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This article was published 6/8/2010 (3705 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
MORDEN -- Roses are red, violets are blue, Morden once bred the hardiest, most beautiful roses in Canada,
Now that's no longer true.
The Prairie Joy, the Morden Sunrise, the Morden Snow Beauty, the Cuthbert Grant and the Hope for Humanity.
Or how about this name for a rose: the Morden Fireglow.
They were all developed in the world-famous rose-breeding program at the federal experimental farm in Morden.
It's wrapping up now. This is the last year for the program that has bred hardier, more colourful, more frequent blooming roses for nearly 80 years.
Ottawa made its decision two years ago, determining the $350,000 it spends yearly on breeding roses would give better returns in grain research.
That's what "stakeholders" of Agriculture Canada want, the federal government says, after it held talks across the country. "In those consultations, ornamentals didn't score very high," said Campbell Davidson, research manager of the Canadian Agricultural Research Centre in Swift Current, Sask.
People here do an eye-roll when you repeat this government argument.
So Ottawa put the Morden rose research material up for private bids. A consortium of local nurseries and concerned citizens bid for the material with one proviso, that a privatized program stay in Morden. It lost.
The Canadian Nursery Landscape Association won. Davidson would only say the CNLA had a better plan for continuing the research. The CNLA plans to hold trials across Canada on research started in Morden.
Roses are part of Morden's identity. There's a statue in the civic centre's rose garden of Henry Marshall, an amateur gardener from Brandon who made the rose program at the Morden Research Station into a powerhouse. Marshall, cross-breeding with wild roses he dug out of ditches, oversaw the introduction of over 40 new rose varieties, including the Parkland series.
"The Parkland series of roses is one of the biggest advancements in horticulture in Canada," said Nancy Penner, an executive of the Morden Horticultural Society. The reason is it allowed roses to be grown in all Canada's growing zones.
Some people say it's unfair to blame the cuts entirely on the Harper government. Mel Reimer, former spokesman for the research centre, said horticulture research was targeted for funding cuts dating back to the 1980s under the Mulroney government. A hefty cut followed in the mid-1990s as part of the Chrétien government's deficit fight.
Most people probably don't even know roses are all that remains of Morden's horticultural research program. The breeding of fruit trees, shrubs and flowers like lilies have been gone for years. But the rose program was always the research station's crown jewel.
Just grain research will remain. The research centre will still keep display gardens for tourists.
The government is hopeful private enterprise will fund new rose research. But if there isn't enough return in it for government, what can be expected from the private sector?
Breeding new roses takes a very long time. "Let's face it, original research is expensive and it may or may not pay off," said John Wiens, Morden's former mayor who led efforts to keep the program in Morden.
But there are returns from horticultural research. A new variety creates excitement -- and sales -- for nurseries.
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