Suntory researcher aims to create deep blue rose

by Asako Takaguchi

Kyodo

Would a deep blue rose smell just as sweet? That is what a researcher at the Suntory Global Innovation Center is aiming to find out.

“Every time I go into the greenhouse, I get nervous wondering if the bud will come out blue,” Naoko Okitsu, 28, said of her efforts to develop the world’s first dark blue rose.

The research center in Shimamoto, Osaka Prefecture, was launched in April 2013 by Suntory Holdings.

Suntory researchers already succeeded in creating the world’s first light blue rose in 2004, using genetic engineering technology built up while developing alcoholic beverages.

Okitsu is seeking to produce a rose with an even deeper shade of blue.

She extracts samples of tissues that form a rose’s petals and leaves, and mixes in a blue pigment taken from a different flower.

She repeats the process, modifying the combinations.

Okitsu said she has run nearly a thousand experiments that have so far failed to create the color she’s after.

“I sometimes feel extremely disappointed when I fail in an experiment, but I am usually happy with this job as I have loved flowers and plants since childhood,” she said.

The Suntory research facility has a greenhouse with about 1,600 rose bushes.

Because she has to water and fertilize the flowers and prune stems that have grown too long, she can’t take long vacations during the summer or winter seasons.

But this doesn’t bother Okitsu, as she keeps working toward her dream.

A native of Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture, Okitsu studied plants at both the undergraduate and graduate level, dreaming of one day producing a new variety of flower that she will have the right to name herself.

Okitsu joined Suntory Holdings about five years ago.