PacSci Perspectives

The Subject Is Roses

by | Jul 31, 2016

The Subject Is Roses

Lady Emma Hamilton rose in Pacific Science Center’s Civilized Seeds Exhibit.

In Pacific Science Center’s Civilized Seeds exhibit, our hybrid rose plant has just begun to bloom! The flowers are late this year due to an unexpected transplant earlier in the year. Here is a reprint of last year’s Life Sciences blog post, “The Subject is Roses” about why our rose plant is orange, fragrant, and blooms throughout the summer.

Rabbie Burns once sang, “O, my Luve’s like a red, red rose, that’s newly sprung in June…” It was a good botanical observation.

Robert Burns lived in Scotland in the 1700’s, when all the rose plants in Europe bloomed only once in early summer (often June), in a mass profusion of flowers. It wasn’t until the 1800’s that rose breeders began to hybridize European and Asian roses, and Europeans experienced rose plants that bloomed continuously through summer. And orange roses!

The Subject Is Roses

Michael Pollen wrote an interesting, slightly risqué piece about how old European garden roses became the hybrid roses we know today. Read “Into the Rose Garden” here.

The Subject Is Roses

Lady Emma Hamilton rose in Pacific Science Center’s Civilized Seeds Exhibit in June, 2015.

The rose plant in the Civilized Seeds exhibit is an English hybrid rose, “introduced” in 2005. It has some typical hybrid rose traits – a smaller plant, it will have repeating orange blooms all summer. But it was also bred to resemble an old English garden rose with a high petal count and tons of fragrance. It can take a rose breeder many years of transferring pollen between thousands of promising plants to create a desirable new commercial hybrid variety. The new hybrid is then cloned and sold to gardeners. You can read more about the breeding process here.

In the tradition of European rose breeding, our rose is named after a woman, Lady Emma Hamilton. From the breeder’s website: “Lady Emma Hamilton was Horatio Nelson’s lover and we have named this rose to celebrate the 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar.” You can read about Lady Emma Hamilton here.

Lady Emma Hamilton, National Portrait Gallery, London.

Lady Emma Hamilton, National Portrait Gallery, London.

Lady Emma Hamilton's namesake rose.

Lady Emma Hamilton’s namesake rose.

See the resemblance?

Pacific Science Center’s Lady Emma Hamilton rose is located in the Civilized Seeds exhibit planter just outside the door to Building 2. Stop by and visit her this summer.

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