American Rose Annual 57: 105-110 (1972)
Roses Are Shrubs?1
By Griffith J. Buck

Iowa State University, Ames

1Journal Paper No. J-7004 of the Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station, Ames, Iowa. Project No. 1832.

In the mid-20's, the dean of American rose growers was asking if the rose was "in America" and answering in the affirmative. He was referring, however, to the use of roses as bedding plants, which is a relatively recent use of roses. In this concept of rose plant usage, Dr. McFarland was several years ahead of time, for the rose was then and is yet an exotic member of American gardens. In spite of the great progress made by rose breeders in the half-century since the publication of The Rose in America and the efforts, both jointly and singly, of the American Rose Society and the All-America Rose Selections, the garden rose is on an honored-guest status in most American gardens.

The roses truly in and of America are the native roses — those wildlings that help to give credence to the tradition that June is the Month of Roses. These are the roses that spill their treasure of color and scent from roadside and wasteland, or at least they did until the indiscriminate use of herbicides became a fact of modern life. June owes a part of its wealth of roses to the immigrant roses that came westward across the Atlantic with the early colonists. (These roses were shrub, or bush roses, because they were the only kind of garden roses known then.) These were the treasured remnants of old-world gardens, which took root and flourished in their new homes. And as the tide of settlement moved westward, these old roses — the Gallicas, Damasks, Centifolias — went along to become the "pioneer roses" of middle and Rocky Mountain America. The gold of 'Harison's Yellow' glitters even more brilliantly in the ghost towns and abandoned mining camps of the Rockies than the golden metal extracted so torturously from the ground.

With the introduction of the everblooming roses into the bloodstream of the garden rose came a new use for roses. They became a most effective replacement for tender bedding plants, and in the literature of the mid-20's, a common recommendation was to use red Polyantha roses in place of red geraniums. The era of the rose as a bedding plant was ushered in and is still current. Even though major emphasis was placed upon the development of bedding plants, a few breeders produced a number of shrubby types adapted to their climatic and soil conditions. Wilhelm Kordes was perhaps the most prolific. His work with Rosa spinosissima altaica, the Sweet Brier, and R. kordesii provided materials of value to other breeders. David Austin recently released his Canterbury Tales series based on crosses of the Hybrid Gallicas, 'Constance Spry' and 'Chianti', with contemporary Floribundas and Hybrid Teas. Milton Whisler has a couple of Shrub roses to his credit, 'King's Row' and 'Grand Canyon', and the early breeding program of Armstrong Nurseries produced a hedge-type rose, 'Red Glory', which has become moderately popular wherever it is adapted. In addition, many of the Floribundas, especially those of European origin, are, in effect, Shrub roses where the climate permits them to develop to their optimum size. Although the original intent was to produce bedding roses, most of the early Brownell roses were more appropriately Shrubs than the Hybrid Teas they were intended to be.

There is a continuing need for roses as garden plants, either to be used as shrubs or in combination with other garden plants. In recent years, architectural trends have placed heavy emphasis on the use of small, compact shrubs. There is a lack of plant material to fill this need, resulting in the monotonous repetition of those kinds of plants that can be adapted to this use. The shrub rose effectively fits into this usage and can provide a season of colorful bloom, fragrance, and a range of plant habits that more conventional shrub materials cannot provide. Roses as shrubs will require some attention to the removal of dead blooms and to prevent foliar disease, but all plants, regardless of kind, require some attention if they are to realize their maximum potential. There are no perfect plants.

The Iowa State rose breeding program had as its primary objective the development of garden roses adapted to the climates found within the state. Because the winter climate is the most difficult for roses, the major thrust was aimed at increasing the hardiness while retaining the garden traits deemed necessary by the gardener. The early steps in this program have been told before. (Amer. Rose Annuals Vols. 52, 47)

Our method of operation is to begin with a specific cross designed to combine a parent with superior hardiness with one possessing acceptable garden traits. The resulting progeny are screened carefully, first for hardiness, then for recurrent bloom and good garden habits, with the hope that all three will be found in the same individual. The hardiest of these is then back-crossed to garden roses with large, well-formed flowers and short, compact, vigorous plants. After each combination has been made, the resulting progeny are carefully screened for hardiness, repeat-flowering, vigor, disease resistance, and other traits essential in a good garden rose.

In tracing the family trees of the roses described below, it is worth noting the influence of two seedlings that seemed at the time to be without merit, 57185-1 and 55325-1. The first was a crimson seedling from 'World's Fair' pollinated by 'Floradora'; the latter came from combining 'Morning Stars' and 'Suzanne', and was signified in my notes as "a weak, sparsely repeating plant with large glossy foliage and single salmon-pink flowers. Keep?" From 57185-1, eventually came 'Country Music' and 'Square Dancer'; 55325-1 was the pollen parent of 'Prairie Princess', which became the mother of 'Music Maker' and 'Country Dancer'.

In general, these roses have demonstrated an encouraging tolerance to both blackspot and powdery mildew. They will contract these diseases, but an occasional fungicidal application will maintain satisfactory foliage cover. These roses are hardy to Iowa winters. They have lived through a number of winters without protection, but it is believed that protection from winter wind and sun, such as that provided by evergreen boughs (discarded Christmas trees), would be desirable. They are propagated easily either by budding or by cuttings.

Summer Pippen (tentative name). 'Goldbusch' x ('Josef Rothmund' x R. laxa, Retzius). This plant has been under observation more than ten years because of its unusual combination of Sweet Brier-scented foliage, intensely clove fragrant flowers, and reliable remontant flowering habit. The plant is big, (growing to a mature height of 7 feet), with a corresponding spread. The habit is erect to slightly arching. There is a profuse flowering in early June, followed by lesser intermittent crops of flowers at monthly intervals through the rest of the season. The flowers are large, 4 inches in diameter, with 10-15 petals; opening flat from an ovoid-pointed bud. The color is clear Neyron-rose, with a stippling of crimson down the midribs of the petals. Although the normal growth habit of the plant is such that a large plant results, shorter height may be maintained by careful pruning.

Country Music. 'Paddy McGredy' x [('World's Fair' x 'Floradora') x 'Summer Pippen']. This daughter of 'Summer Pippen' is more restrained in growth. A four-year-old plant may be expected to have a height of 36 inches, with a similar spread. The large, medium green, leathery foliage clothes the plant well and provides a background for the large flowers borne in medium-size clusters. There is a good showing of flower color from early June until late fall. This rose carries the flower color of its parents, the light red of 'Paddy McGredy' appearing on the reverse of the petals and in the stippling on the light rose face of the petals. There is a pleasant clove scent.

Square Dancer. 'Meisterstück' x [('World's Fair' x 'Floradora') x 'Summer Pippen']. The 3-foot plant produces its 3 1/2 - 4 inch flowers in huge clusters in June, with a good repetition until killing frost. The cupped, rose-pink flowers are reminiscent of the Old Garden Roses in form but have the clove fragrance of its pollen parent.

Prairie Princess. Although this is not one of the roses named this year, it is being released with the ones described in this paper. It has been a thoroughly satisfactory rose here, even though there is a tendency to outgrow the space allotted to it. Mrs. Dorothy Stemler and Dr. Walter Lammerts provide the best description of it:

"Walter Lammerts has a rose you sent him as a plant in 1967 that he is very enthusiastic about. I went to his garden yesterday and saw it. 1 agree with him. It has become a large Shrub, but blooms like a Floribunda. The plant is about 4 1/2 feet in diameter and around 5 feet tall. It blooms in clusters and the buds are well shaped. Walter has found it very disease resistant at a time other roses in his garden are blackspotting badly. The color is a clear, bright pink. My daughter says the color is about like that of 'Bewitched'." — Mrs. Stemler.

"It is now about 6 1/2 feet high and never gets more than about 7-8 feet. It's amazing it should grow so tall in a climate with such a short season as Iowa. On relooking I do find a few leaves with blackspot, but very few, and they soon drop off leaving it completely clean. These few are at the base of the plant. It is mildew proof also here." — Dr. Lammerts.

It can be kept within bounds by pruning to 18 inches each spring. Such drastic treatment will result in a mounded plant 4 feet high and spreading about 5 feet.

Country Dancer. 'Prairie Princess' x 'Johannes Böttner'. Just as 'Country Music' is a dwarf prototype of its parent, so is 'Country Dancer' a more dwarf form of 'Prairie Princess'. It combines, happily, a more compact plant and freedom of bloom with its parent's hardiness and resistance to pests. It could find a use as a traditional Floribunda.

Music Maker. 'Prairie Princess' x 'Polynesian Sunset'. A gently branching plant that brings flowers all season; pale pink buds, aging to snow-pink open flowers; a pleasant fragrance: this is 'Music Maker'. It, too, can be used with Floribundas, but it can, and does, combine beautifully with blue delphinium, white trumpet lilies, and other summer flowering perennials.

Wanderin' Wind. 'Dornröschen' x 'Andante'. Under the magic wand of Wilhelm Kordes, 'Pike's Peak' produced a robust free-flowering Shrub rose with very fragrant flowers of exhibition quality. Our plant of 'Dornröschen' was in flower when pollen of 'Andante' became available, and in an unplanned action, the cross was made. The union was fruitful: 300 plants coming from 4 seed pods! The original plant of 'Wanderin' Wind' went unnoticed for three years. One hot, August morning while "walking the seedlings", I found a short, 3-foot-high plant with fairly large, very fragrant flowers. Further examination showed almost complete freedom from blackspot. So, the plant was marked, propagated, and after living up to its early promise, was named. Under garden culture, the plant will grow larger, but if spent flowers are removed throughout the season, the plant will not get out of bounds.

This work is being conducted under the joint auspices of the American Rose Foundation and the Iowa Agriculture Experiment Station. Without this cooperation, the objectives of this breeding program would not have been realized.