American Rose Annual 1919 pp. 57-66
Winter Work with Roses

ALFRED W. GREELEY,
Williamsport, Pa.

EDITOR'S NOTE.—The experience here detailed and the charts reproduced suggest not only desirable winter work for the rosarian, but a character and quality of test which ought to result in eliminating the unsatisfactory sorts. To follow the ingenious plan worked out by a busy newspaper editor for his winter relation to his garden will give any of us some real rose knowledge.

TO THE amateur rosarian the dead winter months have their fascination only in degree less pleasurable than the cultural joys of spring and summer. Winter is the time for reviewing and planning; for the analysis of last year's mistakes and the synthesis of this year's successes. It is under the study lamp, while the snow piles deep over the rose-beds and the thermometer flirts with the nether ranges of the scale, that the strategy of the drive for the coming season's rhythm of rose bloom is perfected, if the rosarian is wise.

Success with roses demands knowledge, experiment and patience-patient, tireless experience that adds ever to the determined desire to know the whys and hows of the never-ceasing miracle of rose bloom. It is an instance of appetite growing by what it feeds upon. He who has watched a rose through its transformation cycle from swelling bud and pulsing green leaf to the burst of beauty in the opening petals of the crowning bloom, and feels no fierce spur to know the why and how of this wonder-work of nature, may be a grower of roses, but a rosarian, never! To the rosarian worthy of the name, the opening rose is an invocation and a benediction, a lyric prayer that springs attuned in beauty from the very heart of nature itself.

As a matter of fact, not one rose-grower in a hundred knows, except in a vague way, whether the roses in his garden, whether his Ophelia, Lady Alice Stanley, or Radiance, are true to type and standard in the unit characters of size, color, substance, number of blooms, and so on, which under average cultural conditions distinguish these varieties. He does not know whether his Mme. Jules Bouche, or Harry Kirk should give him twenty-five or seventy-five flowers during the season, and generally is content if he gets "right smart" of bloom. Lack of knowledge of the standards for bloom is responsible for the fact that the great majority of rose-gardens contain plants that, through inherent inferiority of stock or lack of proper culture, fail to produce either the quality or the average number of blooms characteristic of the variety. Such plants are simply parasites, "free boarders," of the rose-garden. They take as much care and fertilizer as an honest rose, and return only a beggar's dole. The small rose-garden of the average amateur is of too limited space to be cluttered up with under-average plants. They should be scrapped relentlessly.

Profusion of bloom and quality of flowers are the two things which primarily interest the average amateur in rose-growing. Not so long ago, June alone was the month of roses, with only scattering blooms for the rest of the season. The advent of the Hybrid Tea has revolutionized the rose calendar, leaving no excuse for months barren of bloom in the rose-garden.

That which is now true of the dwarfs will soon, let us hope, be likewise true of the climbers. The experts are feeling their way toward this much-desired end. Last year, in my little backyard garden, the first killing frost of November caught Le Mexique rich in hundreds of blossoms, while Ghislaine de Feligonde was not far behind. Growing briers for five-sixths of the season must soon pass out of fashion. For the small garden of the average lover of roses, profusion of quality bloom is the main consideration.

The mere rose-grower plants his roses with more or less careful preparation—sometimes by the signs of the moon—and lets nature do the rest, oftentimes its worst. The enlightened amateur makes almost a religious ceremony of the planting of his roses, which generally occurs late in the fall when the wood is thoroughly ripened and dormant, at which time it feels the minimum of shock from transplanting.

But the chief distinguishing difference between the mere rose­ grower and the amateur rosarian is in the matter of keeping intelligent record of the performance of his roses. The small daybook which slips conveniently into the pocket of the old garden coat is the rosarian's alter ego. It is the basis of such success as may come to him, for it means recorded observation which later may be analyzed and combined into working rose facts.

Into the rose day-book should go such matters as dates of bloom, number of blooms cut from disbudded plants, peculiarities of behavior, growth, bloom, etc.; appearance and course of insect and fungus attacks, dates of cultural care; amounts and dates of application of liquid manure, lime and other fertilizers; and temperature readings which should include number of days of sunshine, rainy days, and other data that go to make up the climatic environment. Temperature data, however, generally can be obtained from the local weather observation bureau at the end of the season.

This, in the main, includes the essential facts out of which knowledge of rose habits and behavior is built up and by which local standards of rose-bloom and perfection can be established. Only by this method can the amateur rosarian identify for a certainty those roses which are doing their bloom-duty for him, and, at the same time, discover the lazy, defective plants that are to be weeded out.

A daily bloom-count at the time of cutting in the morning, is about all that is necessary for this purpose, and it is generally as far as the average amateur gets the first season in recorded observation. Afterward his enthusiasm for recorded facts grows. Every addition to rose knowledge brings to us new vistas.

It takes only a few moments each day to transfer the facts from the garden day-book to a set of indexed cards arranged alphabetically under the name of each rose. This card carries the name of the rose, date of purchase and transplanting, age, nursery from which obtained, type, stock, budding and grafting information, and the like. It is a condensed life history of each rose from year to year, with all the facts grouped ready for quick comparison. Another convenient method of permanent record is an indexed loose-leaved book of the right size. It has some advantages over the card system. Other recording methods will suggest themselves to the enthusiast, growing out of individual needs and experiences.

The material for observation and record is virtually limitless, but it is well for the beginner to confine his data to a few relatively simple things at first, such as the discovery of "boarders;" effects of mulching in hot weather; bloom-production of Hybrid Perpetuals, Hybrid Teas, Teas, and Pernetianas; comparisons of various budding stocks; the response to fertilizers of various kinds; special beds; own-root plants compared with budded or grafted stocks; immunity to insect and fungus attacks, etc.

It is only by persistent observation, sturdy questioning and insatiable curiosity that one can attain that almost intuitive understanding of rose character, temperament, and habit that constitutes the rosarian's chief satisfaction.

After the completion of the card-index work comes the tabulation for purposes of comparison, without which the work is relatively valueless. Here comes the test of the year's work in the summation of rose performance. A standard of comparison is necessary, and for Philadelphia and districts of similar climatic conditions, the only available standard is that established by Capt. George C. Thomas, Jr., in his large test-gardens and published in the latest edition of his "Practical Book of Outdoor Rose-Growing." For this pioneering test-garden work and invaluable results American rosarians are under deep obligations to Captain Thomas. The method of comparison is indicated in the following extract from the tabulation of rose performance in my own garden during 1918:

FIRST CLASS: Fifty blooms or more.
No. Name 1918 1917 Thomas
1. Mrs. A. R. Waddell, H. T. 84 54 57
2. Mme. Jules Bouche, H. T. 81 - 71
3. La Tosca, H. T. 80 - 57
4. Gruss an Teplitz, H. T. 79 64 107
5. Harry Kirk, T. 76 31 88
6. Frau Karl Druschki (No. 1), H. P. 71 64 65
6. Betty, H. T. 71 21 54
7. Radiance (No. 4), H. T. 65 - 51
8. Radiance (No. 2), H. T. 64 - 51
9. Mme. Segond Weber, H. T. 57 - 49
10. Lady Pirrie, H. T. 52 - 56
10. Frau Karl Druschki (No. 2), H. P. 52 45 65
11. Mrs. Aaron Ward, H. T. 50 20 88
11. Radiance (No.8).H.T 50 - 51
 
SECOND CLASS. Forty to forty-nine blooms.
No. Name 1918 1917 Thomas
12. Wm. R. Smith, T. 49 - 14
13. Mrs. B. R. Cant, T. 47 - 50
18. Gen. MacArthur, H. T. 47 28 85
14. Mme. Edouard Herriot, Per. 46 - 32
15. Radiance (No. 1), H. T. 45 25 51
16. Baron de Bonstetten, H. P. 44 13 -
17. Killarney. H. T. 42 15 -

 

CHART A. Figures top and bottom are days of the month. Figures at left are number of buds, below, and degrees of mean daily temperature (Fahrenheit), above.
Top block indicates sunshine or cloudy; and shaded blocks show rainfall. Small figures below shaded blocks are quantity of rainfall in hundredths of an inch.

The third class contains all those producing from 25 to 39 blooms, and all under 25 are put in a class of "shy bloomers," from which the weeding-out process takes place after all other expedients of first aid to rose slackers have been tried in vain. This comparison shows at a glance the roses which are able to meet the requirements of a discriminating grower, and it grows in value with the years.

The card-index record also furnishes material for other interesting studies, as, for instance: What are the local weather conditions under which roses thrive best? With the data on the cards, together with the reports of the local weather station, the question is easily answered, as shown in Chart A. Here we have revealed not only the somewhat startling correspondence between rose-bloom and temperature changes, but also the effect of rainfall, sunshine, heat-waves, and frost, which in various combinations are written plainly on the chart. We all know in a general way the dependence of rose-bloom upon a certain range of temperature combined with a definite degree of moisture and sunshine, but few, save the experts, suspect the immediate and sensitive relationship indicated in the quick response the chart shows. Notice how closely the various peaks of rose-bloom fit into the peaks of mean temperature for virtually the entire garden period. The chart likewise emphasizes the optimum bloom-conditions of heat, moisture, and sunshine in June, and the depressing effects caused by the two heat-waves. The discouraging September conditions, an environment of cold, rainy, cloudy days, with a minimum of sunshine, are reflected in the September section of the chart, while the comparatively more favorable conditions which October presented, resulting in an average higher level of rose-bloom, are shown in the section for that month. Throughout the temperature-rhythm and the bloom-rhythm are found in intimate and sensitive correspondence.

The study of a chart of this character enables the rosarian to discover just what local climatic conditions are most favorable to the roses he has under cultivation and development, and it further enables him to approximate, by mulching, culture, shading, watering, and the like, these favorable conditions when he may normally expect unfavorable weather environment.

A further analysis of rose-bloom is presented in Chart B. Here a comparison by months is made of the blooming qualities of the five most prolific Hybrid Perpetuals, Hybrid Teas, and Teas, as established by the tabulation taken from the card-index record. The chart graphically indicates the short period of blooming glory of the Hybrid Perpetuals, so-called, contrasted with the real perpetual character of the Hybrid Teas and the Teas, and it likewise demonstrates, so far as the plants under consideration are concerned, the superiority of both the Hybrid Teas and the Teas over the Hybrid Perpetuals in total bloom and period of efflorescence. The comparison is defective in that the Hybrid Perpetuals were on Brier and Manetti stock, while the Hybrid Teas, and the Teas, with one exception, were budded on selected Multiflora stock, from which I have never yet detected a sucker.

CHART B. Comparison of bloom records of five each most prolific Hybrid Perpetuals, Hybrid Teas and Teas, in relation to season,
temperature, rainfall and sunshine. (Figures at left indicate number of blooms; below are varieties used with detailed record).

HYBRID PERPETUALS TEAS
Frau Karl Druschki (No. 1) 71 Harry Kirk 76
Frau Karl Druschki (No. 2) 52 Wm. R. Smith 49
Baron de Bonstetten 44 Mrs. B. R. Cant 47
Margaret Dickson 19 Lady Hillingdon 30
Mrs. John Laing 14 Maman Cochet 30
  200   232
Average bloom
(Brier and Manetti stock)
40 Average bloom
(Selected Multiflora stock)
46
HYBRID TEAS    
Mrs. A. R. Waddell 84 PER CENT OF TOTAL BLOOM
Mme. Jules Bouche 81 Hybrid Teas 48
La Tosca 80 Hybrid Perpetuals 24
Gruss an Teplitz (Manetti) 79 Teas 28
Betty 71   100
  395  
Average bloom
(Selected Multiflora stock).
79
Count made at time of cutting. All roses, except Gruss an Teplitz, disbudded to assure perfection of bloom.

But, perhaps, the most significant feature of this chart is found in the performance of the Teas. August, with its recurrent heat-waves, hot, scorching days, and deficient rainfall, is the month the American rose-grower fears. The August section of Chart A shows the havoc it brings in its trail. But Chart B indicates that August presents a combination of weather conditions of which the Teas highly approve, for in August they nearly equaled their June burst of bloom. Possibly we may find in a development of the hardy Teas a solution of the problem of the August rose-garden!

Chart B also is interesting in indicating in another way the superiority of the Hybrid Teas. The chart shows that the average bloom of the Hybrid Perpetuals was 40 for the season; for the five Teas it was 46; while for the Hybrid Teas the average was 79. This gives a bloom percentage of 4 for the Hybrid Perpetuals, 28 for the Teas, and 48 for the Hybrid Teas. In the development or reconstruction of a rose-garden, it is necessary to establish facts of this character before one can work intelligently and successfully toward rose-perfection.

If America is to become the promised land of roses—a consummation devoutly to be wished—every little rose-garden must become in a way a test-garden, a rose laboratory for the perfection of types and standards suitable to American conditions. Without detracting in the least from the splendid work of American hybridizers and growers, there is yet a big field for the amateur rosarian who brings to the work of rose-perfection a point of view quite different from that taken by the rose-expert, the professional grower, and the technical hybridizer. The standards of rose-perfection are in the hands of the amateur, for he forms the majority of buyers in America. The more exacting his demands upon the rose sellers, the harder will they work to meet them and the higher will the standards of American rose-production become. Probably 50 per cent of the roses in American gardens today, through lack of proper culture, budding on inferior stock, or for many other reasons, fall far below the type average of bloom and are inferior both in quantity and quality. It is only through the self-education of American amateur rosarians, the rose-consumers of the country, that the standards of rose-excellence can be permanently raised to higher levels and the ideals of rose-perfection approximated.


Greeley: Night-Growth of Roses (1920)

Heat and Growth Bibliography