Journal of Horticulture and Practical Gardening, 14: 112 (Feb 10, 1887)
Hybrid Tea Roses
Rev. H. H. D'Ombrain, Deal

When the first announcement was made of the "Pedigree Roses," so called, I was requested by the Editor of the Journal to visit them and give my report. That report was, on the whole, I think rather too favourable a one. I expressed my doubt as to their value as exhibition flowers, and thought the raiser was in too great a hurry to send them out; but I at the same time expressed my opinion of his work. "He is on the right track, and I am sure such an intelligent method of procedure must produce good results, and I think rosarians will wish him success in his painstaking endeavours to impart novelty to our Rose lists." Of this first batch of seedlings not one has proved to be an exhibition Rose, and even in gardens where Roses of all kinds are to be found, it is vain to look for any of them.

Before this time we had one Hybrid Tea Rose—"Cheshunt Hybrid," a Rose, which as a garden flower, had become most popular, and still retains its popularity in all parts of the world. A writer in the "Rosarian's Tear Book for 1887," writes enthusiastically of the esteem in which it is held in the Antipodes. Since then other Roses have been brought out claiming a similar parentage, and in the case of La France, a Rose which had been long regarded as a H.P., was by its raiser, M. Guillot, taken out of that class and placed as a Hybrid Tea. It is evident, too, that an infusion of Tea blood had taken place in other Roses, and as most of the French growers did not artificially hybridise, it was extremely difficult to say what their parentage was; but no one can see blooms of Captain Christy, Jules Finger, and others, without feeling that they have a good admixture of Tea blood in them.

I think there are two things to be borne in mind with regard to artificial hybridising in order to modify our assent to the statement of the parentage of certain flowers. One is that where a number of flowers are so treated it requires more than ordinary care, not only in the principal but in all employed, that complete accuracy is observed. The hybridiser may be very certain as to what flowers he uses in his experiments, but it is not quite so certain that his assistants will afterwards be so accurate in taking care of the progeny as he has been in originating it; and the second, careful as he may have been, there may have been a hybridiser in the field before him, a bee or a moth may have upset all his plans, and while he is carefully nursing up his supposed progeny he may be really taking care of the babies which owe their origin to Plusia gamma, or a bumble or hive bee. Many a time we have seen this in flowers which have been brought before the Floral Committee, of the Royal Horticultural Society. They are stated to have been hybrids between certain varieties, but no trace of the parentage is present. In many instances, too, the pollen is dropped without any intervention, and in the case of species it is reproduced, and in the case of varieties the tendency to variation may produce varieties which are in no way due to the hybridiser, but to the inherent tendency of the flowers to vary; and, therefore, when the parentage of certain Roses is questioned it is not necessary to impugn the good faith or veracity of the raiser, but to suppose that there has been a mistake or interference somewhere, and we are not bound to assume that a Rose is of necessity what a raiser states it to be.

When this question of Hybrid Teas was brought before the Committee of the National Rose Society two courses were strenuously advocated; one was to include them amongst the Teas and allow them to be so exhibited. This was very strenuously resisted, and ultimately it was decided that they were not to be so exhibited. Every year, I think, proves the wisdom of this resolution, for how utterly would our lovely stands of Teas have been spoiled by their introduction. Fancy the fresh Paul Neyron-like bloom of Her Majesty overshadowing such flowers as Rubens, Souvenir d'Elise, or Marie Van Houtte. The other idea was to make a separate class for them. This was also resisted. It was pointed out that it would be most difficult to define which were Hybrid Teas and which were not. It was asked whether we were to take the word of the raiser or go by the character of the plant and flowers; and, if so, who was to decide? Was, for instance, Captain Christy to be included amongst them as well as Reine Marie Henriette; and ultimately the idea was abandoned, and thus another source of confusion was avoided. After a time another question arose, As these Roses were said to be hybrid between an H.P. and a Tea, if they were not to be allowed to be exhibited amongst Teas, what was their proper place? In the case of Lady Mary Fitzwilliam it will be remembered that confusion arose from their double parentage. In a class for H.P.'s at Cardiff a stand was disqualified for containing it, as it was alleged it was not an H.P., while a few days afterwards two experienced judges awarded it the prize at Manchester for the best H.P. in the show. The Committee of the National Rose Society had again to consider the matter, and it was decided that all Hybrid Teas were to be shown amongst Hybrid Perpetuals, and no other conclusion seems possible.

We were startled the year before last by being informed that Mons. Guillot had raised a yellow Hybrid Perpetual. It proved to be one of those troublesome Hybrid Teas, and it might just as well have been so styled; but now we are confronted with another puzzle. The raiser of Lady Mary Fitzwilliam is not pleased because she is not scheduled amongst Teas, and her right to that position disputed. He has himself to blame in the first place, for in his published announcement for 1882 he advertises three distinct classes of Roses:—1, Teas: Princess of Wales; then 2, Hybrid Teas, amongst which he places Lady Mary Fitzwilliam; and 3, Hybrid Perpetuals. After this I think it shows a considerable amount of fortitude to declare that the Rose he himself announced as a Hybrid Tea does not belong to the class, unless he means to assert that all Hybrid Teas are Teas, and would swamp that beautiful and refined class with a lot of Roses, some doubtless very beautiful, but others coarse. And now see how this holds with regard to a Rose which has been more cleverly introduced than any flower of recent years—Her Majesty. It was very finely exhibited by the raiser, it obtained the gold medal of the National Rose Society, and then retired from public gaze. The name itself was a taking one, and! for a couple of years the constant question was, When would Her Majesty be let out? At last it was rumoured that it had been bought in its entirety by an American nurseryman, and that it was not to be had in England; then afterwards we heard that a very eminent firm ef Rose growers in England had been appointed sole agents all this time. I am justified in saying that everyone's belief, although some were startled at the character of its growth, was that it was a Hybrid Perpetual. When it was announced here it was as an H.P., but the firm who sent it out gave its parentage—a hybrid between Canari and Mabel Morrison! I have no doubt the raiser thinks this is its parentage, but others will be equally certain that the hybridisations have been interfered with. The announcements by other growers gave it the character of a Hybrid Perpetual, but did not designate its parentage, and so it has come to be generally accepted that it is a Hybrid Perpetual.

What, then, is the conclusion of the whole matter? 1 do not think that we shall admit the claim of such Roses as Lady Mary Fitzwilliam, Cheshunt Hybrid, Reine Marie Henriette, Her Majesty, to be considered Teas, for if the first of these be a Tea the others must be; this is a claim which will never be allowed. They may, according to the wishes of the raisers, be placed either amongst Hybrid Perpetuals or amongst Hybrid Teas. To my mind it would be better to do away altogether with the classes of Hybrid Teas in the catalogues, and group all such Roses under the Hybrid Perpetuals; but then we must be sure of our ground. Such Roses as Miss Ingram, which was for many years considered a Hybrid Perpetual, should not be admitted amongst them, as it is essentially a summer Rose; nor, again, such as Madame Isaac Pereire, to all intents and purposes a Bourbon; nor again should Duchess of Edinburgh be classed amongst Teas, for it is nothing but a China. This is a class for which, I confess, I am very jealous. I should like it kept select, admitting only into it those which are of "pur sang."

These observations are only given for the purpose of trying to avoid the confusion which, I fear, looms ahead in the classification of our Roses.