Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Last week I tested a fairly new variety "Black Finess", which for all intents and purposes resulted in a two thumbs down for the product. Normally when a product fails, I would not mention it, but rather would recommend that we do not sell it as it is flawed. In this case I would like to use the "Fail" to comment on a couple of issues raised by this rose.
First of all, it is pertinent to point out that there is no such rose as "Black Finess", at least not one that has been registered by a breeder. De Ruiters, the company that bred the original "Finess" and holds the rights to the Finess series does not acknowledge any such rose. This serves to highlight a tactic used not uncommonly by growers, and sometimes breeders, when they run into problems marketing a rose: Change the name. The rose that I tested has some beautiful characteristics, including a rich velvet sheen on the petals, a very attractive, fruity red color and a superb structure. However the rose is deeply flawed, with excessive "bronzing" on the guard petals and on the edges of some interior petals. This is not Botrytis cinerea, the fungus that is often seen in roses and which cause petals to turn brown and mushy, but a genetic flaw often exacerbated in cold weather. However, it is not attractive and presents an appearance of disease, which is almost as bad. If it could be limited to the guard petals it would be alright (as in the case of Black Magic), but this 'bronzing' is prevalent on interior petals. My suspicion is that this is a variety that surfaced 4 or 5 years ago called "Black Lava", which failed for the same reasons. Given that the rose showed so much promise, it could be that the growers who have it in the ground with, or without the collusion of the breeder, attempted to resurrect it, with a new 'hot' name.
One of the most famous name changes of late, is that of "Bloody Mary". This rose was going nowhere fast, as it was (and still is, in my opinion) rather pedestrian, with an old fashioned high-centered spiral shape. It appears the breeder, latching on to a massive wave of patriotism in the USA, adroitly switched the name to "Freedom". I don't think I need to say more.
While I do not recommend either "Black Finess" and/or "Black Lava", I would like to underline the fact that, as we go forwards to Valentine's Day, if you receive a rose with brown on the guard petals, do not automatically assume the worst. The easy test to see if it botrytis or bronzing is to gently rub the petal: If it feels dry (and occasionally some brown dust is released on to the fingers like rust) then it is the bronzing; if it feels moist and perhaps mushy it is probably fungus. In either case, remove the guard petals and review the rose further - if the damage persists it may be cause to alert your provider of a problem. Remember the guard petals are there to protect the flower from these very issues, so no judgement should be made until they are removed.

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