Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Scammers suck- the continuing saga of the fake black, royal-purple, blue or rainbow rose seed-sellers

Ok, I've been seeing this one around for a while, now, and I've been my usually anal self in letting folks know that you cannot grow black, royal-purple, blue or rainbow roses from seed.  In fact, these roses do not even exist, except as dyed versions you can get in the florist's shops.  But, people are ignorant, just starting out with gardening (like I'm any kind of expert), know nothing about how roses "work" or are simply gullible or stupid.

Generally, it's an honest customer who wants to grow their own roses from seed as a challenge who is the target of these fraudulent sellers.  These people are scam-artists, only out to take your foolishly-given money.  And the truly sad thing about their scams is; they're working.  No buyer will be able to do more than complain and warn their friends because, one, the seeds likely won't germinate.  And two, if they do get a plant for their effort, they'll have to wait up to three years before the bush is mature enough to bloom before they see they were rooked well and truly.  No way to get your refund, then.

Another note that many folks might not realize: roses are persnickety things and are the divas of the plant world.  Only under certain, very specific conditions will you get a seed to germinate.  First, they need to be "stratified"- this means you have to chill them for at least a month (not freeze- putting them in the fridge is enough), though two months is a more common length of time.  Then, after they've been kept chill (around 1C to 5C) in a moist environment (vermiculite is one common material used) long enough, it's time to plant the seeds in some sort of soil medium in flats; those little trays with cups and soil in them, put in a dim space (not dark, some light, just no direct, harsh or hot lighting).  When the seedlings have penetrated the soil, start giving them more light- roses are full-sun-loving plants, but seedlings are tender.  Indirect light for the first little while, until the secondary and tertiary leaves show- then give them more and more direct, stronger light.  This simulates the spring warming after winter- more and stronger light, warmer temperatures and so on.  Also, roses like certain types of soils, types many other plants actually dislike; acidic, preferably.  Lastly, even if you get the seeds to germinate and grow into a fine bush, you'll get a random colour of blossom, not the colour of the parent.  It will be a variation of it, or nothing like, depending on what it was cross-pollinated with.

Roses are all hybrids, except for a very few; these are the wild, or "species", roses- single or double-bloomed, simple colours like pinks and whites.  Or the Rugosa roses, with a wider variety of colour because they've been cultivated for almost as long as the hybrid teas, longer, for some varieties, but still in the pinks and whites, some near-reds.

The roses we know and love as the brilliantly-coloured varieties with their yellows, oranges, reds, pinks, whites with hints of pink, mahoganies and so on are hybrid tea roses.  Rugosa hybridize easily with these and the wild species, and are often used as root or genetic-mixing stock for it's toughness, since the teas are prey to a lot of nasty illnesses.  Hybrid teas are always propagated from carefully-guarded plants not generally available to the public (that I know of, anyway), and the canes grafted onto a base root-stock (which is usually a bland, leggy white-blooming type only used for it's longevity and resistance to pests and disease), not grown from seed, unless the grower is working on a new hybrid.

Of course, knowing all of this in no way means I've ever been successful in getting any rose seeds to pop...

I am a terrible murderer of roses.  I've killed every single one I've ever tried to raise.  It makes me weep and gives me nightmares of all the lovely little plants (I'm especially fond of miniatures) crying to me "why, why did you kill us..." that I've failed in keeping healthy.  One gorgeous bloom sticks in my memory; it was a wonderfully tiny, delicate triple or quadruple bloom with tight petals in a rosette (heh, rose, "rosette"...  shaddap, you) a formation that reminded me of a Mum with it's perfect symmetry and multiplicity of petals.  It was a pale yellow and smelled wonderful.

It died.


Now, I'm not a "black thumb"- far from it; I've rescued plants from skips and back lanes, from the mother-in-law who regularly tortures her small collection, abandoned pots with half-dead creatures languishing within (I acquired a Night-Blooming Cereus and a red-bordered Draceana that way), snipped and picked wee sprigs that I've raised to great big plants that I have to divide and give away, and have grown cacti from seed, which is apparently not all that easy, though nowhere near as difficult as roses are.   So I have no idea why I cannot seem to get roses to grow for me.

It makes me want to cry, it does.

So I'll remind those who love roses- and I adore them to the point of leaning over to sniff at any variety I haven't seen before- YOU CANNOT GROW TRUE ROYAL PURPLE, BLACK, BLUE OR RAINBOW ROSES FROM SEED.  It is impossible.

Here's why:

Let's start with that gorgeous fantasy of a rose called the rainbow rose.  We see multi-coloured roses all the time, right?  Certainly.  So why not a rainbow one?  Two reasons: roses have a limited spectrum, like ALL flowers.  No flower on this planet has the full spectrum of colours- one is always excluded from it's genes, a shade usually on the ends of the spectrum (blue, purple or red), or in the green phases at the centre (there are green flowers, though- look up "Green Envy" zinnias or Bells of Ireland, and there is a green rose called "Greensleeves", too).

In the case of roses, the missing colour in it's range is blue.

That seems odd to me, since when we think of colour-theory and how blue mixed with red creates purple, and we have roses that look almost purple, so why can't we have a rose with blue in it?  I'm not certain how it works in terms of floral genetics, but I do know that the "colours" we see are not the actual colour of the object, it is the reflected colour, the one that's not absorbed by the object is what our eyes see.  All roses absorb blue, they do not reflect it.

So, rainbow roses.  Like I said, no flower on this Earth shows all colour- except white ones.  Those reflect ALL colours of light back to our eyes- we see them as white.  Just as black flowers absorb all colours of light, so we see them as black.  So it is impossible for a flower to reflect all shades (be truly "multi-coloured") without being white.

Rainbow roses:

: are created, not bred.  Here's how they do it: take one healthy, beautifully-formed white rose with a sturdy, thick stem.  Carefully split that stem into five or six strips.  Dip each strip into a separate vial of water with food colouring added.  Put this assembly in a cool place away from heat and light.  Wait about two or three hours.  Come back, amaze your friends and take some awesome photos.  :-)

Blue roses:

:this one has been the Holy Grail of rose-breeders for centuries.  It seems they had the same thought people like me did; if a rose can be red, pink, maroon or near-purple, why can't it be blue?  Well, it's because those "purples" that we're seeing in roses aren't.  Purple, that is.  They're reds.  But, there is a new hybrid developed in 1983 by a Dr. Buck that's been touted as a "blue rose", the closest anyone has yet been able to get.  It's colour?  A kind of pale, grey-purplish mauve.  Actually quite lovely, but not blue.

As with the rainbow roses, blue roses are created- in exactly the same way as the rainbows are: take a nice white blossom and dip it's stem into a beaker with blue food-colouring and water and allow capillary-action to draw the dyes up into the rose's petals.

Black roses:

: *sigh*  Same problem as the others; the colour we see is the colour the flower does not absorb.  Black flowers are not black- they are very close to black to our eyes, but they are again, deep, deep reds and purples, even purple-brown, when you look close under bright, direct light.  Still, they do look amazing, so just enjoy them, even if they aren't true black.  There is a variety of Columbine that is a rich bronzey-black shade that I think is gorgeous.  But, back to roses; to get an inky black one, take a nice red blossom (not a white one, this time- you need the red for a strong base) and do the same as with the blue and rainbow roses.

Royal purple:

:just ain't happenin', man.  No true blue in a rose, thus no true purple, either.  There are a number of lavenders and mauves- the so-called "blue" roses, but that's it.  I don't know if anyone has tried (I'm sure they have), but get one of the lavender roses, and do the dye thing.  Dip the cut end of the stem into a vase with tinted water in the purple you want and wait to see what happens.

Finally, I repeat; the sellers flogging rainbow, royal purple, blue or black rose seeds are scammers.  AVOID, AVOID, AVOID.  DO NOT buy anything from them!  You can grow roses from seed, they will just not look like the parent, as each seed will be DIFFERENT because the parent's seed has been pollinated by another rose bush.  The only way I can think of to get specific breeds of a rose is to have a hermetically-sealed environment with only one variety per enclosure to pollinate each other in order to get seeds to breed true, doing that over many, many generations, and I doubt that even that will work, since all tea roses are hybrids and have a long, carefully annotated lineage as complicated and knotted together as any of the European royal families.

If you find something like this on the Web, and it looks so amazing, it's hard to believe it's real, it probably isn't.  Besides, anyone who'd charge five bucks for five seeds is an asshole.


Anonymous said...

Thank you! I already bought bunch of seeds on ebay... but at least you save my time and energy try to get black, rainbow, etc roses out them!
I still will try to grow them, out of curiosity and with very, very low expectations!

Auntibodhi toreligion said...

I'm glad I could help! Good luck on growing your seeds, but I'll tell you, chances are the seeds--if they're even rose seeds at all--will be of a plain, ordinary white rose. It may or may not have a decent odour. If you're lucky, the blossoms you'll eventually get in a few years might be one of the pinks--those are nice. :-)