Rose Annual 23: 36-38 (1938)
Bring Back the Hybrid Perpetuals
R. Marion Hatton
Secretary, American Rose Society
Editors' Note.—If we could celebrate the centennial of the first recognized Hybrid Perpetual by restoring that grand class to its merited position, rose-growing would be vastly advantaged. It should be noted that the class came into recognition because it was remontant to a varied extent, and that the varieties responded to culture and care by producing some superb fall blooms. It was the wild rush for new Hybrid Teas that followed the introduction of La France in 1867 which brought about the neglect of the stronger, sweeter, and often more beautiful Hybrid Perpetuals.
Mr. Hatton's plea for the restoration and upbuilding of this class should be heeded. Many real rose-lovers should work toward bringing back by bud selection, pruning, and loving care, the Hybrid Perpetuals.
IT WAS just a century ago, in 1837 to be exact, when Laffay announced Princesse Hélène, the first of those mixtures of Hybrid Bourbon, Hybrid Chinese, and Damask Perpetual roses, since known as Hybrid Perpetuals.
There were earlier varieties of this new family which "flowered occasionally through the summer and autumnal months." Rose du Roi, or Crimson Perpetual, raised in the Royal Gardens of St. Cloud in 1812, probably deserves the honor of being the first Hybrid Perpetual, but Princesse Hélène was the first "striking" variety to be recognized as such. It is described in an old catalogue as "a beautiful deep rosy red, globular flower, possessing an agreeable fragrance and blooms freely."
By 1840 there were more than twenty varieties listed, and Prince's catalogue of 1846 names 73 varieties for sale at their nursery on Long Island. It was stated that "they present a constant succession of bloom from June till November."
|*Ellwanger thought well of the Hybrid Perpetuals, just coming into their high esteem when his book appeared in 1882. He says of the class that it "is by far the most valuable, if not the most beautiful of all groups of roses." Discussing the introductions of Eugene Verdier, of Paris, the leading hybridizer of his time, he remarks "that there are not less than 45 new Hybrid Perpetual roses introduced each year," continuing that "perhaps one-fifth of them are worth growing, certainly not more."|
In 1882, in his book "The Rose," H. B. Ellwanger catalogued 481 Hybrid Perpetual varieties under "Sorts Now in General Cultivation." It would be interesting to know just how many of these were grown by the Ellwanger firm in 1882.*
It is significant that in Ellwanger's next paragraph he thus writes: "The Hybrid Tea rose is a new group produced from crossing Teas with Hybrid Perpetuals. This is a class but yet in an incipient state; it is likely there will be a great number of varieties." Surely prophetic as it relates to an average of nearly two hundred new Hybrid Teas each year.
The Hybrid Perpetual was the important rose of gardens for over half a century, and it is only since the introduction of the Pernetiana strain that it has been almost forgotten. Indeed, were it not for Peter Lambert's lovely but scentless Frau Karl Druschki, we would rarely see a specimen of this race.
Now, then, as a lover of the roses of yesterday, I want to recommend that more attention be paid to this lovely and worth-while family. Nurserymen of the nineteenth century stretched the truth in describing their plants, just as their successors do today, and we must not swallow all the statements of old catalogues that the Hybrid Perpetuals bloomed freely all season; if these statements had been facts, the Hybrid Perpetuals would not have been forced into near oblivion by the new race of Hybrid Teas which came into being with La France in 1867.
A good many of the old Hybrid Perpetuals did produce bloom in limited quantity off and on from early summer until frost, but as population increased and mass production with quantity instead of quality ensued, propagators became careless, and instead of selecting their cuttings, scions, or eyes from blooming wood of established plants, took their material from the growing crop of plants in the field, too often from canes that had not bloomed, and, in many cases, from blind shoots that never would have bloomed.
There are many thousands of rose-hungry people in this country of ours, living in sections where climatic conditions make the raising of Hybrid Teas a difficult task, who would be grateful for an opportunity to own and bloom the Hybrid Perpetual as it was seventy-five or one hundred years ago.
Let nurserymen bring them back by selection of budwood or cuttings from remontant bloomwood (P. R. Bosley, himself a nurseryman, told the story and pointed the way on page 124 of the 1937 American Rose Annual). It can be done. I watched last summer, two plants of Jackson & Perkins' strain of the famous old American Beauty which, by careful bud-selection, had been brought back so that they bloom as freely as any of their modern cousins. These two plants were rarely without flowers from early June until frost, and while American Beauty's color is nothing to rave about, I don't believe Dr. McFarland or I passed those plants once during the season without leaning over to inhale the wonderful fragrance American Beauty has in common with so many of its relatives.
The Hybrid Perpetual has not disappeared from the United States; there are nearly one hundred varieties obtainable in this country today, with many more in collections which could easily be put back into commerce. All that is needed is an insistence by gardeners that nurserymen do their part. Mr. Bosley has told you what one nurseryman is trying to do; others will take up the work if you insist. This article was inspired by the complaint of a Wisconsin member that the publications of the Society devoted practically all their space to Hybrid Teas, which he was unable to grow, and ignored Hybrid Perpetuals, which he wanted.
I have purposely refrained from discussing varieties, and want to make this request of those of you who grow Hybrid Perpetuals: Please write me your experiences, for future magazine material. Tell what varieties you grow and why; what, if any, winter protection is necessary; and any other information that will further the cause of the neglected Hybrid Perpetual.