MR. E. S. CARMAN'S ROSA RUGOSA HYBRIDS
TO THE EDITOR OF GARDENING.—Sir: You ask for a description of the Rosa rugosa hybrids I have secured—those which I have thought well worth keeping.
It is a long story; but I will give it to you in brief.
It must be nearly seven years ago that, while admiring the singularly charming foliage of Rosa rugosa, its rugged nature, its hardiness, its comparative freedom from insect pests, its almost perpetual blooming habit, the question flashed upon me, "Has it ever been used in crossing?" "If not, why not?" My knowledge of rose evolution was (and is indeed) so slight that 1 thought it well to make careful inquiry ere 1 devoted much time to a work that might have been thoroughly gone over years ago. I wrote to leading rose-growers of this country, England and France. I made the inquiry in the London Garden. The replies came that there had been no crosses made with rugosa, or, if they had been made, the results were of no value.
Here seemed to be a hopeful chance. Rugosa, being single, was chosen as the mother, Harison's yellow, which being semi-double yields pollen abundantly, as the male. The next year we chose pollen from our hybrid perpetuals; and since from yellow teas or hybrid teas, in the hopes of obtaining a yellow rose with a rugosa foliage. But Rosa rugosa (white or pink flowering) has always been the mother plant. We have never raised a rose from seed borne by any other.
The seedlings from the first cross (rugosa x Harison's Yellow) were a revelation. It was naturally assumed that the distinct characteristics of rugosa would prevail or predominate in the hybrid progeny. Not so; most of the seedlings bore the small leaflets of Harison, though, it is true, most of them show the tiny wrinkles of the mother. The stems are beset with spines, the habit close, compact. They bloom but once in early May—and then they are a mass of flowers, white, lilac, rose color and one yellow with the central petals a dark dull red or copper color. About twenty-five per cent are double or semi-double, the rest single varying in size from only an inch in diameter to the size of those of rugosa—none larger.
Storrs & Harrison Co., Painesville, O. 1895
The strange and to me unaccountable development of this lot of hybrids is that one, with leaflets much larger than those of rugosa and of the same rugosa veining, should bear roses of the size, color and odor of Gen. Jacqueminot. This rose—named "Agnes Emily Carman", after one who has helped me in all this work more than I have helped myself—was placed in the hands of The Storrs & Harrison Co. of Ohio for propagation and introduction. Much to my sorrow difficulties were found in the propagation, so that instead of appearing before the world as the first valuable Rosa rugosa hybrid, the grand rose Georges Bruant was soon after announced in the market. This, however, is half tea blood, so that the other may still be offered— this fall I trust—as the first rugosa hybrid of hardy male parentage.
What of the hybrid remontant, male parentage hybrids? It would take pages to describe them adequately. Many are worthless except as studies. Five or six are beautiful in foliage and flowers. One is a prostrate or recumbent rugosa, 15 feet in circumference and less than 2 feet high, which in leaf and flower, is a true pink Rosa rugosa. Another bears miniature leaflets just like those of rugosa. The stems are nearly thornless and though about five years old, is less than a foot high and has never bloomed. What of the yellow tea male blood? Ah, that part ol the work has so far resulted in disappointment! Most of the hybrid seeds are merely shells without embryos. Those which germinate make feeble plants that seem to live only to invite black spot and mildew.
Last year we collected not less than 2000 seeds upon rugosa, yellow teas being the male parent. But one germinated and that poor little thing died when an inch high.
It is odd—is it not?—that such disasters do not moderate one's enthusiasm for this fascinating pursuit. If success were easier, perhaps the work would prove less fascinating.
Elbert S. Carman
River Edge, Bergen Co, N.J. Aug. 31, '92.