Augusta (Tea-Noisette) []

Drawn from Nature: the Botanical Art of Joseph Prestele and his sons (1904)
The Augusta Rose

Unsigned lithograph; attributed to Joseph Prestele; engraved on stone, colored; 34 X 26.5 cm. from an office file copy, Mount Hope Nursery (Ellwanger & Barry), Rochester, New York.
Courtesy, Ellwanger and Barry Collection.
Department of Rare Books and Special Collections.
Rush Rhees Library, University of Rochester.

Joseph Prestele apparently made an engraved lithograph of the Augusta rose sometime before 1859 because what seems to be a version of it was published by D. M. Dewey in his 1859 Colored Fruit Book. Thereafter Joseph, perhaps his son Gottlieb, and certainly William Henry Prestele, created nurserymen's plates illustrating it.

Few plants have been introduced with as much excitement or suspense or have created as much controversy as this rose. The story is this, as recounted by A. Fahnestock. Lancaster. Ohio. July 1849—a friend of the principals—to the editor of the Horticulturist (vol. 4, no. 3. September 1849. pp. 147-48).

On a balmy January day in 1844, the J Honorable James Matthews of Coshocton, Ohio, with his wife, and the Honorable A. P. Stone, and Mrs. Stone of Columbus, Ohio, visited Mount Vernon. While there. Matthews, a rose fancier, gathered seed from some of the roses growing in what had been George Washington's garden. These he planted at his Ohio home and one of them produced a vigorous plant which in two seasons had sent up shoots sixteen to eighteen feet long. The blossoms—as Matthews reported to Fahnestock—"were very large and very double, and in colour a light, pure yellow ... much larger and much more double than those on the Chromatella and Solfaterre (also given as "Solfatare"), which were then popular yellow climbers, introduced a few years before. Matthews named the seedling "Augusta" as a "compliment to Mrs. Matthews and her second daughter." The propagation and sale of the rose was given to the nursery of Thorp, Smith, Hanchette & Co., of Syracuse, New York.

Enthusiastic reports about the Augusta rose created intense interest in the horticultural fraternity. Patriotism was also involved. John Feast, the Baltimore nurserymen, praised the rose in the Florist and Horticultural Journal (Philadelphia, vol. 2, no. 4., April 1853, pp. 112-13). He encouraged its introduction because of its native origin, and added the stirring command to American horticulturists to "preserve and encourage the raising of all kinds of seedlings, then we shall have plenty without importing trash." Others joined in applauding the Augusta rose for its beauty and fragrance, and its remarkably rapid growth, but there were many who pointed out that it was indistinguishable from the existing variety—Solfaterre William Henry Prestele diplomatically captioned the plate he made of this rose: "Augusta, or Solfaterre."

The Augusta rose did not long survive its unfortunate debut, notwithstanding its aura of Mount Vernon, its vigorous growth, and its fragrance. By the end of the century it was no longer listed in nursery catalogues.