9 trophies including 2 queens. I had no problem finding U.S. and Canadian nurseries willing to carry this rose and other minis of mine.

My second and even higher point came in 1999. In 5 shows here in the PAC. NW,

Glowing Amber won a total of 18 various trophies for me. It also won at every show exhibited in England including a couple of BEST MINIATURE exhibits in show. In 1998 I had sent 25 plants of it, plus some of my Golden Beryl to 3 top exhibitors in England. In the fall of 1999 Glowing Amber and Golden Beryl were introduced in the U.K. by an English rose company who is now my agent in E.U. countries. Also in 1999, these two roses plus other minis of mine were sent to rose firms in Holland, France, Italy, and Australia. They will also be sent to New Zealand and possibly later to two S. American countries.

Finally, let me close by cautioning all of you who hope to make lots of money in royalties from the sale of your roses. You might make money with big roses if you sell a few thousand, but not with miniatures. Royalties on minis are only 1/4 or less than that of big roses. You can not get rich on miniatures unless they are sold in several countries.

George Mander
February 2004


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