American Rose Annual 32:35-38 (1960)
Yellow Climbing Roses
Stephen F. Hamblin
Lexington, Mass.

THE ROSE IS red; whence came the yellow? From hybrids with yellow Tea almost without exception.

The oldest climbers with yellow flowers were of Tea parentage, and our latest Golden Showers (1957) is a cross of two Hybrid Teas. We shall continue to have them, especially for the regions of warmer than zero winter; through some of them, as the Wichuraiana-HT. of the Brownell's—Golden Climber (Mrs. Arthur Curtiss James 1933), will stay up on their trellis unharmed by most zero winters. But yellow climbers are not as zero-hardy as red, pink and white sorts, even those with Wichuraiana parentage.

A few yellow climbers are Tea-tropical. Lady Banks' Rose (R. banksiae) had a single yellow (now lost?) and a double yellow from China (1824) still in our southern gardens. As the type Banks' Rose was white, the yellow color must have come from hybrid parentage.

Macartney Rose (R. bracteata) has its yellow hybrid Mermaid (1918), with male parent a double yellow Tea. Mermaid is at home from Long Island southward. All other present yellow climbers are hybrids of the hardy wild pink or white climbers with yellow Hybrid Tea or Tea (or sports of HT., the Climbing HT.).

Rosa setigera X Austrian Copper (R. foetida bicolor) gave Doubloons (1934) perhaps the hardiest large-flowered double yellow climber (but killed back some zero winters). This is a yellow climber with no Tea parentage.

Rosa multiflora X Réve d'Or, Noisette (itself in part Tea) gave Aglaia (1895) the first large-flowered Multiflora-HT. climber with yellow color (now lost?). Rosa wichuraiana X Perle des Jardins, Tea, gave Gardenia (1899) an early large-flowered climber that winters well when running flat on the ground. So now we have a long list of large-flowered yellow climbers (past and present), the union of a hardy wild climber (of pink or white type) with the yellow form of Tea or Hybrid Tea as the other parent.

There was once a whole group of semi-hardy yellow climbers, the Noisette—the union of Musk climber X yellow Tea. The first Lamarque (1830) with no records in France; and later the Pemberton Musk climbers in England gave such as Daybreak (1918) and Danaé (1912). These latter are of Rambler size of flowers, very continuous bloomers but not too hardy in zero winters.

*CybeRose note: Beauty of Glazenwood was a striped sport of Fortune's Double Yellow that soon reverted to the original form.

The oldest yellow Climbing Tea is Gloire de Dijon (1853), parentage unknown, in Dijon, France; still grown here. One yellow Tea climber, Fortune's Double Yellow (Gold of Ophir or Beauty of Glazenwood*) by Robert Fortune (1845) came out of China to England with the first bush Tea plants but with parentage not on record. It could not be a true Noisette, but some yellow Tea hybrid. Thus, the yellow color to climbers seems almost wholly to be from Tea sorts.

There were two climbing forms of the Austrian Brier. Star of Persia (1919) was Austrian Brier (R. foetida) X Trier, a Noisette; and Le Reve (1923) was an Hybrid Perpetual X Persian Yellow (R. foetida persiana). Both were low growers and now are lost. The old yellow Austrian-Persian rose (R. foetida) came to England very early as single yellow and single copper (before 1596) and the double Persian Yellow in 1837. These were crossed by M. Pernet-Ducher to the Tea and Hybrid Tea to get brighter yellow, henna and orange colors, at expense of softer growth, blackspot and lack of hardiness. His first, Soleil d'Or (1893) was a Hybrid Perpetual (Antoine Ducher) X Persian Yellow and its descendants are in the present HT. sorts, as President Herbert Hoover and its climbing sport. The tendency today is to get away from the Pernetiana parentage in breeding modern Hybrid Teas. But the modem climbing yellows still have some Pernetiana in their parentage.

A few of our Polyantha sorts have climbing forms in yellow, as Princess van Orange (1933) and Torch (1942), sports of Gloria Mundi (of yellow Tea ancestry). Though repeat blooming, they are not strong growers. The parent on one side was R. multiflora, so they are generally very hardy but little seen. Yellow climbing sports of the Floribunda group are known, as Climbing Goldilocks (1952) in effect of Climbing Hybrid Teas, repeat blooming and fairly zero hardy. But these are all a hardy wild climber crossed by yellow Tea or Hybrid Tea. We have no truly yellow Ramblers.

With Rosa multiflora as one parent we have had Goldfinch (1908), a true Rambler, but although the buds are yellow, the opened flowers are merely double white multiflora. And Rosa wichuraiana has had two yellow Ramblers, Sylvia (1911) with no parentage, and Shower of Gold (1910); but they open out nearly as pale as White Dorothy Perkins.

There were no yellows in our Hybrid Perpetuals a century ago (the R. gallica groups X R. chinensis from China) as there was no yellow in either parent, and yellow in modern bush roses was unknown until Hybrid Tea was produced (about 1890) by crossing Hybrid Perpetual with pure Tea. Then yellow sorts were frequent in the Hybrid Tea group (to be further intensified by M. Pernet-Ducher by use of the Persian group).

Whence came the yellow color to the old Tea roses?

The bush Tea roses were originally red, pink or white and the Tea rose plant may be a dwarf garden form of the Giant Tea Rose of the Himalayas (R. gigantea) with large pink flowers, reduced to a bush form by Chinese gardeners long ago. And yellow Tea sorts were found in mandarins' gardens along with red and pink sorts. How did a red Tea get yellow color? There are three possible ways:

  1. seedling variation from red-pink to yellow (apparently possible in our greenhouse Carnation):
  2. bud sports of a branch on red-pink Teas (as white sport of Dorothy Perkins from the usual pink form);
  3. hybrids with some yellow rose (made long ago by a busy bee and not recorded by the Chinese gardeners).

But WHAT yellow wild rose? There are no records as to these possibilities; nor do we know how all mankind can be descended from Noah with no data as to peoples, races and colors. We accept the yellow Tea rose as older than man's records; give thanks for its colors and long bloom, but regret its lack of zero hardiness.

Are there any yellow wild climbing roses? NONE. Any yellow bush roses? Not in America, nor in Europe until Austrian Yellow was brought from Persia (before 1596). The Scotch Rose, native to Europe, now has yellow forms, single and double (as well as red, rose and white). Possibly these yellow sorts were early natural hybrids (with what?) for a wild flower with both red and yellow colors in the same species could be unusual. The best yellow Scotch is Harison's Yellow which appeared suddenly as double yellow in New York City (1830) before Persian Yellow (1837) came from Persia to England. But Austrian Yellow was known widely in Europe and later planted in America. Could the bees have united pink Scotch with yellow Austrian? The seeds of Harison give assorted yellows as well as pinks to white. Our latest yellow Scotch is Golden Wings (1953) from union with the HT. Soeur Thérêse X (R. spinosissima X Ormiston Roy).

Except for yellow Scotch forms, the only wild yellow bush roses in the botany book are all of Asia, and these have had little use in hybrids for the garden and no use in climbers. The Austrian-Persian group has already been noted and discounted.

Of wild yellow roses now known:

These are rarely seen, but are truly yellow and very hardy. Perhaps they have value as parents for yellow sorts.

* CybeRose note: The patent application gives the ancestry as Setigera seedling X Austrian Copper seedling

But what are we to do in producing yellow roses, bush or climber, and by-pass yellow Tea (or HT.) as one parent? Our yellow roses, bush and climber are apparently wholly dominated by yellow Tea, its ancestry not known. The few other yellow roses seem developed from the Austrian-Persian species, but from our experience in Pernetiana-HT. sorts we seem to have no faith in the Persian parentage. The truly wild yellow bush species (there are no wild yellow climbers) have not yet been used as parents (except the Austrian-Persian). Perhaps we should try more seedlings like to Doubloons (our hardy Rosa setigera X Austrian Copper). But both parents are single-flowered, how come that Doubloons is double? There must be some error in its recorded parentage.* Or more crosses be made of R. setigera X the Austrian type; or as seedlings of Doubloons—but my plant sets no hips.

Certainly we can hybridize Rosa multiflora and R. wichuraiana X Harison's Yellow (not yet tried) with the hope that blackspot will not carry over (for Harison's gets blackspot readily). Or R. ecae and R. xanthina (if you have the plants) could be tried on R. multiflora or R. wichuraiana to get zero hardy Ramblers in yellow.

South of severe winters the present yellow climbers (in part yellow Tea or Hybrid Tea) are wholly satisfactory; but I would like to see pink Dorothy Perkins (which has no Tea parentage) in a pure yellow hybrid. What to do?

CybeRose Note: In roses, as in many other plants, yellow carotene may be degraded and oxidized to form fragrant substances. The fact that the non-fading yellow roses generally have large flowers suggests that there is a linkage between the cluster-flowering habit and the ability to degrade carotene. The exceptions are the yellow forms of R. banksiae which have traded perfume for yellow color. Thus it appears that, barring another fortuitous mutation, the most obvious route to a yellow cluster rose — rambler, climber or dwarf — would be to breed from R. banksiae lutea.

Alternatively one might breed from yellow Floribundas, selecting for smaller flowers, larger clusters and deepest yellow pigment.

As an experiment, it would be interesting to cross Chromatella with Alister Stella Gray or Gardenia to observe the segregation of deep yellow vs. perfume.