Journal of Horticulture,
Cottage Gardener and Country Gentlemen, 7: 44-45 (July 19, 1864)
Notes from Paris, 1864
To me there is no greater treat connected with a trip to Paris than a few hours' chat with my good friend M. Margottin, of Bourg-la-Reine. I am always sure to get information, and reliable information too, on many points connected with the Rose. And then he is such a thorough enthusiast—and one does like an enthusiast, for it implies earnestness—and the Rose has been so his flower, he has given so much time and thought to it, that he is not a mere Rose-grower or Rose-seller, but also a Rose-lover. He will discard Roses which some other growers would send out with high-sounding names and descriptions; and hence there have been comparatively few Roses sent out from his establishment which we can well do without, while Jules Margottin and Louise Odier will be grown as long as Roses are grown. Some people say he is bigotted in his opinions. I dare say he is, and he has a right to be; for if a man knows a subject thoroughly, if he has grasped it in all its proportions, he must be necessarily in the eyes of others, when he maintains views and opinions which he knows to be right, considered as such. In a very old book I find it written of one, "Unstable as water he shall not excel," and so with those who are readily moved by what this or that person says; but I am bound to say I find a good deal of good honest common sense in all he says, and were he on our side of the channel I should call him a thorough John Bull.
We had, then, on that bright sunny day after the thunderstorm of the 9th, which had so much damaged his bloom, a good chat as we went amongst his fine stock of standard plants. The hybridising of Roses came up on my asking him his opinion of John Hopper, which he pronounced a grand Rose, and telling him he had something to say to it, as it was a child of Jules Margottin; he then stated what I was before unaware of—that he, at any rate, of the French nurserymen, does not trust to the chance hybridizing of insects, but that he has for years regularly crossed of his flowers. At the same time he does not seem very much enamoured with the results, and thinks he has perhaps done as well where he has not done so. He found, as most have done, that strange freaks are played in this matter. As my friend Mr. Standish has found that from two white Grapes he has produced the very blackest Grape he knows, so from two red Bourbons he had obtained a fine white, of which he had entertained great hopes. He had grown it for several years, and he then determined on propagating it for sale. But alas! it would not then open well, and so he discarded it; for, as he justly observed, a Rose that will not open well in France is sure not to open well in England. The Bourbon Rose which he sent out this season named Reverend H. Dombrain, was a seedling from Louise Odier; and as I saw it combined the qualities of both parents, the shape of Louise Odier and the colour and perfume of the Général. Then, again, his seedling Duchesse de Montpensier, raised by him in 1845 and sent out in 1847, was a seedling from Madame Laffay and Mrs. Bosanquet. Duc de Cambridge, again, was a seedling of Madame Fremion raised by him in 1850; while Jules Margottin, probably the best and most useful Rose he has ever produced, was a chance seedling, and the plant did not bloom for six years. From this Rose he has a seedling to be let out this year, very bright and clear in colour, and of large size. He had, he tells me, crossed Persian Yellow with a rose-coloured Hybrid Perpetual, and obtained a pure white Rose; but this never opened, and all his efforts in this direction had been frustrated.
The immense number of red, scarlet, and crimson Roses annually sent into the market, and their great similarity one to the other, was also commented upon. In excuse of tie French raisers, he said that there being no such competition as in England, raisers knew very little of what they each were doing. One man at Lyons, another at Caen, another at Abbeville, another at Angers, raise a very fine Rose. It is good—seems to them, at least, magnificent; and hence it is "put into commerce." All come over here; and when they bloom with us, alas! it is the old story of tweedledum and tweedledee. In truth, he says, ever since the introduction of Général Jacqueminot the rise has been all in that direction; and he has now determined to, in sporting phrase, "try back." He has a number of Roses planted under sashes, and these of varieties which were sent out before Général Jacqueminot, and he hopes from these to obtain something novel. When I was there the pips were already well swollen; so that, doubtless, with a fine summer he will secure a good crop of seed. Concerning the Général, he told me that it was obtained by a M. Roussel, at Meredon near Paris, who had for thirty years been seeding from Gloire de Rosomène, convinced that some day or other he should obtain something good from it. When on his deathbed, he told his gardener (Rouselet) that he had not much to leave him, but he would give him all his seedlings, and that if he managed well he would soon make his fortune. That very year Jacqueminot bloomed, though its raiser never saw it, and in 1853 was let out; but Master Rouselet was too fond of his glass and did not make his fortune. Géant des Batailles was raised, I believe, near Lyons, by an amateur of the name of Nérard, who in the same way for many years had been saving seed, convinced that he would obtain something good. It was sold to Guillot and by him let out. Margottin said he had not been any more successful than others in striving to introduce other blood amongst the present race of Roses. He had tried to hybridise with the microphylla Rose, but never could get anything worth keeping.
Concerning some of the newer Roses, also, we had some interesting conversation. I do not at all find him disinclined to acknowledge the merits of the flowers of other raisers. He pronounced François Lacharme and Charles Lefebvre to be the best two Roses in their class. Monte Christo comes sometimes very fine; but those Roses described by French raisers as nearly full are very disappointing. You imagine you are going to have a fine bloom; it looks beautiful, colour excellent, but it has hardly expanded before the eye shows itself. This is the case with Peter Lawson, Vicomte Vigier, Mdlle. Julia Daran, and many others—splendid when you can catch them in the bud, but very soon disappointing your hopes and expectations. Beauté Française he pronounced to be too like Léon des Combats, as I have myself since proved it to be in my own garden. John Hopper, as already said, he pronounced to be a first-rate and distinct Rose. Baron de Rothschild he also thought, as we have found it here, excellent, and Le Rhone also.
With regard to new Roses, M. Eugène Verdier purposes sending out six this season. Of these the finest are Rev. F. Radclyffe, named in compliment to the Vicar of Rushton—a Rose of the Madame Victor Verdier class, but very bright and clear in colour; and Maréchal Niel, a very fine Tea Rose, said to be a seedling of Lamarque, very vigorous, free-flowering, and clear in colour. It is not absolutely new, as it was raised somewhere in the provinces, but is very little known. His other Roses were only under figures, and therefore to say aught of them now would be of little use. M. Charles Verdier has two of his own raising of which he speaks highly; while Levèque has at present one. Margottin has one, certainly not yet named; and another, a white, of the shape of Madame Rivers, but pure white. Of this he is not certain, and waits to see how it is this year before offering it for sale. Marest is also said to have one. This is all I could hear or see of Paris Roses. Mr. George Paul, who had the kindness to find me out in Paris, went further south—to Brie, Fontainbleau, and Lyons, and has doubtless notes of what he saw. I am inclined to think that French raisers generally are awakening to a sense of what they have put on English growers; and I am hopeful there will be more caution in selling, while I am quite persuaded there will be more caution on this side in buying.
And now adieu to Roses, and flower shows, and gardens for a while. Ere this is in print I shall be off to the wilds of the far west of Ireland, engaged in other work than this, and in revisiting the scenes where many a happy day was passed—feeling, I dare say, how like a dream life is, and how impossible it is to conjure up the feelings of past days even in the midst of those scenes.—D., Deal.