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EE® Rose Hybridizer

by Kathleen Hennessy


June 8, 2008

One day, when Ping Lim was growing up in Laos, he went on an outing with his parents to a highland plateau. There, standing among many tropical flowers, he saw a beautiful rose. Ping was so profoundly inspired by it that it led him to study floriculture. When he found out later that the rose's name was Peace, Ping's love for it grew even more.

It's quite prophetic that years later, in 2002, Ping's first AARS winner Love & Peace®, would have his first love, Rosa Peace, as one of its parents.

Ping's father was a prominent businessman. As Laos fell to communism, things became increasingly difficult financially for the Lim family. Luckily, Ping's father was still able to send him to the university in Taiwan. His family wanted him to become a doctor, but Ping followed his heart and began studying floriculture instead.

Shortly after earning his degree in horticulture, Ping immigrated to the United States. His ability to converse in several Asian dialects helped him land his first job in San Francisco, as an interpreter. About a year later, in the fall of 1981, Ping found a job in his field as the Rose Research and Breeding Assistant for DeVor Nursery in California.

It was there that Ping began working with Jerry Twomey, famed hybridizer of ‘All That Jazz’ and ‘Sheer Elegance.’

In 1988, Ping accepted a job with Mt. Eden Floral Company of California, one of America's largest wholesale growers of cut roses. He began as a Quality Control Manager but his position quickly expanded to become Rose Production and International Marketing Manager. The years at Mt. Eden proved to be enriching, increasing Ping's understanding of the commercial side of the rose business. Tireless in his pursuit of knowledge, Ping continued his research by attending the first International Rose Symposium. His study tours took him to Hong Kong, Arizona, Taiwan, California, Japan, France, Holland, Germany and England.

"In 1992 my dream came true," says Ping. Recommended by Jerry Twomey, Ping was hired as the Rose Research Director for Bailey Nurseries' new rose breeding program. Or as Ping likes to say, he was hired to be part of the Bailey family. His enthusiasm is absolutely infectious, as is his commitment to breed beautiful, hardy, disease-resistant roses that are synonymous with easy care.

Ping’s search for knowledge and hardy breeding stock is a never-ending pursuit. He has been on no less than seven expeditions to search for species roses. In 1997, Ping was chosen as one of only five Americans to join the Rosa Species Search in China. Sponsored by the Chinese Government and the USDA, Ping and his distinguished colleagues from around the world spent three weeks traveling through mountains and jungles, from one side of China to the other, looking for new species.

At this time there are 212 known species of roses, yet only a handful are being used in breeding. To Ping, that means the potential to create new and unusual roses is immense. He is constantly looking into the future for new bloodlines for the next generation of roses. So far he has brought back 35 species roses from his travels. He is using those roses in his breeding work today.

Breeding and selecting new lines of roses is a labor of love and requires a lifetime of commitment and a company with vision. In 2002, exactly 10 years after starting at Bailey Nurseries, Ping Lim was honored to receive his first All-America Rose Selections Award for his hybrid tea, Love & Peace®. Remembering when he first saw the first bud of that rose, he exclaimed, "It was like a Phoenix among 100 chickens!"

Not long after that, one of Ping's roses was chosen by Macy's department store to celebrate their 100-year anniversary. The rose, named Macy's Pride™, won the prestigious New England Rose Society Award.

The AARS recently honored Ping for the second time by choosing Rosa DayDream® (PPAF) as one of its 2005 winners. That same year the rose Centennial was chosen to recognize the Minnesota State Capitol building’s 100-year celebration. In 2006, Ping was awarded his third All-America Rose Selections winner for Rainbow Sorbet®.

Ping has often described roses in his Bailey Nurseries’ Easy Elegance program as having 'Chi,' meaning energy and life force. Ping has 'Chi' and plenty of it, he is exuberance personified. Combine that with patience and the determination to create the next generation of roses and you have a world class rose hybridizer. A journalist recently asked Sam McGredy, the world-renowned rose breeder, what the future of roses would be. Mr. McGredy answered quite simply, "Go ask Ping".