Sexing the Flower

How the Portland Rose Festival Found Its New Bloom

When two flowers love each other very much…

By Sarah Hutchins April 24, 2018 Published in the May 2018 issue of Portland Monthly

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Dress Blues—a lavender floribunda with a magenta heart—is the official rose of this year’s Portland Rose Festival, starting this month. Since the event’s centennial in 2007, Rose Fest has selected and named a new hybrid of its flagship flower every year. But the road to rose is a thorny one. California hybridizer Christian Bédard explained the decade-long process:

In 2008, Bédard collected and dried the anthers (male sexual parts) of Dress Blues’ father, a breeder rose, in petri dishes. He then spread open the mother, a sister of the Wild Blue Yonder rose, to access her styles (female sexual parts) and waited a day until she became sticky and receptive for pollination. Then, pollination, followed by new seeds. In 2009, after holding them in cold storage for months, Bédard planted 250,000 seedlings in the greenhouse. Of these, he selected 2,000. After passing regional testing, Dress Blues and 14 siblings underwent advanced trials across the US in 2014 and 2015. By 2017, the floriferous Dress Blues—who inherited her mom’s decorous purplish coloring and her dad’s top-notch disease resistance and strong perfume, hers a spiced grapefruit aroma—emerged as a clear winner.

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