History of Rose Breeding at Iowa State University

close up of a pink Buck rose with green leaves

Reiman Gardens hosts unique rose displays which educate the public about the rich history of roses at Iowa State University. The rose has a deep cultural and emotional symbolism in Iowa and the United States, both use the rose as the official flower. Reiman Gardens showcases the beautiful advancement of the rose throughout various time periods in the Antique Rose Garden, the Griffith Buck Rose Collection and the Jones Rose Garden. The first rose breeding program at Iowa State University began in the late 1800’s when the head of the Horticulture Department Joseph L. Budd, and graduate student N. E. Hansen began making crosses with the Beach rose (Rosa rugosa) a rose native to Asia that was imported into the United States once Japan established trading relationships with the west. The goal of the breeding program was to produce garden roses that were able to survive the severely cold winters of Iowa which can receive temperatures of -30o Fahrenheit. Through this breeding program of Rosa rugosa hybrids, only two varieties were released, with only the “Ames” rose staying in cultivation. During the period in between WWI and WWII another attempt at breeding cold-hardy rose varieties was created by Professor Thomas J. Maney, who used Rosa maximowicziana as a winter hardy main parent along with Rosa rubrifolia, Rosa rugosa, and Rosa multiflora. This rose breeding program produced four named climbing rose cultivars, but they were never released to the public due to consumers preferring repeat blooming roses rather than roses which bloom only once per year for a few short weeks. Rose breeding resumed in 1948, led by professor Dr. Griffith J. Buck who used Rosa laxa, a rose species from Siberia as a winter hardy main parent in crosses. Reiman Gardens showcases the first rose produced by Iowa State University, the “Ames” rose in the Antique Rose Garden along with other old rose cultivars that were popular during the previous century.

By Chase Krug