Miniature Roses

By Betty Mott, Master Rosarian

A couple of years ago Cher Frechette and I wrote a series of articles on rose classes for The Marin Rose. When asked to consider writing a series of articles on rose classification, knowing we had previously covered 10 of the 37 classes, it took us only a short time to respond.

Looking over the remaining 27 classes and surrounding myself with piles of my favorite rose books I could agree that there was still a lot of information to share about the roses we choose to include in our backyard rose collections. There are many less popular overlooked classes of roses that can work in harmony to fill our vases with a variety of scent, size, color, petal count and uniqueness.

Little White Lies

So many roses trace their roots to China, so it is likely that the first miniature roses grew there. Botanical sketches proved that miniature roses arrived in Europe sometime in the nineteenth century. They enjoyed moderate popularity in France and England. Roulet, an officer in the Swiss Army Medical Corps, spotted miniatures growing as “pot plants” in an Alpine Village. He told his friend, Henry Correvon, an avid horticulturist from Geneva about the plants growing only 2 inches tall producing an abundance of tiny pink blossoms for most of the year. Correvon obtained cuttings and built a stock of the rose he introduced to commerce in 1922 as ‘R. rouletti,’ in honor of his friend. In the process he discovered that when cultivated outdoors as a garden plant rather than confined to a pot it grew taller than the mere 2 inches.

Some ten years later Jan de Vink, a Dutch breeder crossed ‘R. rouletti’ with ‘Gloria Mundi’ a dwarf Polyantha, which produced a tiny plant that blossomed in red flowers with a white eye. He named it ‘Peon’ and introduced it into commerce. American rosarian Robert Pyle of Pennsylvania’s Conard-Pyle rose nursery, spotted it and in 1936 renamed it as ‘Tom Thumb’ and the rest is history. ‘Tom Thumb’ was a prodigious stud rose and in no time miniature roses were bred for market by Pedro Dot of Spain, Meilland of France, and Tauntau of Germany.

Grace Seward

Then the scene switched to the United States, and Ralph Moore of Visalia, California. As a result of his extensive work with miniature roses, Moore earned his nickname “the father of modern miniature roses.” He began his hybridizing with the same varieties used in Europe including ‘R. rouletii’ in a career spanning more than 65 years, hybridizing more than 300, some say closer to 500, separate miniature roses, many of which are the most popular in commerce today. Seventy-five percent of all miniature roses have a Moore rose in their breeding background. When asked what’s his favorite? Moore replied, “One, I haven’t developed yet, because it will be perfect and have no flaws.” The first striped miniature rose and the introduction of moss characteristics (moss like growth on the stems and buds) into repeat-blooming miniatures are among his most important achievements. Ralph Moore lived to 102, passing away in September of 2009, validating the idea that people who include roses in their lives enjoy goodness, generosity, and beauty each and every day they step out into their gardens.

For me growing roses in Mill Valley with often more shade, fog, and cooler temperatures than the sunnier, warmer micro climates in Marin, the miniature rose class is perfect! As the sun travels to different parts of my yard throughout the rose growing season so can my miniatures in pots, with some on rollers. Miniature roses are great for small yards, decks, and patios. They are particularly adaptive to container living and bloom continuously from early April until you strip them of their leaves to fool them into dormancy before pruning in January. My miniature roses are the last roses to be pruned in my garden because they bounce back so quickly after pruning. Need another good reason to grow minis? Just stick a cutting in potting soil or directly into the garden and most likely you will have success and a new plant in short order. Miniature roses are own root roses so no suckers or root stock to contend with. You can transport six or eight single stems of prepared miniature rose blooms in one container to bring to the rose shows, and win a Queen of Miniature rose award just like a Queen of Hybrid Teas. Our Annual Marin Rose Society May Spring Show Schedule includes nine classes that you can enter with miniature roses along with the Challenge Class Hi-Lo Exhibit which pairs one large bloom and one smaller rose.

Jerry O

Miniature roses are sold in garden centers, grocery stores, home improvement stores, pharmacies and nurseries. However, if you are hoping to win that Queen of Miniatures you will need to order most through a nursery and have them sent to you in the mail. Three nurseries with a good selection of miniature roses are: , , and (which sells their miniatures grafted on Fortuniana root stock). I have one miniflora rose, ‘Dr. John Dickman’ grafted on Fortuniana root stock and it grows quite large compared with my miniatures on their own root. Remember like any other rose you enter in a rose show you must know the name of the miniature rose and have it properly identified. If you are at a rose show and see a miniature rose that you like that has been entered in the show, you can often approach the exhibitor and ask to take home the bloom after the conclusion of the show. One rosarian keeps the bloom in water, washing the leaves weekly and changing out the water until roots appear before transferring to potting soil. Give it a try.

With so many miniatures I find it difficult to select my top 5 or 10 however these are some of my old timers that I could not live without; ‘Irresistible,’ ‘Sweet Revenge,’ ‘Hot Tamale,’ ‘Ty,’ ‘Marriotta,’ ‘Jerry O,’ ‘Grace Seward’ and ‘Little White Lies’. Some newcomers to my garden include ‘Diamond Eyes,’ ‘Magic Show,’ ‘Little Jimmy Dickens,’ ‘Cinnamon Girl,’ and ‘Bees Knees’. Scent is important to me with roses and many of these are loaded with fragrance. Each of these miniatures listed have the potential to win a blue ribbon or best of class.

Even if your yard is packed full of roses you can always find room for a miniature. All you need is a pot, soil, mulch, water, sun and occasional fertilizer—what could be easier? Some of my miniature roses have been in pots for 10 or more years and have done very well when transplanted into the ground. Grow and enjoy Miniature Roses!

Muriel Humenick, Laura Peters, (2007).  Roses for Northern California, Lone Pine Publishing
Rayford Clayton Reddell, (1998) Miniature Roses, Chronicle Books
Rose Hybridizers Association Forum

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