University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Summer News Article


Dr. Leonard P. Perry, Extension Professor

If you garden in a cold, northern climate, and like roses, have you considered the Canadian Explorer series?  Or if you have some, have you wondered just who these explorers were?

This series of about 22 cultivars was bred from the 1960's through the 1990's, at the agriculture research stations first at Ottawa, Ontario and later at l'Assomption, Quebec.  They were bred to withstand the cold Canadian winters, with parents either rugosas or Kordesii hybrids (the latter being bred in the late 1940's in Germany).

Most are variations of reds and pinks.  Although most don't bloom continuously, as the less hardy hybrid teas and some other series, many do have repeat blooms.  The following selections from this series can be placed in three main groups-the long cane or climbers, rugosas, and shrub roses.

Among those with long canes that arch, or can be trained as climbers, is William Baffin.  Bred in 1983, it has deep pink, double, and fragrant blooms. This British arctic explorer, in expeditions in 1615-16, was sent to find the supposed Northwest Passage across the New World for seafarers to more quickly reach the spice market of the orient.

Henry Kelsey is another long cane rose, bred in 1981, with some disease resistance.  It has medium red, semi-double, fragrant flowers that usually repeat bloom.  This rose's namesake was the first inland explorer for the Hudson's Bay Company in the late 1600's.  Other long cane selections include Captain Samuel Holland, John Cabot, and John Davis.

The rugosa roses have fairly unique multi-part or compound leaves, usually a rich green, and usually many thorns.  David Thompson is a rugosa in this series, bred in 1979 with deep pink, double, and fragrant flowers.  It is one of my favorites as it is one of the few with continuous blooms through the summer. This explorer was a famous fur trader, and geographer, in the late 1700s and early 1800s.

Henry Hudson is a name most recognize for the river in New York and bay north of Ontario that he explored in the 1600's, once again in search of a Northwest Passage.  The rose by this name, another rugosa, was bred in 1976 and has white, double, and very fragrant flowers.

Martin Frobisher was another English explorer looking for the Northwest Passage, only in the late 1500's.  The rugosa rose with his name, bred in 1968, has light pink flowers, semi-double, fragrant, and repeats well.  Other rugosa roses in this series include Charles Albanel and Jens Munk.

Most of the Explorer roses are classified as shrub types.  Champlain is my favorite, although the least hardy.  Bred in 1981, its flowers are dark red, semi-double, and fragrant.  This famous explorer in the 1600's of "New France," now roughly Quebec, has a large lake named after him.

George Vancouver was an Englishman who, in the late 1700's, explored the coasts of British Columbia and proved there was no Northwest Passage.  Most know his name from the large city.  This more recent shrub rose, bred in 1994, has good disease resistance.  It has medium red flowers that are double and repeat bloom.

Adelaide Hoodless is the only woman honored in this series, and was not actually an explorer.  She was a visionary social reformer in Canada during the Victorian period, and established many women's organizations.  The shrub rose by this name was bred in 1973 with medium red, semi-double flowers.

Other red shrub roses in this series include Alex MacKenzie and John Franklin. Pink shrub roses include Frontenac, Lambert Closse, Louis Jolliet, Prairie Joy, Royal Edward, and Simon Fraser.  The shrub rose J.P. Connell is the only light yellow in the series, and also is named for one of the few non-explorers in this series.

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