The Garden 28(714): 77 (July 25, 1885)

OLD-FASHIONED ROSES
J. D.

WITH all deference to "J. C. C.," Hybrid Perpetuals, the first of which was only introduced in 1837, have no claim to be called old-fashioned Roses. It is these twice or thrice flowering varieties which have driven the true old-fashioned Roses all but out of gardens. The Gallicas nobody regrets, but the old cluster Roses, the Damasks and Damask Perpetuals, the Albas and Hybrid Albas, are more satisfactory shrubs than any of the exhibition varieties. The worst feature as regards modern Roses is the preference given to heavy, staring, and unnatural colours. We have far too many red Roses. A good free-flowering white would be an advantage as well as thoroughly hardy and vigorous kinds of the delicate colours of the Teas. Let us have all the varieties of Roses possible by all means, but do not let pretty small Roses, like the Scotch kinds and the dwarf Chinas, and the sweet-scented old summer flowering and flat Roses, be ousted by the comparatively scentless show types. For all purposes, except the exhibition table, many of the show Roses are useless as cut flowers, unless quite a large branch is cut. They are far too large. Then, again, why multiply varieties which can only be distinguished by experts? It would be better to discard all but a few very distinct types. Just at random, Prince Camille de Rohan, Charles Lefebvre, Victor Verdier, La France, Comtesse de Serenye, Alfred Colomb, Duke of Edinburgh, Marie Baumann, and Madame Bellenden Ker are sufficiently distinct. Roses differing only from those by a shade or two of colour are not wanted, unless decided improvements in vigour of growth, richness of foliage, and freedom of bloom. How often in the catalogues is a Rose mentioned as not large enough for show purposes, as if mere size had anything to do with beauty. The fact, is the proper place to judge Roses is in the garden or in the house. A Rose can only be properly valued growing on its parent bush. To judge Roses in boxes only seen on exhibition tables is to judge the flowers under wholly unnatural conditions. I do not mean to say a word against exhibiting flowers in any way, or in any arrangement which will make them interesting and attractive, but only to point out that a flower which looks beautiful when cut does not necessarily grow on a plant which is attractive or in harmony with the usual garden surroundings.

Then there is the cultural question, the most important of all. Love the red Roses and grow them as the president of the National Rose Society does. Watch all their ways until you can tell almost what kind of flowers you will have, and can leave the wood and buds so as to produce just the size of blooms you desire, and all who have grown them will be willing to confess that, with the exception of perfume and perhaps beauty of bush, they beat all other Roses. But plant them as shrubs amongst other hardy plants, neglect their cultivation, or leave their pruning in inexperienced hands, and what wretched, shapeless, muddles of petals and speckled dull-coloured blooms they produce. Plant most of the old Roses in the same way and you will have fair flowers. My acquaintance with many of the old Roses is wholly with plants which have suffered from years of neglect and wrong treatment, yet there they are producing their wealth of beautiful flowers year after year under treatment which has killed the show Roses in the same border, or reduced them to miserable scrubs with one or two shapeless blooms. Which of all the show Roses will produce a wealth of leaves and flowers with no more cultivation than that usually given to an Elder bush as the old Alba does?

There is some amount of truth in the accusation that Rose growing of late years has not been all to the advantage of our gardens. Too much attention has been paid, as has just been said, to the Rose as an exhibition flower, and far too little to the development of Roses as bushes and climbing shrubs. Writers on other flowers are generally careful to distinguish border from show varieties, but if anyone asks in the gardening press for a selection of, say, two dozen Roses for garden decoration, he will nearly always be advised to plant show Roses instead of such kinds as Madame Plantier, the old White, the Maiden's Blush, Celeste, Madame Zoetmans, Madame Ardot, Madame Legras, the common Cabbage, the Moss Roses, the Chinas, and the Bourbons. The Ayrshires should be trained up trees or high pillars, while the Evergreen and Boursault Roses can be made to form arches and arbours. To get really beautiful gardens we must get right away from the stiff, shaven, and shorn ideal which has been so long in vogue, and let our walks run from sunny lawns into shady avenues and thickets and under arches of climbers. The old-fashioned, poor mixed border annually dug over, raked, hoed, and periodically tidied up until all the best plants in it were either chopped or starved to death must never reappear as a garden feature, but in its place we should have beds arranged so that groups of plants may present natural conditions of growth, the hand of art being only visible in the grouping.