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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.