Just like people, roses have a family too. Some are distant relatives, others are truly next of kin. And just like with people, this is often visible in the name. Rose Red Piano, Rose Pink Piano, and Rose Bridal Piano for example. And Rose Romantic Antike, and Rose Caramel Antike. Besides the name, these rose come also with a similar shape and origin. Growers at the farm call these groups of roses strikingly 'sister groups' as they are born from the same family of roses.
Mutations in the fields
Once a rose has been planted at the test fields of the breeder, it is being selected and trialed before the breeder decides whether they want to sell the young plants to growers. When it is selected by a grower to be planted in large numbers at the farm, normally nothing special happens.
Roses are grown, cut, and sold to traders and florists. Sometimes though, in the rose fields of the grower a mutation of a plant takes place unintentionally. (This can also happen at the breeder, and then it is not a mutation that happens by chance, but a selection.) But at a grower, when this mutation is looking good, when it grows and blooms well (and has a good performance like vase life and transportation possibilities), the grower can choose to multiply this mutation to start growing it on a larger scale. This can happen at any farm. At Alexandra Farms you can find some of these sister roses. Below you can see their Piano varieties:
'Sports' and 'Sisters'
Jose Azout from Alexandra Farms:
"Once a variety is selected and propagated intensely, there are naturally occurring genetic mutations called 'sports'. These come up every so often serendipitously. Most sports are discarded as the new characteristic is not appreciated or the mutation comes with other changes that are not wanted. But once in a while, the mutation is off color only and provides the breeder and the market a new sister variety to the original with the only changes being its color."
The advantage of sisters
Having two roses of the same shape and with identical foliage and stems is a great tool for designers, adding value to the offer. They are also convenient to the grower as they have similar growing habits and pest susceptibilities, so they are a bit easier to grow. This is the relationship between Rose Mariatheresia and Rose Baronesse – Mariatheresia being the original and Baroness the sport. The Piano series at Alexandra Farms have the same relationship – Rose Piano is the original and the others are the sports.
There are times when a similar-looking variety is included in a collection to add a new color. Jose Azout:
"These are great too, except that the varieties may not share all characteristics and have a different shaped leaf or a different color stem and may need to be grown a different way."