Bee's Knees
Miniature Rose, Yellow Blend, Keith Zary, 1998
By Kitty Belendez, Master Rosarian

Jackson & Perkins (Bear Creek Gardens) is one of the largest rose growers in the world. Over the past 125 years they have been fortunate to employ a string of highly successful rose hybridizers who have produced many wonderful roses. Gene Boerner who specialized in floribundas, Bill Warriner (an assortment of floribundas and hybrid tea roses), and Jack Christensen (known for hybrid teas but also developed floribundas) being among the elite. The current chief hybridizer (now known as Director of Research) is Dr. Keith Zary. Keith appears to have a love and appreciation for all types of roses. Some of his recent introductions include the hybrid teas 'Veterans' Honor' and 'Gemini', the floribunda 'Fabulous', the climber 'Dream Weaver', and the shrub 'Watermelon Ice' to name but a few. He has also dabbled in minis including 'Hot Tamale' and 'Raspberry Punch.'

Around 1998 Jackson & Perkins featured in their retail catalog a miniature rose named 'Bees Knees' that was hybridized by Keith Zary. Some plants were sold that year, but for whatever reason 'Bees Knees' disappeared from the J & P catalog after that. Not many people remember it. In fact, I have received the J&P catalog every year for about 18 years, and I don't remember ever seeing 'Bees Knees' at all. It seemed to disappear off the face of the Earth.

Peter Alonso (who at the time lived in Glendale, California) was one of the few people who purchased a plant of 'Bees Knees' from J&P that year. Peter is known as a collector of mini roses and grows many very unusual and-hard-to-find varieties. The following year, Peter relocated to Texas and brought most of his potted miniature roses with him. He found it very difficult to grow roses in the severe weather conditions of Texas. 

However, most of his roses survived, and a few years later Peter and his wife Robin relocated once again back to California where growing conditions for roses are kinder. He again brought his potted mini roses with him, but this time State Agricultural officials required that Peter heavily drench his plants several times with insecticides before he could bring them back to California. His minis were not happy with the chemical warfare they were subjected to.

Within a year, Peter's roses began to revive and one miniature in particular stood out among the others. Peter's keen eye for good minis lighted up when he noticed that the beautiful yellow with red edging 'Bees Knees' had much potential for the garden as well as the exhibition table. As his 'Bees Knees' began to recuperate, Peter brought specimens to the rose shows and touted its potential. 

It wasn't long before the rose exhibitors took notice and were scrambling to find out where they could get plants of 'Bees Knees', too. One minor problem: no commercial vendor was growing or selling it at that time. But, word began to spread, cuttings were shared, and people are beginning to grow 'Bees Knees' again. There has been some interested from small commercial growers, and the hope is that 'Bees Knees' would soon be available for everyone to grow. 

Eventually Bee's Knees became widely available and grown during the 2000's and it became a top exhibition miniature rose and a favorite of many rosarians.

'Bees Knees' has beautiful spiraled exhibition form on a bloom that blends beautifully from a golden yellow in the center to a blended red on the petal edges. The bush is huge. Really huge! A good 3 feet wide by 3 feet tall, and more, so give it plenty of space. (Perhaps the large bush size is the reason J&P discontinued marketing this mini rose.) The bush is covered continually with dozens of perfectly formed blooms on long stems. The semi-glossy foliage is disease resistant. Apparently, 'Bees Knees' is not patented, although the name is trademarked.

The form and color of Bee's Knees is not stable. The form can range from quite ugly to exquisite. The color varies and has produced a number of sports that were discovered by Peter Alonso: Erin Alonso a pure yellow, and Josh Alonso an orange blend miniature rose.

© Copyright Kitty Belendez. All rights reserved.

This article was originally published in "Rose Ecstasy," bulletin of Santa Clarita Valley Rose Society, Kitty Belendez, Editor.

Photos © Copyright by Kitty Belendez

For questions about Santa Clarita Valley Rose Society, contact:
Kitty Belendez

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Updated January 7, 2016

'Bee's Knees' (center) shown with its sports 'Erin Alonso' (yellow) and 'Josh Alonso' (orange/russet)
Photo by Peter Alonso
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