The Gardeners' Chronicle May 4, 1889 551-552
J. Henry Bennet, Torre di Grimaldi, Ventimiglia, Italy, April 21.

THE last three months of the present winter have been unusually cold on the Genoese Riviera, and the retarding influence on vegetation has been very marked. According to my averages for fifteen years, as given in my work on the Mediterranean, neglecting fractions, the minimum for November is 49°, maximum 60°; for December, respectively 44° and 55°; for January, 42° and 53°; for February, 43° and 55°; for March, 45° and 59°; for April, 50° and 66°.

The month of November, 1888, was rather warmer than usual. The months of December and January colder — one, two, or three degrees below the average. February, March, and April so far (21st) have been much colder than the average — several degrees below. The temperatures have been as follow: — February: min. 39°.2, max. 50°.6, instead of min. 43°.5,and max. 55°.7. March: min. 42°.4, max. 52°.7, instead of 43°.5 and 55°.7. April so far has been a cold, windy, rainy month. The rain has often fallen as in Northern Europe, slowly, sparsely — not tropically, in torrents, as usual. Thus, we have had a greater number of cloudy, rainy days than usual. As a necessary result, vegetation has been retarded, and most of our spring flowers and shrubs have been two or three weeks behind hand. This is most evident with the Roses. Generally speaking our Roses are in full spring bloom by the latter part of March and throughout April, especially Teas, climbers, Noisettes, and Bengal. The hybrid perpetuals come last, at the end of April or beginning of May. General Jacquiminot with me is about the first. Bengals continue to flower throughout the winter, as do some Teas, such as Safrano, Madame Falcot, also Lamarque, Noisette, Banksian, Gloire de Dijon, Chromatella, and Maréchal Niel. The latter, however, are only seen sparsely in very sheltered sunny warm corners. The great burst of Rose bloom which covers the Rose bushes with myriads of flowers takes place in the spring, as stated above.

The year Her Majesty was at Mentone, that was 1882, my Grimaldi property was in her possession, and her villa was supplied from it with a profusion of the above Roses during the stay of the royal party, from March 14 to April 16. The Rose season was in full luxuriance at that period all along this coast, in sheltered parts, a fact which seems to establish the date of our Rose-flowering period in a favourable season.

This year, on April 20, the only Roses in full luxuriant bloom in my garden are the Banksian, especially the single Banksian, Lamarque, Noisette, a vigorous climber; and Fortunei, yellow. They quite make amends, however, for the delay of other Roses. They are perfectly magnificent, covering large areas of wall and rock with myriads of flowers. As they are all growing, without the addition of manure of any kind, in a purely limestone soil formed by the break up of the surrounding rocks, with only a very small amount of vegetable mould; these special Roses must like a limestone soil, which the general run of Roses do not. Indeed, lime soil seems to destroy in the long run, most of the Roses planted in it; they dwindle and die unless the soil is constantly renewed and manured. Some years ago I planted 300 hybrid perpetuals from a large Rose nursery at Avignon, but scarcely any of them have survived. Maréchal Niel, Chromatella (Cloth of Gold), and even Gloire de Dijon, do infinitely best grafted on Banksias. The latter flourishing like Ivy, forms stems as thick as one's leg, and runs along 50 feet or more. The Banksia Rose must evidently be a regular lime plant.

Fortune's Yellow grows in this soil with extreme luxuriance, entirely covering rocks, trellises, and Lemon trees, and when in full bloom, as it now is with me, it is a rose of dazzling beauty. Dean (then Canon) Hole, who honoured me with a visit some years ago, told me that he had never seen it so luxuriant before. Unfortunately its season of blooming is soon over, and it only flowers once in spring with me.

The two best winter Roses, setting aside Bengals and Noisettes, are Safrano and Mdlle. Nabonnaud, the latter introduced by a horticulturist at Golfe Juan, Cannes. They flower all winter, and the Safrano is the Rose of commerce, the one which is cultivated everywhere on the Riviera for sale, and which is sent all over Europe in winter by parcel post. The buds are very pretty, travel well, and open out in water several days after being culled, hence its adaptability to commercial purposes. Its epoch of flowering in winter depends on the time at which it is started, pruned, and watered in autumn. Last autumn I pruned several Safrano beds late, in November, and had abundance of bloom in January and February, although these months were unusually dull and cold. All who wish here to make money by Roses in winter, plant and cultivate the Safrano, and little else. Madame Falcot is equally good and tractable, but is much more sparse in blooming, and cannot be relied upon in the same way for a remunerative crop.

The Fortune's Yellow, which Dean Hole admired so much, covered a trellis 30 feet long, and 10 feet broad, erected over a bed of Camellias. Thinking that the shade afforded by this mass of Rose vegetation was too great for the Camellias, my gardener cut it back severely to the stem, thereby nearly killing it. This occurred three years ago, and it is only just beginning to recover, to throw up some vigorous suckers from the lower part of the stem. It has not produced one-twentieth part of the Roses it formerly did. Fortunately, I have others all but equally beautiful, coming on in other parts of the garden and rocks, and do not mean to interfere with them.

I presume this is the case with most climbing plants, the Ivy excepted. I once cut down a Tacsonia ignea (=manicata), which had got to the top of an Olive tree in tropical fashion, and was suffocating it, and extending to other neighbouring trees. I thought that it would grow again from the root on the lower part of the stem, which was as thick as the wrist, but it simply died. The shock was too great for its constitution, and it never rallied. I also cut away three years ago all the branches of an old Bougainvillea, which covered the roof of an outhouse; it was very vigorous, and flowered every winter with extreme luxuriance. It has never recovered, has never sent out a respectable branch since, merely a few twigs. My object was only to regularize the growth, which was very irregular. I expected to be able to again cover the shed roof in a year or two, but I evidently nearly killed my lovely friend. It is a singular fact, if general, that a plant growing with such determined vigour 50 feet or more from the roots, should thus dwindle and die if cut back, should not have the power to throw out new branches and foliage. Is there a botanical explanation, or is it merely an idiosyncracy, a peculiarity of climbing plants? Does it apply to the Chinese Glycine, or Wistaria, which will not grow at all in any lime soil?

I purpose making, on another occasion, some further remarks on vegetation in our lime soil, an interesting and useful subject of study. I believe that the lime-loving Banksia will prove the best Rose stock for us in this lime soil.

Roses have a marvellous pliability, of constitution. Although reported delicate, they can take their rest either from cold or frost in the North, or from heat and drought in the South, and thus thrive and flower all over the world. With our dry Mexican, Cape of Good Hope, and Australian summer, it is heat and drought that sends them to rest with only a few terminal leaves. With us, in the autumn, after natural or artificial moisture has been afforded, they at once start into vigorous vegetation, forming buds and flowers in from six to eight weeks freely, but not so freely as in spring. The natural rains come, generally speaking, late in September or early in October, and the autumn Roses flower in November or December. This last year the usual rains did not come, and I did not begin watering until quite the end of October, so our Roses — Nabonnand, Safrano, Falcot, Gloire de Dijon, Banksia, &c., flowered in January and February, but not as freely as usual.