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The Reagan roses

These new Jackson & Perkins creations could be winners at first blush

Jackson & Perkins Co. has honored presidents and other luminaries with commemorative rose varieties for several decades.

The latest of a long line that includes Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Billy Graham and Cesar Chavez are roses for Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan. They'll be available via catalog and the Internet this fall.

The Ronald Reagan rose is a hybrid tea with red petals and a white reverse. As the blooms unfurl, the red deepens and blooms finish with a deep-blue tint on the edge with white underneath. The Nancy Reagan rose, also a hybrid tea, has large, 5-inch blooms of deep apricot color that slowly lighten.

The two varieties were from a selection of more than 20 presented to the former first lady, who made the final choices.

We reviewed (the Ronald Reagan rose) back in 2000, says Mike Cady, Jackson & Perkins horticulturist for direct marketing. At that time we loved it so much that we knew we would introduce it at some point. We coined it the All-American rose, because of the red, white and a hint of blue at the end. When the opportunity came up, we approached Nancy Reagan and she was delighted with it. She had good taste and picked the same ones we picked as definitely outstanding.

The Bear Creek Corp. subsidiary boasts the largest breeding program in the industry and rolls out an average of six to 10 new roses annually. It wholesales more than 200 varieties and between 70 and 100 of those are sold through its direct marketing network.

The hybrid seeds for the Reagan varieties were sown more than a decade ago as part of Jackson & Perkins' perpetual advancement of its growing stock.

Cady said the Ronald Reagan rose was originally seeded by a hybridizer back in 1992 and the variety remains in limited production for 2003. It takes a minimum supply of 4,000 to 5,000 to handle catalog sales.

With a name like this, it is going to sell quite well, says Cady, a 17-year veteran with Jackson & Perkins. Quite frankly, I'd like to have more available than we do.

Once a variety is launched for wholesale there needs to be a base of 20,000 to 30,000 plants available.

It can take seven to 10 years before we really decide if a rose is worth offering to the public, Cady says. We take into consideration disease resistance, how healthy and strong it is, whether the bloom is unique and novel, its fragrance and if it has good form. All these things are evaluated over the years.

Jackson & Perkins has earmarked 10 percent of its sales to benefit the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, which sustains the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, the Center for Public Affairs and the Presidential Learning Center.

The roses retail for &

36;24.95 or &

36;59.95 for three of one variety.

Jackson & Perkins has introduced the hybrid Ronald, left, and Nancy Reagan roses, which will be available soon by catalog and the Internet. Mail Tribune / Jim Craven - Mail Tribune Jim Craven