The long awaited major update to the American Rose Society's compendium of roses, Modern Roses 11, was published late this spring. This book, in combination with the Combined Rose List edited by Beverly Dobson and Peter Schneider, are the 2 main sources used by growers, exhibiters and judges who are looking for accurate descriptions of rose varieties. The descriptions include name, pseudonyms, breeder, year introduced, parents, class, and description of appearance and growth. For the first time, Modern Roses now comes with a computer CD containing a searchable database of these rose varieties and their characteristics.
This is great news for those of us who like to be able to find out such things as what varieties were bred by Pedro Dot or what varieties have Crimson Glory as a seed or pollen parent. The bad news is that they made it unnecessarily difficult to search and made no provision for saving or printing the results of your search. Despite the fact that it is a Windows application (not available in Mac format), you cannot copy the results of searches to the Window's clipboard for later use.
The first choice you have after the start screen is to 'View Specific Variety". This choice lets you put in part or a cultivar's entire name to find its information. This could be its exhibition name, registered name or code name. You can search for Exact Match, Starts With or Contains. Use a small portion of the name for the search if you're uncertain of the spelling. Be aware that it will not find exact matches for names that have foreign characters in them like ô, é, ü if you use o,e,u instead. You could type the name using the foreign character in your word processor and cut and paste it into the search box, but that's time consuming.
The next four choices involve searching for a variety by its characteristics of Description, Name, Parents or Awards. A fair amount of flexibility is available in the searches by description. Some of the choices under description are class color or hybridizer. You must choose in the second column whether you want only results that are exactly equal to your keyword, contain the keyword or start with it. In general, choose the "contains" option, since you can't be certain of how their data is listed. A great improvement would have been drop-down lists of choices. For example, when searching by class, the full list of classes should show up for you to choose from. You can combine up to 3 search keys into one search. For example, one could search for "hybridizer contains Brownell" and "color contains red" and class contains climber" and get a list of Creeping Everbloom, Dr. Burt, Everblooming Pillar #73, Harvest Glow, Rhode Island Red and Scarlet Sensation. On that results list, you can click to the left of the variety's name and then click "view" at the bottom of the page to be brought to it's descriptive page. There are photos for some of the roses, but only a limited number. From that page, hit "return" to go back to your search list to choose another to view. This technique works only for Description searches. For some unknown reason, if you use the search function under the View Specific Variety, Name, Parents or Awards choices, you cannot return to the list of roses you just found to choose a second or third one to view. The program returns you instead to a blank search screen, making it necessary to redo the entire search for each rose you want to see.
If you do a little amateur rose breeding, the Search Parents function is great. You can search separately for seed or pollen parents. So, if you have a couple of favorite roses that you want to cross; you might want to see if either of them is known to be fertile as a parent. Some roses have fertile pollen but will not set seed well. So search these fields separately when making your determination.
The final 3 choices on the menu are Classifications, Colors, and Breeders. These are not search categories; clicking on them returns a list of all breeders etc. To find all the roses bred by someone, you must use the Search Description function mentioned above.
The MR11 CD database was written in Microsoft Access 97. If you wish to use it as a full-fledged database with all of enormous capabilities of Access, it will not be easy. Briefly, copy the file mrosesxi.mdb from the CD to a new directory on your computer (name it MR11). Right click on this, choose properties, and uncheck read-only. It can now be read by Microsoft Access 97 or read and converted by Access 2000. This file contains the 12 separate databases used in MR11. It is necessary to use SQL, database structured query language, to fully use these. That is because 2 different ID numbers are used for the same rose depending on which of the 12 databases you use. Since this gets quite technical and is probably only interesting to a few; I recommend looking at the thread "Use of Modern Roses XI CD" on the Rose Hybridizers Forum at http://tgpnet.com/brd2000/nb2290/view.pl?board=nb2290. In this Henry Kuska and Jim Turner give instructions in correlating the ID numbers and in setting up very useful ancestry queries.
MR11 and its CD are valuable tools, though quite pricey. It should be mentioned that the CD was a volunteer effort and most certainly took a great deal of time and effort. There will undoubtedly be a great deal of input from interested rosarians that will affect its next update.
Ordering information for the Modern Roses 11 book and CD are at http://ars.org/forms/MR-XI-Orders.html on the ARS site. MR11 is $99.95 plus shipping, or $89.95 for ARS members. You cannot order the CD separately. I am told that updates to the CD will be periodically available, presumably at no cost, for those who have purchased MR11.
If all you need is a list of registered and unregistered roses, with their class and year of introduction, for use in exhibiting, get the Combined Rose List. You can order the Combined Rose List for $20, the info can be found at http://www.combinedroselist.com/ . It has a feature not found in MR11, that is, a listing of the nurseries where each cultivar can be ordered.
If you're looking for basic information and do not wish to purchase anything, try the two on-line databases I discussed in a previous column: HelpMeFind.com and Everyrose.com. Go to HelpMeFind.com at http://www.helpmefind.com/sites/rrr/sltlist.html or Everyrose.com at http://www.everyrose.com/everyrose/index.lasso.