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Outdoors: Roses

a pink rose in autumn afternoon light

Back in Shakespearean times, when Juliet told Romeo that "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet," it was probably true.

In today’s world of hybrids, plant patents and name trademarks, a rose with a new name probably won’t smell all that sweet, if it has any fragrance at all.

There are many complicated conventions for naming plant varieties, cultivars and hybrids, and when it comes to rose breeding and trademark names, there are specific rules set out by the Registration Committee of the American Rose Society.

The rose breeder gets to name it.

And that's fair, because developing a new rose can take a decade or more of tedious research, record-keeping and involve countless failures.

But once a new hybrid is created, a name that will appeal to consumers must be selected.

No previous rose names can be used.

Roses have been named for royalty, Presidents and First Ladies, movie stars, religious figures, characters from literature, or as tributes to relatives and influential people.

Many names are just catchy or feel meaningful.

In breeding roses that are showy — bigger, thicker or having stunning colors — the lovely scent often was sacrificed.

Most importantly, the gene that carries disease resistance is not compatible with the gene for fragrance.
So roses bred for modern gardens are gorgeous, but not all that sweet-smelling.

Roses destined for florists and grocery stores will last a long time, but will have little, if any, scent.

Before too long, those long-lasting grocery store roses will be our only option.

So “gather ye rosebuds while you may,” because. in the words of poet Ernest Dowson, later reiterated by screenwriter JP Miller and composer Henry Mancini, “They are not long, the days of wine and roses.”

"Outdoors with Coggin Heeringa" can be heard every Wednesday on Classical IPR.