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Ebb Tide

by Rozell Overmire

Is there such a thing as a truly blue rose? Yes and no. There are dyed blue roses and genetically engineered blue roses. However, blue roses don’t exist in the natural world. Roses lack a specific gene that produces a “true blue” color.

The ancient world produced blue roses by placing a blue dye into the bark of the roots. Today we dye white roses blue. Most attempts to hybridize result in a lilac color, such as Blue Moon. Burling Leong and I had a short discussion about blue roses and she said she would send me two of them, Blue For You and Blue Eyes.

In some cultures, “blue” roses are associated with royalty. They stand for regal majesty and splendor. Because blue roses are rare, they can symbolize mystery and longing to obtain the impossible. The holder of such a rose could even have a wish come true.

Starting in June and continuing to October 1st, at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, there is an exhibit on “Flower Power”. It uses six blooms: the lotus, the plum blossom, the cherry blossom, the chrysanthemum, the tulip and the rose and explains their symbolism. More than decorative, floral imagery helps to convey ideas. There might even be a blue rose in the exhibit. Be sure not to miss it!

After 13 years of experiments with a white rose, in 2004 scientists in two companies, Florigene from Australia and Suntory in Japan, introduced a rose containing the blue pigment delphinidin. The companies call it a blue rose, but it is really lavender or mauve. In these experiments with genetic engineering, two genes were added to interfere with a rose gene. The first added gene was from a blue plant pigment delphinidin cloned from a pansy with the purplish red Old Garden rose, “Cardinal de Richelieu”. The second step was to block color production with a protein. However, the rose petals were more acidic than pansy petals so the rose lavender color was not blocked. They hope by traditional breeding or genetic engineering to make the rose less acidic.

In 2010, Suntory sold 10,000 “Applause” blue roses in Japan. Each single rose stem cost $22 to $35! Suntory North American sales of this rose started in the fall of 2011. It is not listed in the ARS Handbook 2017 for Selecting Roses. A long discussion on the internet under ‘Suntory blue rose’ says it is not available in the U.S. today except through florists, but a German reseller carries a similar rose, “Blue Bayou”. It can be ordered by contacting: This rose has rust, mildew, and Thrip problems and can’t take heat but is cold hardy.

Midnight Blue Much to my surprise, I found the above two hybrid roses for sale on Amazon Home internet site. They are available by seed. There are instructions for growing them and gardeners are forewarned that some level of previous experience comes in handy. They recommend being aware of soil, sun, ph, water and pests. Planting in a location with partial sun and moderate watering, these should turn into hardy roses. Loam soil with a ph between 4.5 and 8.0 is ideal. Sow seeds by spacing 1.6 feet, at a depth of .25 inches. Sow at least 35 days before your last frost date. These are shrub or bush roses that grow to a height of 3 feet. So if the seeds work, breeders have succeeded in producing a truly blue rose!

P.S. I’m still not convinced. To the left is another photo of Midnight Blue from the Internet Images files. What do you think? Have the breeders succeeded? Are their advertising photos tinted?

References: Wikipedia, Burling Leong, Suntory website, Amazon Prime, Amazon Home, Amazon Folia Websites.
Photo of Ebb Tide by Joan Goff
Photo of Midnight Blue is from Blomidon Nurseries









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