‘BEHIND THE AWARDS’ SERIES | JOE SPENCER | MY ROSE BREEDING JOURNEY
‘Behind The Awards’ Series| Introduction
Roses. Thousands of poets have sung the praises of their beauty. Thousands of painters have tried their best. Nonetheless, most of them still felt like they were unable to completely capture the utmost elegance of a rose in the morning. And, millions of gardeners, like us, cannot help but admiring their charm every day.
However, roses need time. A lot of time.
‘Roses do not bloom hurriedly; for beauty, like any masterpiece, takes time to blossom.’
Roses need a lot of time to get established. To be loved. And, to be cared for. Most of all, roses need a lot of time to be bred in the first place.
It seems rather easy to enjoy the beauty of a rose when she is in a pot impeccably delivered to our doorstep. However, it must be true love if we could appreciate the effort that our incredibly talented rose-breeders have put in throughout the years. There are unforgettable stories. There are tears in the eyes. And, of course, there is joy behind every Chelsea medal.
And, most of these precious things are still unknown to us.
Today, we are super excited to release a new series, ‘Behind the Awards’. This series will feature behind-the-scenes stories about the rose experiences of some of the top rose breeders in the world. You cannot find them anywhere else!
The series will complete the structure of the authentic contents at The Right Roses, having been contributed by The Right Roses team, rose-breeders, and gardeners around the world. In addition, ‘Behind the Awards’ series reinforces our long-term endeavor to make The Right Roses the very best community about roses for the most serious rose-lovers in the world.
‘‘Behind the Awards’ series reinforces our long-term endeavor to make The Right Roses the very best community about roses for the most serious rose-lovers in the world.’
The Right Roses | RightRoses.com
The first article in this series will be about the life journey of Joe Spencer as a rose breeder at David Austin Roses. It has been an exciting 10 years for him. And, now it is a great time to celebrate this wonderful milestone.
All rose-lovers in the world have free access to ‘Behind The Awards’ Series.
‘Behind the Awards’ Series | Joe Spencer | David Austin Roses
My Rose Breeding Journey
When I was younger, rose breeding was never something I considered. I “fell” into it completely by chance, however now, after approximately 10 years, I consider it to be a fascinating hobby and I really cannot imagine my life without it.
Although I’ve only been into roses relatively recently, I’ve always had an interest in nature, gardening and the great outdoors. From a young age, I can always remember my Dad taking cuttings of various plants and potting them up, as well as growing a variety of both flowers and fruit in his garden. My grandad was the same, having the most amazing fruit and veg garden, a real treat to visit and try the produce throughout the summer months! I count both of them as part of my inspiration behind my love of gardening and nature.
I have two inspirational people who I look up to, and are behind my love for roses and rose breeding, people who I am lucky enough to consider mentors in my own rose breeding journey. The first is my boss, Carl Bennett, a man with an incredible and vast knowledge of roses and rose breeding. Working with him, I have learned so very much and if I have ever needed to ask a question or discuss a particular area or idea on the subject, he is only to happy to help. I have found this to be completely invaluable over the years.
The second is David Austin Senior, or “Mr. A” as I knew him, in my opinion the greatest rosarian of all time. I have been incredibly honoured and privileged to have not only spoken with him, but also worked with him on his beloved roses and it was this incredible opportunity as well as his enthusiasm and passion for rose breeding that shaped my own interest in breeding roses.
Rose hybridising to many people may sound like a difficult and complicated process, but in fact it is extremely easy. I start by picking two varieties that I would like to cross, usually ones with desirable characteristics that I want to see in the resulting seedlings. The “mother” plant is the plant that will produce the seed, so on the day of pollenating, usually just before the bloom is fully open, I remove the petals and anthers (the pollen parts of the flower, so the rose can’t pollinate itself). At the same time, the anthers are collected from the other variety (the “father” plant), and this is kept in a warm location to allow the pollen grains to burst and release the pollen dust. The following day the stigma of the prepared flower heads should be mature enough to accept the pollen. I use a small brush to dab the pollen dust onto the emasculated stamens, making sure a good “dusting” of pollen is used as this gives a higher chance of making more seed. Afterwards, I attach a label round the stem of the pollenated flower showing both parents and that is the pollenating process complete! That truly is the easy part! The hardest part of rose breeding, without doubt, is the waiting! It is at least a year between the pollenating and the results being seen, although it can be 2 or even 3 years before an once-flowering seedling will bloom!
The pollenated flower head will then hopefully swell over the next few months to produce hips. It is these hips that contain the seeds which will hopefully germinate into the new seedlings. After 3-4 months in the greenhouse, they should have swelled and turned orange, it is at this stage that the hips can be harvested, and the seeds collected. Each cross’ seeds are kept together and when all of them collected, they are kept in a fridge for approximately 2 months to simulate their winter cycle. At the start of the following year, they are bought under heat and light in order for the seeds to germinate. After 2-3 weeks, the first germinated seedlings should poke their heads above the soil and 6-8 weeks later the first blooms should appear! A very long process but most definitely worth the wait and anticipation!
I feel truly proud to be thought of as an amateur rose breeder. It’s a hobby that still excites me year after year, anticipating seeing hundreds of brand new, never seen before, seedlings flowering for the first time.
Photo credit: Joe Spencer