Santa Maria hybridization expert to talk about creating new kinds of offspring
Let’s skip the birds and get right to the bees as Kim Rupert discusses romance.
The Santa Maria resident, 64, has created thousands of new rose species through hybridization — the pairing of different roses to create a new flower as their offspring.
He stressed that despite what you might have heard, hybridization doesn’t require difficult steps or major expenses such as a greenhouse.
“If you want to have fun, keep it cheap and simple,” Mr. Rupert said during an interview this week at the News-Press office.
“Let’s face it. Down and dirty sex is the best, isn’t it?” he added with a grin. “Go put on your bee suit and go pollinate.”
Mr. Rupert will discuss easy ways to hybridize during “Romance in the Garden — A Rosy Valentine’s Day Party.”
His free talk will take place during the Santa Barbara Rose Society’s monthly meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Trinity Lutheran Church Fellowship Hall, 909 N. La Cumbre Road.
Refreshments and cookies will be served. A vase exchange will also be held so participants can swap theirs with others.
Mr. Rupert will explain how new roses are created through the romance between the male pollen of one rose and the female pistil of another through the hybridizer’s tiny paintbrush.
“Mimic a bee,” he said as he described the process for the News-Press.
The result are seeds of brand-new roses.
“The biggest surprise is that it’s worked and that it’s been as easy as it has been,” said Mr. Rupert, who throws a bunch of seeds into soil in a 2-by-4-foot box with a screen on top to keep out birds. The strongest of the seeds prevail.
“I don’t waste my time with weaklings,” he said.
Mr. Rupert doesn’t sell his roses commercially but enjoys challenges such as attaining a desired color and fragrance.
Despite others’ efforts, he said no one has yet managed to create a blue rose. He said one attempt, “Applause,” turned out to be a lavender rose that was well received by consumers in Japan.
“It’s educated guesses, a lot of ‘what ifs.’ That’s the fun of it. What’s going to work?” said the Birmingham, Ala., native who retired in 2015 after careers in retail and nurseries. That’s the same year Mr. Rupert, who used to be a volunteer at The Huntington botanical gardens in the Pasadena area, and his husband moved to Santa Maria from Encino.
“I will take an old garden rose, something that’s been around since the middle of the 19th century, and cross it over with a miniature to see ‘what if,'” said Mr. Rupert, who earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing at Cal State Northridge in 1978. “What happens if you do this? What happens if you do that?”
Mr. Rupert has enjoyed success as he wrestled with the challenges of attaining desired colors and fragrances. For example, there’s “Lynnie,” one of his roses he will discuss during Thursday’s talk.
“Lynnie was my favorite aunt, and the rose is the color of the hot pink lipstick she wore when I was a kid,” Mr. Rupert said, referring to Lynn “Lynnie” Lula of Pittsburgh. “I named the rose posthumously, but I had the pleasure of telling her before she died that if I had not had my mother as my mother, I would have wanted her.”
He will discuss two of his other original roses — “Lauren,” a violet rose named after a San Diego friend’s daughter — and “Annie Laurie McDowell,” a pale pink rose named after a TV actress he knew.
“She (Ms. McDowell) was from Colorado and studied at the Pasadena Playhouse,” Mr. Rupert said. “She got a part on ‘The Alan Young Show’ before he starred in ‘Mr. Ed.’ She was his turquoise-eyed, platinum blonde girlfriend on the show.”
“She was effervescent, bubbling, even as a mature lady retiring after three children and the beginning of grandchildren,” Mr. Rupert said.
Ms. McDowell’s stage name was Candy McDowell, and she became Candy Craig after she got married.
“Dean, her husband, was the director of daytime programming for NBC in Los Angeles for a number of years. Dean passed away from prostate cancer, and Candy had been diagnosed with lung cancer,” Mr. Rupert said. “They (physicians) gave her three months, and she lived for 14.
“I was looking for a way to thank her because she had been a great friend,” Mr. Rupert said.
He showed her the new rose he created in her honor. He said the easy-to-maintain flower has a complex, intense scent that carries well.
A pleased Mrs. Craig gave him permission to name it “Annie Laurie McDowell.”
Today, Mr. Rupert said, he has several hundred potted black plastic nursery containers with roses in his backyard as he continues to experiment.
“You’re hoping to create something better.”
Santa Maria rose hybridizer Kim Rupert will give a talk during “Romance in the Garden — A Rosy Valentine’s Day Party” at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Trinity Lutheran Church Fellowship Hall, 909 N. La Cumbre Road. Refreshments and cookies will be served.
Those attending are welcome to bring rose plants and cut roses to share. A vase exchange will also be held so you can swap with others.
For more information, call society board member Linda Buzzell at 451-7695 or go to www.sbrose.org.