The Garden 77: 312 (June 21, 1913)
DO ROSES DETERIORATE?
By A. P.

YES; to a certain extent I think a few of them do, and I will endeavour to point out a cause of this later on. But undoubtedly the chief impression of deterioration arises — paradoxical as it may seem — from the wonderful improvements among them during the past two or three decades. Most of us who have closely watched the behaviour of varieties propagated in a reckless manner — by which I mean minus any care or thought in selection — will agree that that variety will surely deteriorate. We find similar results in all phases of existence, no matter what position in the world they may hold.

But this does not wholly account for the evident deterioration of that old favourite yellow climber Maréchal Niel. Here we seem to have gradually lost the charming and healthy vigour so characteristic of it thirty and more years ago. It is much the same with Souvenir d’Elise Vardon and Souvenir d'un Ami. I do not find the beauty and size in these now, and this cannot be all fancy when one refers to the dimensions recorded of previous flowers, because our measurements have not decreased in any way.

Far too often when propagating, one is somewhat loth to make use of the most superb growth upon the plant, and this, I feel certain, works steadily towards deterioration rather than not. It is not alone the enthusiastic amateur who fails in this way — most trade growers are chary in taking the best from their stock; and even when plants are set on one side solely for propagation, the constant hacking away of the fittest wood must tend towards a more or less weakened constitution, and thus we come to the conclusion that the variety has deteriorated.

I am induced to give these few notes from a remark of a friend the other day, who expressed deep regret at the falling off of our Mosses and Scotch Briars. But is not this to be attributed to position and culture? Formerly they, with a few Bourbons and Damasks, formed the chief Rose display in our gardens, and so were naturally accorded more favourable situations and culture than is the general rule now. It is not that they have deteriorated so much as the fact of their relegation to some odd corner, with the natural consequence of less care and attention.

One more thought. Do we not often find a new Rose come disappointingly inferior to those blooms exhibited by the raiser? In the first place, he had the advantage of a large stock to choose from, and, of course, showed his best. But a great deal of this inferiority arises from the use of every little fraction of growth in the desire to increase stock for sale, all but the owner of the stock plants having little choice of selection, and using good, bad and indifferent wood to get as many plants as possible while the price is high. I feel certain that not a few of our new Roses are injured, as a family, by the excessive propagation of all growth, even to the extent of increase from plants that are already a mere travesty upon the original.