Explorer Series Roses

Explorer roses are a series of hardy roses that were developed at the agriculture research station in Ottawa, Ontario and later at l’Assumption, Quebec. The primary goal with this breeding program was to introduce roses that combined the hardiness and disease resistance of old roses with the floral characteristics of modern roses. Starting in the early 1960’s and through the 1990’s, under the direction of Felicitas Svejda, the Explorer rose series was born. These new roses were bred for hardiness, disease resistance and repeat blooming. The initial work utilized Rosa rugosa hybrids that exhibited high petal counts, long blooming habits, and cold resistance. As the breeding work evolved, Rosa kordessii, a German introduction, was used to improve disease resistance, increase hardiness, and develop climbing characteristics. Finally hybrid teas and floribunda roses were used to add flower quality and repeat blooming. The extensive breeding work has forever changed rose gardening in cold climates.

Explorer roses were developed in Canada and named to honour Canadian explorers that survived many hardships through their exploration of uncharted territories.  This series includes low growing groundcover roses, upright shrub roses, and climbing roses. These extremely hardy, easy care shrubs are grown on their own roots.  Here are the reasons Explorer roses have endeared themselves to gardeners in cold climates:

  • They are bred to be highly resistant to black spot, mildew and rust diseases
  • They produce flowers throughout the growing season with the biggest displays in June and again in September. Repeat bloomers. 
  • They are hardy to at least zone 3, and some are hardy to zone 2.  Some winter injuries may occur during tough winters but their root survival is excellent and the new growth in the spring is quick.  These new shoots will produce flowers the same season.
  • They are salt tolerant; excellent for use in commercial plantings as well as home gardens

Explorer Roses:

Red Flowering Varieties:

Alexander Mackenzie                    Captain Samuel Holland                                Champlain

Charles Albanel                                 David Thompson                              George Vancouver

Henry Kelsey                                     John Cabot                                         John Franklin

Nicolas                                                  Quadra                                                 William Booth

Pink Flowering Varieties:

De Montarville                                  Frontenac                                           Jens Munk

John Davis                                           Lambert Closse                                 Louis Jolliet

Marie-Victorin                                   Martin Frobisher                              Royal Edward                                    

Simon Fraser                                      William Baffin

White Flowering Varieties:

Henry Hudson                                  

Yellow Flowering Varieties:

J.P Connell