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The Red Dot - or the History of Persica roses


One of the greatest innovations in the development of garden roses during the past 50 years are the Persica roses. The roses with the red dot.

The fascinating red dot in the middle of the flowers, at the start of the individual petals, is characteristic of Rosa persica, a wild form of rose that originates in the deserts and steppes of Iran and Afghanistan. It survives there thanks to its deep and extremely extended root system.

Yes, one could almost assume that due to the problems of the fruit set and hybridisation that the Hulthemia, as it was first botanically called, delegates its survival on the roots and shoots more than on the flowers and fruits. It’s no wonder, the flowers and fruits can quite quickly become victims of predators in this inhospitable, dry environment – and perhaps just before the maturity of the fruits.


Rosa persica was introduced into the botanical gardens of Europe already at the beginning of the 19th century – and in 1836 the Jardin de Luxembourg reported in Paris about a natural and random hybrid that resulted from a garden rose and Rosa persica. Hulthemosa hardii, as it was called, had the typical yellow flowers with the red centre, however it grew somewhat bushier and bloomed somewhat bigger, but In our climate, this first Rosa persica hybrid was extremely  susceptible to mildew...and then nothing happened for 140 years...there were no gardening results. Despite a large number of attempts, the Hardii rose did not produce flowers and so it could not be used for additional Coral Babylon breeding. In the 60s of the 20th century, the rose friends and also breeders Jack Harkness from Hitchin (in Southern England) and Alec Cocker from Aberdeen (in Scotland) decided to risk a new venture TOGETHER. Alec imported seeds from Rosa persica from Iran and then shared the plants with Jack.

In the next ten years up to 1977 they tried to produce hybrids with garden roses, whereby Jack Harkness was significantly more successful and happier than Alec Cocker: overall, he was able to cross-breed 50 hybrids in 10 years – and also a handful of more provisional varieties. He was well aware that these were still insufficient; the genetic and climatic backgrounds of Rosa persica were too different and there needed to be more major breeding efforts in order to have really good garden varieties – always with the red dot in the centre. In 1977, Jack Harkness published his and Cocker’s experiences and gave the breeder interim results expressly for the further processing and use by competitors.

This early example of an open source, open license or open software policy, which we mainly see today in the software industry, then led again 50 years later (since 2000) to a whole wave of new roses with the red dot, which now, after 2-5 intermediate generations, are also robust and resistant garden roses. Again, the rose family Harkness is present with many new breedings – open-mindedness is clearly worthwhile. Other important Rosa persica breeders are Chris Warner and Jim Sproul and Interplant with the Babylon Eyes® roses.


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