One of the fun things about rose gardening is that over time seedlings start to appear in the garden from hips which have fallen or been eaten by birds and expelled. Immediately you can see what sort of leaves the seedling has and how fast it’s growing and start to make a stab at parentage… Then it’s time to wait for the flower. sometimes the wait is literally eternal, ie the plant is sterile and never flowers. None of the books tell you this sad fact, that often the plant just doesn’t flower and we found it very disappointing to begin with!
If the plant produces a flower very early on , it is going to be a repeat flowering rose. If it just keeps on growing you have to keep on waiting till the next flowering season to see if it’s a once flowerer worth keeping, or one for the scrap heap.
Like nearly all self seeded plants, given a modicum of soil and water they will thrive in their chosen position as they chose it themselves!! If space allows, we often leave the seedlings in situ and watch them to see what they are going to do. If they seem worthy, we will make cuttings the following year and try plants in different positions to see whether they’re worthy of a place in the garden and the catalogue. Certain families are very prone to producing children…the rugosas for one and the hybrid musks for another. Playing detective is quite fun, though you can’t jump to conclusions too soon, as all roses vary from season to season and some seedlings take a few seasons to really mature ( a bit like breeding horses really! )
Some of the ones that have appeared and been “solved” are Weiti Sherry, who is obviously a cross from Mutabilis, she has very similar leaves ,thorns and airy growth habit, and her flowers change colour from creamy to pink then dark pink. The big value difference is she has lots of petals in a cute loose rosette and a wonderful perfume. Like most of the Chinas and China crosses she flowers on all through the winter and spring. Weiti Northcross is one of the many Hybrid Musk crosses that have appeared. It is very similar to Trier, it makes a big shrub, but the flowers are a bit more refined and come with greater continuity. The wafty scent, hallmark of the Hybrid Musks, hits you as you approach.
Scent can be a good clue in the detective work…Weiti Betty, which is a patio sized rose , has delicate pale pink flat rosettes with a noticeable scent of myrhh…no question that one of her parents is a David Austin as this is the only family of roses around with this scent (or should we call it smell!!! you like it or hate it, it’s so distinctive)
So seedlings are easy to grow if God does it for you! The professional growers make controlled crosses between carefully selected parents and grow literally tens of thousands of seedlings a year to produce something special and different worth publishing. Our efforts from hips in the garden have been fruitless…but once on a visit to a species garden we brought home some hips which would supposedly seed true. We did this experiment “by the book” and stratified the seeds etc etc. We did in this case get a dozen or so “successes” ie some grew, but most turned out to be crosses, obviously the bees were not species specific and moved from species to species.
One of the resultant plants is very worthy, a hip from r. nitida must have been crossed with r. rugose . I saw recently in a book , a plant I grow in the Rugosa bed, Corylus, is the same cross but maybe the other way around. They are similar, but not the same.
One purebred success we had from our “hip expedition” was r. ecae which is thriving in the new species garden around 12 years after hatching