CROSS-FERTILIZING AND RAISING ROSES FROM SEED IN ENGLAND
BY T. T. LAXTON, BEDFORD, ENG.
Mr. Ellwanger, of the firm of Ellwanger and Barry, Rochester, N. Y., who is doing much to elucidate the origin of American and English Roses, having requested information respecting the varieties raised by me, I have been induced to look up what I have effected in that direction; and as Mr. Bennetts recent success in cross-breeding the rose has created considerable interest in the subject, perhaps even the record of unprofitable work maybe of advantage to those who propose entering on the same field. By way of preamble, therefore, my advice to all who desire to do so, is not to carry on their operations without the aid of glass wherever such means are available, for two of the great secrets of success in obtaining rose seed are ripe wood and a dry atmosphere, conditions not always attainable in England without the aid of glass and artificial heat, and undoubtedly much of my labor was thrown away for want of proper protection against the vicissitudes of our climate, and many valuable acquisitions may consequently have been lost; for as the majority of the best Roses are very double and really botanical monstrosities, this abnormal fullness of petals tends towards decay of the generating organs by retaining surplus moisture.
My first attempt at cross-breeding the rose was in 1857, when, inter alia, I fertilized H.P. General Jacqueminot with the old white Damask Maiden's Blush. From this cross I obtained a very pretty light carmine variety, remarkably sweet and of good form, but not sufficiently large for a show rose. I gave the stock some years afterwards to Mr. Ward of Ipswich, who had been working in the same direction, but I do not think he found it good enough to send out. From this start, however, I derived sufficient encouragement to induce me to proceed, and in the seven years from 1858 to 1864 I fertilized, marked and recorded nearly five hundred blooms, crossing, recrossing, and intercrossing most of the best H.P.'s, Teas, Bourbons, and summer striped roses of the period; and amongst the more remarkable of the results I obtained a vigorous-growing. semi-double, satiny pink flowered seedling from T.N. Glorie de Dijon x H.P. Souvenir de Comte Cavour (a bright red rose), the offspring being a good seed-bearer, the flower almost scentless, and the plant in most respects partaking more of the Hybrid Perpetual than of the Tea character, the foliage and growth showing but little of the latter type. From naturally fertilized flowers of this rose I have raised seedlings showing more of the Tea blood than their parent, some coming single white and apparently pure Teas, others dark red and very double H.P.'s. By crossing Bourbon Louise Odier x striped Provence old Tricolor, the offspring was a summer rose with the spring foliage, distinctly striped with yellow, the variegation, however, invariably disappearing in the summer as the foliage matured. The flower was pale pink without any appearance of variegation. Many of the blooms fertilized were abortive, and either never set at all or produced heps without seeds, and as is usually the case, numbers of the seedlings succumbed to weakness of constitution. Not a single rose, however, of any commercial value or good enough to be sent out came from these attempts. In 1865, however, I determined to make more extended efforts in crossing the rose, and as a further inducement and encouragement for me to proceed the York Horticultural Society offered annually a prize for the beet English-raised white Hybrid Perpetual Rose. Accordingly in that year I fertilized, marked, and recorded upwards of four hundred blooms, chiefly H.P.'s and Teas, and in 1866, 1867, and 1868 upwards of one hundred more. From amongst the varieties crossed in 1865 I obtained a hep containing seven seeds by fertilizing H.P. Madame Vidot x Virginal. One seed only vegetated, and this produced H.P. Princess Louise, a good hardy, creamy-white garden rose, sometimes tinted pink (sent out by 'Messrs. Paul & Son). This, however, failed to satisfy the requirements of the York Horticultural Society as a white rose. There is a likeness in this rose to Mabel Morrison, a bud sport with white flower from Baroness Rothschild. By crossing H.P. Louise Peyronny x Victor Verdier I aimed at getting a flower of the largest size, and this I secured in H.P. Prince of Wales (sent out by Messrs. Paul & Son), but unfortunately its thinness of petal and want of a stout external guard render the flowers liable to fall open and to appear somewhat coarse. These are the only two fairly good roses which have, I believe, at present been distributed from upwards of one thousand crosses! but good results have been obtained and will probably be shortly forthcoming from crosses between 1864 and 1868—viz., H.P.'s Comtesse Chabrillant x Jules Margottin and Anna de Diesbach; John Hopper x Sénateur Vaisse; Glorie de Santenay x Madame Julie Daran, Prince Camille de Rohan, and Beauty of Waltham; Lord Raglan x Charles Lefebvre and Maurice Benardin; Jules Margottin x Sénateur Vaisse, Francois Lacharme, and Bourbon Louise Odier; Charles Lefebvre x Lord Raglan, Sénateur Vaisse, Mons. Boncenne, Prince Camille de Rohan, André Leroy, Alfred de Rougemont, and Madame Furtado; Louise Peyronny x H.C. Charles Lawson, Victor Verdier, and B. Louise Odier; H.C. Charles Lawson x H.P. Olivier Delhomme; Bourbon Baron de Noirmont x Sénateur Vaisse; Madame Victor Verdier x Charles Lefebvre; La Ville de St. Denis x Marguerite de St. Amand; Mons. Boncenne x Charles Lefebvre, Mdlle. Bonnaire (all H.P.'s), and Striped Gallica Village Maid. Some of the offspring of the above crosses have from inherent weakness disappeared, and others which have exhibited more or less novel or valuable traits are in the hands of Mr. Charles Turner of the Royal Nurseries Slough, who will probably in due course and when thoroughly tested, introduce them to public notice.
Since the above was penned, Mr. Charles Turner has exhibited H.P. the Rev. H. M. Stowers, a seedling from Charles Lefebvre x Prince Camille de Rohan, and has received a first-class certificate from the Royal Horticultural Society for H.P. Mrs. Harry Turner, a finely formed and very brilliantly colored seedling from Charles Lefebvre by Alfred de Rougemont, which he is now sending out.
In the course of my operations the anthers only of those flowers were previously removed in which there appeared special risk of self-fertilization; but cross fertilization was generally effected only on such flowers and when in such condition as to be practically safe from self fertilization. Since 1868 I have chiefly discontinued the raising of seedling roses from artificially fertilized flowers, and have devoted my attention to the selection of heps from naturally fertilized flowers of the best varieties only, having long since arrived at the conclusion that by the latter means more certain results may be obtained. especially where good shape and beauty of flower are desired, as the different types of beauty in the rose are numerous, each being excellent in its own particular character, but when any of these types are combined coarse or heterogenous flowers may be expected to result. Most of our garden roses have also been so much interbred that there is a great tendency in the offspring to revert to one or other of their ancestral types, rendering the results from cross-fertilization too precarious and unreliable to be remunerative. Mr. Bennett, however, is opening-up somewhat new ground in crossing the Teas with H.P.'s, and with his appliances, skill and intelligence all brought to bear, some novel and valuable hybrids ought deservedly to crown his exertions.
It is, however, scarcely credible that such a: practical people as the French, who, although they may not always grasp our tastes as readily as they do our purses, but who are at least as prompt and expert in the cross-fertilization and hybridizing of plants and flowers as we are in England, should so universally have neglected to resort to or continue to use similar means with the rose unless more certain or remunerative results were otherwise attainable; and I can only arrive at the conclusion that experience has taught our neighbors as it has myself, and I believe others who preceded me in this country (including Mr. Wm. Paul), which is the more profitable mode; and it must not be forgotten that the immense advance which has been made in the garden rose, especially in the Hybrid Perpetual class, during the last three decades is largely due to French exertions, and has been attained, practically only, by means of self-fertilization. The following roses raised by me in 1864 were from seed of naturally fertilized flowers—viz., H.P.'s Annie Laxton from Jules Margottin; Marchioness of Exeter, probable also from the same parent; and Empress of India, I believe from Triomphe des Beaux Arts, and not from Louis XIV., of which it appears to be a vigorous prototype. In 1869 I raised H.P.'s Mrs. Laxton, probably from Mme. Victor Verdier, Charles Darwin from Madame Julie Daran, this being the dark H.P., Rose of Bourbon blood par excellence, of which I sowed the seed in that year, and Emily Laxton perhaps from Abet Grande. All the above were sent out by Messrs. Paul & Son. The parentage of H.P.'s Richard Laxton sent out by Mr. C. Turner, and Dr. Hogg in the hands of Messrs. Paul & Son, I regret being unable to identify; but with a large and continually increasing number of seedlings I have found it impossible to keep even the year's results in all cases distinct.
Seedling Roses are very uncertain as to the period of showing their first bloom, some flowering when little more than two inches high, and within two or three months from the seed being sown, and others, although often eventually proving good Perpetual Roses, do not show bloom for several years. I have now seedlings of the current year showing bloom. My crop this season consists of upwards of one thousand seedlings grown on a bed containing about two square yards; most of these are already planted out, and several of them I hope to bud, bloom and primarily test before winter. In the ordinary course at least one-half will probably disappear before next year from delicacy of constitution. These I shall not regret, as a winter's exposure will save an immense amount of anxiety and some labor for the care of what would have proved to be only consumptive and sickly progeny. All seedling roses before being distributed should be fairly exposed during one winter at least, and our race of roses would eventually become hardier and more vigorous. The practice ought to be a sine qua non with all raisers, some discretion being exercised as regards the variety and the situation.