Miniflora Rose Review
All photos by Kitty Belendez
Miniflora roses are not new, nor are they likely to disappear in the near future. "Mini-flora" is a term that was originally coined and trademarked by J. Benjamin Williams of Silver Spring, Maryland, a noted rose hybridizer. In 1999, the American Rose Society (ARS) adopted the Mini-flora as a new rose classification and through Ben's generosity; he donated the trademark and the use of the Mini-flora name to the ARS. Another trademarked name for these roses was Maxi-Minis by Gene King of Louisiana; however ARS opted for the Mini-flora title. Currently, the ARS defines a Mini-flora as "those roses whose leaf structure and leaf morphology and bloom structure are essentially smaller than a Floribunda but larger than the typical Miniature."
In 2009 the ARS decided to change the name "Mini-Flora" to simplify "miniflora" for consistency with other classes such as "floribunda," and "grandiflora" so they removed the hyphen. We have therefore removed the hyphen in the word "miniflora" in some instances throughout this article.
The term "Mini-flora" is not new. In 1982, Star Roses used the Mini-flora (or miniflora) name to hype one of their new rose series from Meilland, the Sunblazes. The Sunblaze series had larger than average blooms but on low plants that were still somewhat miniature in size. The Sunblazes never reached the popularity in America as they did in other parts of the world. I still grow Lady Sunblaze (1986, lp) and Orange Sunblaze (1982, or). They are quite happy planted among their taller miniature cousins.
England, Australia, and New Zealand have their "Patio" roses which are similar to the minifloras. Larger blooms and plants that were ideal for growing in pots. Since Englanders typically have very small yards, the Patio rose was perfect for their gardens. This term is not used exclusively for large Miniatures, but for any type of rose that fits well on a patio, such as Polyanthas, small Shrubs, etc. Angela Rippon (1978, mp) was one of the first popular Patio roses in England, and is still popular today. Others include Anna Ford (1980, ob), Brass Ring (aka Peek A Boo, 1981, ob), Clarissa (1982, ab), Sweet Magic (1986, ob), and Baby Love (1992, dy).
Roses that now qualify as minifloras have been around for quite some time but there wasn't a classification available for these in-between roses. So most of these roses were classified either as a floribunda or miniature. In a similar move, the ARS created a new class in 1955 for the grandifloras, which was for those roses in-between a hybrid tea and a floribunda, which the rose industry called "Flora-Teas."
There are other roses that do not fit any particular classification, such as Micro-minis. The splitting of the rambler class has caused a lot of confusion, and groundcovers are a new marketing idea that has become very popular, although they tend to have a rambler background. I would expect to see some movement on these roses in the near future.
Miniflora roses were created largely through the breeding of large roses with miniatures. Dee Bennett and Herb Zipper were two of the first breeders of miniflora roses. Herb called his roses "Rubinesque." They were large miniature rose blooms on a large plant. The first ones I recall were Mama Mia (1986, mp), Bella Via (1991, w), Belissima (1988, or), Limerick (1991, rb), and Love Note (1990, pb). Herb used the deep red Floribunda Tamango (1967) as a seed parent. About the same time, Dee Bennett of Chula Vista, CA, was using the Hybrid Teas Futura (1975) and Electron (1970) as seed parents. Many of her miniature roses were quite large and many have been reclassed as minifloras, such as Cream Puff (1981, pb), Dilly Dilly (1985, m), Madeline Spezzano (1985, mp), Gail (1986, pb), Yantai (1989, yb), Violet Mist (1993, m), and Quiet Time (1995, m).
Minifloras did not take off in popularity right away. The first miniflora to be noticed was the AOE winner Autumn Splendor (1999, yb). In my yard this is a large mini climber growing to six feet with large blooms. In cooler climates the plant and bloom are much smaller, but still larger than most miniatures.
In America, one rose was the epitome of the miniflora class and that was Tiffany Lynn (1985, pb) by Nelson Jolly. Everything is large about this rose, and it has good show form. An equally good sport is Tiffany Lite (1998, w), which won Queen at the Cleveland national in 2001.
Today, there are three hybridizers that are creating some excellent minifloras that are making America notice: Robbie Tucker of Thompsons Station, Tennessee, Verlie (Whit) Wells of Brighton, Tennessee, and David Clemons of Grant, Alabama.
Robbie Tucker is the current leader in creating miniflora roses. When his first "big" miniature rose, the white Cachet, won the best seedling class at Minneapolis National Convention in 1996 and won the Miniature Queen at the next convention in Shreveport the next year, he started to produce a long string of minifloras with good exhibition form. Cachet was followed by Amy Grant (1998, lp), Ferrin (2000, mp), the Table Mountain look-a-like Lady E'owyn (2000, pb), Roxie (2001, op), Dolores Marie (2001, m), Checkmate (2002, rb), Conundrum (2002, yb), Aliena (2003, yb), Providence (2003, my), and the Queen at the recent All-Mini Convention in Fort Worth, Texas, Class of '73 (2003, pb). He has two new miniflora introductions that promise to show well: Luscious Lucy (2004, m) and Nemesis (2004, rb).
Whit Wells has produced many fine miniflora roses that most people do not know. Louisville Lady (2003, dp) and Memphis King (2004, dr) are two of his minifloras that have already won at rose shows. Others that show good promise are Spring's A Comin' (2001, pb), Wonderful (2003, pb), Simply Beautiful (2003, m), Rocky Top (2004, or), Tennessee Sunrise (2004, ob) and Tennessee Sunset (2004, yb). He also has some uniquely colored minifloras we hope he will introduce soon, including a show stopper at the Fort Worth All-Mini Convention nicknamed Half-Breed. The bloom is half gold and half burgundy.
David Clemons names his Mini-flora roses after race horses. He is also the first rose hybridizer that we can recall to have won Miniature Queen, King, and Princess at a rose show with his own creations. His roses include Ruffian (2000, op), Charismatic (2003, rb), and Foolish Pleasure (2003, pb). He also has some promising seedlings that should be available soon.
Recognizing this new class, the ARS has established several national trophies at their National and All-Mini Rose conventions. The national J. Benjamin Williams Mini-flora Rose Challenge Trophy calls for 10 Mini-flora roses, either 10 of one variety or two of five varieties, in separate containers. For the All-Mini convention there are two trophies, both donated and named for Ben; one is a collection of five different minifloras and the other is a miniflora arrangement, designer choice, under 10 inches.
There are some other excellent miniflora roses that are making their way on the show table and in gardens, Butter Cream (2004, my) by Bob Martin, Liberty Bell (2003, rb) by Frank Benardella, and my personal favorite, Dr. John Dickman (2002, m), by Dennis Bridges.
Judging miniflora roses has caused some problems. Often judged with miniature roses, they can also have a separate Miniflora class at local rose shows. National and district shows are required to have miniflora roses as a separate class. There are specific ARS certificates for the Miniflora Queen, King, and Princess. The Guidelines for Judging Roses are confusing because they state Mini-floras (minifloras) should be judged according to Hybrid Tea standards, except for size.
Whether the miniflora rose class will be here in the future is anyone's guess. Maybe one day they will disappear into the other classes like the grandifloras. However, they are here today and are making a pretty strong argument to remain.
© Copyright Steve Jones. All rights reserved.
This article is an ARS Award of Merit Winner, originally published in "Rose Ecstasy," bulletin of Santa Clarita Valley Rose Society, Kitty Belendez, Editor.
Photos © Copyright by Kitty Belendez
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