Roses Are Plants Too!

What Do Those Code Names On Roses Mean And Are They Useful?

A site like Help Me Find Roses is a great source to find out the different trade names roses are sold under and then where you can purchase them. The Rose Flamenco is part of the Biltmore Garden Rose Collection”.
A site like Help Me Find Roses is a great source to find out the different trade names roses are sold under and then where you can purchase them. The Rose Flamenco is part of the Biltmore Garden Rose Collection”.

At some point when you were buying roses and looked at the name on the tag or in the catalog you probably saw a series of letters that seemingly made little sense.  They looked something like this;

That code is known as the ICRAR code or International Cultivar Registration Authority for Roses.  When a rose breeder has a new rose they think might be good enough to sell to the public they register it with the ICRAR. But they don’t use a trade name like Home Run or The Knockout Rose; instead they use a code name.
The reason for this is because quite often the nursery introducing the rose prefers to give it their own trade name for marketing purposes.  If a rose arrived with a name deemed “unmarketable” it might hurt its chances of ever being released to the public.  Therefor the breeder leaves it up to the nursery of introduction to decide the trade name.
For you the important part of the code is the first part usually in all CAPS. This is a unique code assigned to a rose breeder by the ICRAR. It can be three, four or even five letters and is usually made up from the breeder’s last name or the name of the company they work for.
In the case of BEAdonald it was bred by Peter Beales Roses in the UK.  Therefore the start of the breeder code is BEA which are the first three letters of the last name. In the United States this rose is sold under the name Flamenco (its Trade Name) and is listed;
Flamenco (BEAdonald)
The Knockout Rose was bred by Bill Radler and its ICRAR registration name is RADrazz with RAD being the first three letters of Mr. Radler’s last name. 
Another outstanding rose breeder recently retired is Tom Carruth who worked for Weeks Roses.  But because he was employed by Weeks his roses are registered under the company name.  For example Mr.Carruth bred the rose Home Run and it’s registration code is WEKcisbako. 
So when you are shopping for roses these registration codes are a valuable clue for knowing who bred the rose.  To which you are probably asking why is that valuable!
Two reasons.  The first is not as likely to be encountered so I’ll be brief.  Quite often when roses are sold in a country different from the one in which they were bred, they get different names more marketable for that country.  For example Flamenco in the UK is known as Ivor’s Rose.  But the names are displayed this way.
Flamenco (BEAdonald)
Ivor’s Rose (BEAdonald)
Always having the ICRAR registration name means you never accidentally run the risk of buying that rose twice or even more so if you are drooling over it in a catalogue from overseas you can quickly find out if it is sold in America under a different name and order it!
There is one other aspect to this I feel is quite valuable when buying roses and this is the one I want to focus on.
The good rose breeders all have a constant style and theme to their breeding.  Because of this if you like one or two of their roses and they perform well for you chances are good the rest of their rose “catalog” will also appeal to you and perform well in your area.
Think of a musician.  I’m a fan of Bruce Springsteen.  His latest album is Wrecking Ball.  Had I just seen the name Wrecking Ball on iTunes without Bruce’s name I might have passed it over.  However, when I see Wrecking Ball by Bruce Springsteen I clicked the buy button before I even blink!  Why, because I have everything else he likes and knew I would like this one.
Same with roses be a certain breeder.  So start focusing a little on those breeder codes in the ICRAR registration names.  Learn who the breeder is of roses you like and then use the website Help Me Find Roses to search roses by your favorite breeder, find out who sells them and then add them to your own garden.
Rose Breeders are true artists and like all artists I personally think it’s time we start to know who they are and focus on their entire body of work.  The late Jack Harkness wrote a terrific book about rose breeder’s titled “The Maker’s Of Heavenly Roses”.  That’s the best description I’ve ever heard given to these unsung heroes of the rose world.
Happy Roseing


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  1. jeffkoelewyn 09/02/2017

    the naming of roses in particular is a joke
    The actual variety names eg BEAdonald have been denigrated to the point where they are now given the title of "code" because that is all they now are
    Certainly the public and very few growers will know these roses by their actual names ie variety (now called code)
    Is it merely a coincidence that the "variety" names are now forgettable but the trade marks are very pretty memorable names (that were once domain of the actual variety names)
    The use of trade marks effectively gives the trade mark holders perpetual control of the names that these plants become known by ie genericised trade marks
    A couple of well known trade marks ie Iceberg and Peace have been so heavily genericised that they are now accepted as variety names worldwide (certainly in Australia)
    The roses become known by their trade marks which effectively makes these trade marks invalid
    I presume that you understand that trade marks are adjectives that identify the producer and not the product which is a noun ie the variety name
    I can direct you to several sites which support what I say
    Namely The INTA ie The International Trade Mark Association
    Also please take the time to read the article Name that Plant The misuse of Trade Marks in Horticulture by Tony Avent
    yours sincerely

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