The Garden 32(832): 385 (Oct. 29, 1887)

THE GARDEN ROSES OF INDIA

D. BRANDIS, in Nature.

The principal garden Roses cultivated in Europe and in India may be traced to Western Asia and China. The old-fashioned summer Roses, which were the ornament of gardens in Europe forty to fifty years ago, are mostly referred to Rosa gallica, which has its home in South Europe and Western Asia, and to Rosa centifolia and damascena, which probably came from the mountains of Armenia and Northern Persia. All these are distinguished by the incomparable delicacy of their aroma, and of the two last-named kinds one or the other is cultivated on a large scale in Southern France, Italy, Macedonia, Asia Minor, Persia, and Northern India, for rose-water and essence of roses (attar). The flowering season of these kinds is short, lasting a few weeks only, and it was an important event for horticulture when, towards the close of last century, the China Roses were introduced into Europe. The most important of these was Rosa indica, thus called by Linnaeus because it was brought from India, where it has long been grown in gardens. Its home, however, is not India, but China, and its great value consists in this, that it flowers throughout summer and autumn, hence the name autumnal Rose, also monthly Rose (Monatsrose). For this reason a variety was called Rosa semperflorens. Another variety, described under the name of Rosa fragrans, distinguished by its strong, though not always very delicate scent, became the parent of the Tea Roses. By crossing these kinds and other species with the old garden Roses, the numberless varieties of Hybrid Perpetuals and Tea Roses have been obtained which now ornament our gardens in Europe as well as in India.

In India nine or ten species of Roses are indigenous, but with the exception of Rosa moschata, a magnificent climber of wide distribution, none have contributed to the production of garden Roses. All have their local names in the language of the district where they grow, but—and this is a most remarkable fact—the Rose has no name in Sanskrit. In some dictionaries "Java" is rendered as Rose, but this is an altogether different shrub, Hibiscus Rosa-sinensis, the well-known Shoeflower (used for blacking shoes) of Indian gardens, believed to be indigenous in China, and possibly also indigenous in tropical Africa.

As far as known at present, the Roses of Western Asia have no Sanskrit name, and were not known in ancient India. Yet Rosa damascena is extensively grown on a large scale for the manufacture of rose-water and essence of roses throughout Northern India, as far as Ghazipur, in 25° N. lat. Hermann Schlagintweit was, I believe, the first to draw attention to this remarkable fact. It is not impossible that the western Roses were introduced into India by the Mohammedans. As there is no Sanskrit word, so is there no original term for the Rose in Hindi. In most Indian languages the cultivated Rose is called gúl, which is the Persian name. It is also called gúláb, which really means rose-water, unless, indeed, as sometimes stated by Munshis in India, áb in this case is a suffix with no separate meaning. In addition to their local names, some of the wild Roses of the Himalayas are often called gúláb, bán gúláb (the Rose of the forest, or wild Rose).

Besides Rosa indica, several other Chinese species are cultivated in India. The origin of one of the Indian garden Roses, however, is doubtful: this is Rosa glandulifera, well described by Roxburgh in his "Flora Indica." It is a white subscandent cluster Rose, which has erroneously been referred to as Rosa alba. In Hindi and Bengali it is called Seoti, Sivati, Shevati. According to Piddington ("English Index to the Plants of India," 1832), this Rose has a Sanskrit name, Sevati, pointing to shveta (white). This, however, requires verification. Roxburgh believed its origin to be China.


John Shakespear in Introduction to the Hindustani Language (1845) identified Rosa glandulifera as "White Rose of India" and "nastaran".