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New Zealander's rose wins Olympic contest

By Peter Tonge / June 10, 1983



Weymouth, Mass.

Strange as it might seem, a breeder of roses has just recorded the first triumph of the 1984 Olympic Games. International breeder Sam McGredy of New Zealand has had his most recent introduction named as the official rose for next year's Olympic Games in Los Angeles. He struck gold, so to speak, with Olympiad, a brilliant-red hybrid tea, that has also been given a 1984 award by All-America Rose Selections.

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The rose is one of three to be given the AARS award. The other two are, ''Intrigue,'' a plum-color floribunda, and ''Impatient,'' a floribunda with rich orange blooms.

Speaking for the Olympic Organizing Committee, Dan Greenwood announced in Los Angeles last week that the McGredy entry had taken first place in the Olympic competition, and it was thereupon named Olympiad.

For the rose, the road to Olympic honors is a long one, as it is for the athlete. The first of the numerous crosses that were to result in the winning entry was made by Mr. McGredy back in 1971. Olympiad's immediate parents are Red Planet and Pharaoh. Also in its ancestry are other roses of note: Red Devil, Prima Ballerina, Karl Herbst, and Soeur Theresa.

Henry Field, a nurseryman well known to Midwest radio listeners, used to say on his popular broadcasts: ''I'm not particular. I'll take any rose, provided it's red.'' Red is, indeed, a popular color, but not necessarily with rose judges, until Olympiad came along. It is, in fact, the first true red rose to received an AARS award since Mr. Lincoln was so honored 19 years ago.

Olympiad's blooms are a brilliant, clear crimson that are long lasting - both in the garden and on the cut flower. The flowers average 4 to 5 inches in diameter and appear either singly or in small clusters. Stems are long and sturdy, making the flowers ideal for cutting.

The plants average 3 to 5 feet in most localities, and the judges note that its repeat blooming cycles are enhanced if the old flowering stems are cut back by at least two-thirds. To simply remove the old flower head results in inferior rebloom, while severe cutting results in ''excellent quality rebloom,'' according to AARS judges.

Olympiad is Sam McGredy's fourth All-America winner. With two successes this year, Bill Warriner of Tustin, Calif., has notched a remarkable 11 AARS triumphs. Intrigue is a floribunda with a quite unique coloring. Black-to-purple buds open up to form 3-inch blooms that are a deep-plum color when fully mature.

Impatient is equally eye-catching, with its bright-orange flowers. The 3-inch blooms each contain 20 to 25 petals and give off a mild fragrance. The rose bears prolifically all year long. Even without flowers, Impatient's mahogany-color new leaves, which slowly age to deep green, make it an impressive ornamental.

Mr. Warriner obtained Impatient by crossing his well-known climbing rose, America, with an unknown seedling. Despite its parentage, Impatient displays no tendency to climb.

All three roses will go on sale to the general public in December.

Meanwhile, they can be seen in any of the All-America Rose Selections accredited gardens around the country. For a list of these 121 gardens write to All-America Rose Selections, PO Box 218, Shenandoah, Iowa 51601.

As the official Olympic rose, Olympiad will be featured in all the public gardens of Los Angeles. In addition, Armstrong Nurseries of Ontario, Calif., which is introducing the Olympic rose to North America, has donated 20,000 Olympiads to parks and gardens throughout the United States.