There will be disappointments along the way, when many rose seeds fail to germinate, or perhaps they do germinate, only to die several weeks later from damp-off disease. Sometimes a rose seedling will turn out to be as ugly as sin, or very sickly, and you will reluctantly have to throw it away. Other times they will be just ho-hum, or look too much like its parent, and therefore have no value. But, just when you don't expect it, you might discover that one of your rose seedlings turns out to be very special.
Why choose an old-fashioned rose over a modern hybrid? Many of the old rose varieties offer more fragrance, more complex and interesting blooms, greater disease resistance, easier care and more interesting forms. But modern roses can offer all-season blooms, and a much broader range of colors and flower forms. Some are also far more cold- hardy and disease-resistant than any of the old-fashioned varieties.
Select two roses that you want to cross-pollenate. The blooms should not be too tight, perhaps about one-half to 3/4 open. Carefully peel off all the petals. The rose stamens inside should look golden yellow and fresh. With sterile tweezers or cuticle scissors, carefully remove all the stamens at the base of the rose hip, so you do not damage the pollen sacs (anthers). Place the rose stamens into separate, clean film canisters, and place the canisters in a dry place, but not in direct sunlight.
When pruning, be judicious. If you prune too hard in autumn, plants can be damaged beyond recovery. Instead, wait until spring, when plants begin to leaf out for the new season. (Roses are often not the earliest plants in the garden to respond to spring’s warming temperatures, so be patient.) Give the plant time to show its leaf buds then prune above that level.
Everybody has a story to tell of how their grandma would stick a piece of rose stem into the ground and then place a Mason Jar over the stem to make it grow. There are tales of how the early American settlers of the 1800's traveled to the far reaches of the wild west in covered wagons, with grandma bringing along "starts" of her favorite roses from back home. Perhaps the treasures of these "monsters on wooden wheels" were raided, and they discovered the Yellow Rose of Texas hiding under the bonnets of the women. Or maybe the settlers used their precious "starts" to barter for provisions along the endless dusty trails.
Just as with many other shrubs, roses can be grown from cuttings. It’s not a fast process – it may take a couple of years before your new plant produces flowers. But if you have a favourite rose, it can be fun to try. The cuttings need to be taken fresh from a healthy plant – don’t try to grow a new rose bush from the bunch of cut flowers you have sitting in a vase. And as roses bushes are pruned during winter, this is the most convenient time to take and pot up your rose cuttings.
Cover the cutting loosely, pot and all, with a plastic bag or plastic wrap and keep the soil moist. Putting a tall stake into the pot will hold the plastic away from the leaves. If the plastic touches the leaves, they remain wet and can succumb to a fungus disease. Along the same lines, make sure the condensation can escape from the plastic or the stem will rot.