For over forty years rose breeders have been intrigued by the possibility of producing a repeat-blooming rose with a red blotch in the center. The inspiration for this endeavor is the plant Hulthemia persica, syn Rosa persica, native to the desert and steppes of Iran and the surrounding area. It hybridizes with other roses so can be bred with ‘true’ roses to produce a unique new plant in the same way that a donkey has been crossed with both a horse and a donkey to produce a mule and zonkey.
Hulthemia roses are once blooming, sprawling, thorny plants that differ from true roses in three ways; they have simple rather than compound leaves, lack a bract at the base of their leaf stems, and have a red blotch in the center of their flowers. This last characteristic is what breeders have found irresistible but the challenge does not stop with the blotch. Repeat bloom, large flowers, an attractive habit, and disease resistance are all desirable characteristics that are important for commercial success.
Jack Harkness introduced four hybrid Hulthemias in the mid to late 80s but they were once blooming and not a commercial success. One of Harkness’ introductions, ‘Tigris’ proved to be very valuable as a parent for future crosses and other breeders entered the race to produce a commercially successful Hulthemias. In 2005/6 American breeder Ralph Moore introduced six hulthemias each with the first name ‘Persian’. A year later Harkness in the UK brought out several hulthemias but none of them were available in the US.
More recently in 2012 American hybridizer Jim Sproul working in Bakersfield, California, introduced his line of hulthemia hybrids called Eyeconics. His ‘Eyeconic Lemonade’ has four inch wide yellow flowers with a red-eye on a reblooming plant five feet tall and his ‘Eyeconic Pink Lemonade’ has smaller, light pink flowers with a deep pink eye on a similar plant. Both ‘Eyeconics’ are said to do well in the West where black spot is not a problem. Meanwhile, Peter James of the UK, presented ‘Bull’s Eye’ with two to three inch creamy ivory flowers with a cranberry eye on a spreading four to six foot bush. Many more hulthemia hybrids are available in Europe and could make their way to US shores if popularity demanded.