“I don’t care what it looks like or smells like, a bad name can kill the best rose,” said longtime rose breeder Tom Carruth, who is the rose curator at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens.
A great name can build excitement — and sales — for a so-so rose and drum up interest for a beauty no one’s seen before, Carruth said, but finding just the right name can be maddening.
At the Weeks Roses breeding facility in Pomona, where Carruth spent 25 years as a hybridizer, the process often involved the whole staff, but he credits his longtime assistant, Maxine Gilliam, as being the best at naming.
It wasn’t her official job — she started as a secretary and later worked in the research department, transcribing Carruth’s endless notes about his endless rose breeding trials. Gilliam had a knack for finding just the right titles, Carruth said, and he frequently relied on her to make his choices, as she did with his first All-America Rose Selections award winner, ‘Scentimental.’