Annual pp. 106-113 (1972)
The Development of Modern Yellow Roses
E. B. LE GRICE
(Rose nurseryman and breeder)
I have been asked to write about Modem yellow roses, hybrid teas and floribundas, which I shall consider as beginning with the work of Pernet-Ducher at the turn of this century. There had already been yellow roses, but these were of a soft primrose and usually were full, perfumed though very weak in their flower stems and not hardy.
The story of Pernet-Ducher and his achievement is well known. Indeed by some it is treated as apocryphal. The version I have printed in my book is that endorsed by Monsieur R. Gaujard, Pernet-Ducher's successor, but Bertram Park adds more detail, although I find the dates a little difficult to follow. It is generally agreed that the cross which led, after many trials and failures, to final success was 'Antoine Ducher' (Ducher, 1866) crossed with R. foetida persiana. Rosa foetida — the persiana has been dropped — reveals its possibilities in what is undoubtedly its "sport", the Austrian Copper (R. foetida bicolor) which has, in addition to the golden yellow yellow outer side of the petal, and inner face of orange-scarlet. These two colours may appear in different generations of crossings and the orange-scarlet often appears in the stronger yellow cultivars as red markings on the outer side of the bud, or as splashes on the petals. Its almost universal appearance in the anthers and stigma is an indication of this typical trait.
When examining the parentage of yellow and flame roses we find that this orange-scarlet may be partly repressed in one generation to re-appear in the next and then disappear once more.
This first successful crossing did not produce the desired colour in the first generation; it appeared in the second generation and was introduced as 'Soleil d'Or' in 1900. While it was a remarkable break, much work was necessary before its progeny became equal in form of flower or stamina of constitution to the older and hardier hybrid teas.
For the purpose of this article we are considering the yellow forms to which this cross gave rise, but we should remember that its use also gave us a remarkable addition to the spectrum of rose colours. Not only did we obtain clear yellows but also bi-colours with a contrasting reverse such as capucine or scarlet, but through this colour combining later with the derivatives of the orange shades based on pelargonidin, we obtained the so-called blues, browns and greys. The name of Pernet-Ducher will always be revered among rosarians for his great contributions to the rose world.
One must remember that few hybridists have the patience to persist in face of continual disappointment or sufficient faith in their vision to plod on after many failures. This Pernet-Ducher did with unflinching determination and even then the average hybridist would have missed the indication which he detected.
There is now an added deterrent to this type of work. It is the financial aspect, and the cost of attempting to bring in some desirable quality from a previously unused species will present the raiser with a host of undesirable qualities which he must also breed out. It is quite possible that after a number of plant generations he may find the good quality linked with a bad quality to such a degree that the link cannot be broken. Few raisers can afford such expensive failures today.
This was true of the new race which Pernet-Ducher raised. When the golden-yellow colour appeared it lacked purity and stability and, worse still, the health and growth of the new strain was much weaker than in other roses. It was these factors with tested the vision and courage of the raiser. Roses of this new "Pernetiana" strain, as it was called, needed no pruning in the harsher climate of Britain, for at the end of the winter the soft, pithy growth had succumbed to the cold and wet. When the dead wood was removed in the spring nothing but stumps remained and one could always be sure that a number of replacements would be needed each year. It was to take over thirty years to produce plants which withstood the cold and bred reliable fast colours. Even so, we still await the perfect pure yellow rose.
Although there were many more varieties introduced among Pernetianas than those I have listed and analysed here, there have been over 85 sorts during this period which I have checked in Modern Roses 7 and have taken their dates of introduction from this volume, although there may be a little variation between the introduction dates in the United States and in their home countries respectively.
In passing, I would say that I had personal experience of growing nearly every cultivar named myself, but I would hesitate to say that all my impressions at the present time would be borne out by the facts as they were when the rose was actually grown. I can only record what I believe to be correct.
A few facts have emerged which should be recorded. Some varieties appear again and again, often over very many years, as the parents chosen for the best roses. Each major parent had its day and naturally 'Soleil d'Or' (1900) was used in the beginning and as many of Pernet-Ducher's other seedlings did not have recorded parentage, this rose probably had even more progeny than we know. Certainly from this rose sprang the strong yellow shade and also the heavy splashings of scarlet especially visible on the globular bud. With this also came fhe very thorny wood, ahe deep green glossy foliabe and the very pithy, frost-susceptible wood. The next parent which had a strong influence for many years was 'Mme Mélanie Soupert' ('05) described as fragrant, salmon-yellow suffused pink and carmine. As far as one can gather this rose was responsible for the maize yellows as well as some clearer colours. Until 1914 it appears that Pernet-Ducher was the only raiser to introduce yellow roses. 'Soleil d'Or', 1900; 'Le Progrès, '03; 'Mrs Aaron Ward', '07; 'Rayon d'Or', '10; 'Sunburst', '12. Some of these I remember and saw growing, but I regret that I cannot remember the quality of the wood, although my impression is that the more orange-cream 'Sunburst' showed a firmer wood and less thorns.
A great rose was introduced in 1914 by Alex Dickson & Sons in 'Mrs Wemyss Quin.' The blooms were double, fragrant and canary yellow in colour, with the outside of the guard petals tinted crimson-orange. Here was a new conception of growth, freedom of flower and far greater hardiness. For many years this sort was regarded, and rightly so, as one of our best yellow bedding roses. A year later we had from the same firm 'Margaret Dickson Hamill'. This was a globular, maize yellow and as the first variety I ever budded it had a warm place in my affections. These two types were to appear again and again in the "Dickson" varieties, but because there are so many shades of yellow and flame-shaded yellows, I shall try to omit all but the golden or nearly golden yellow varieties, even if some verge on other similar shades.
Another important advance came next from Pernet-Ducher. This was 'Constance', a 'Rayon d'Or' seedling, deep yellow in colour, which proved to be an excellent parent. After this came a real advance in colour in 'Golden Emblem' (McGredy), deep golden yellow with its guard petals heavily splashed crimson.
when pruning, but from the buried stumps strong shoots sprang, although some plants always died and only warm, well-drained soil permitted survival. Possibly one should omit 'Golden Ophelia' (Ben Cant, '18) one of the orange-cream varieties coming nearer the hybrid tea, but this cultivar had an important part to play both in the production of a forcing rose — 'Roselandia', and in approaching hybrid tea-type growth in later seedlings. 'Christine' (McGredy, '18) produced a hardier bush with many more, but smaller flowers than 'Golden Emblem' and much better winter survival. For a little we must return to the work of Pernet-Ducher and his creation of clear yellow roses. 'Elegante', '18; 'Souvenir de Claudius Pernet', '20; 'Mrs Beckwith', '22; 'Ville de Paris', '25 and 'Julien Potin', '27 were all on the same lines. Upright, tall, thorny growth, pointed but somewhat globular flowers, glossy deep green foliage, it was the colour which was the delight and despair of the British grower. Greenish white in a cool summer they showed their true deep gold in the autumn. I lived with these sorts from the first view on the show bench to the bushes in the open field, and it became my aim to produce a rose, the colour of which remained a resplendent clear, shining gold.
After this somewhat lengthy introduction one must group the roses as they began to come in ever increasing numbers and variety. 'Golden Ophelia', '18; 'Roselandia', '24; 'Souvenir de H.A. Verschuren', '22 and 'Max Krause', '30 might be called reddish-orange to deep yellow in their different stages. Their wood and growth was more hybrid tea than Pernetiana. At the other end of the spectrum were the soft primrose and canary yellows. 'Canary' (Dickson, '29), a grand short bedding rose ; 'Golden Dawn', '29, very distinct and sweetly perfumed; 'Sir Henry Segrave' (Dickson, '32) with its long exquisite flowers, popular for many years; 'McGredy's Yellow', '33, one of their best ever; Mme Yves Latieule (Meilland, '49). The soft fawny yellows, 'Kidway', '33; 'Mrs E. Wood', '34; 'Mrs William Sprott', '38; Cynthia Brooke, '43, was more of a coppery-yellow shade.
There were, in addition, yellow shaded roses which had an important place in the parentage of others. The short sturdy type sent out by Ben Cant, 'Sovereign', '22; 'Mrs Beatty', '26; 'Lilian', '31, and 'Tawny Gold', '51 (Leenders). All these had their place, but we now come to the crux of this article. This was the building up of hardier, more colour-consistent and less thorny varieties which lost the globular shape of the bloom. Even now I believe 'Mabel Morse' ('22) as shown by Sam McGredy II would create a sensation if exhibited as he showed it. A brilliant clear deep yellow, the bloom was globular, but the tragedy lay in the plant, which would struggle to make a twelve-inch high maiden with two shoots. In those days we paid 15/- each for pot plants and from my plants so purchased I averaged 7 budding eyes. Usually I expected 25-30 from each of such purchases. Be that as it may, we had colour and size of bloom. Something to aim at and put on a vigorous bush.
Then came 'Florence L. Izzard' (McGredy, '23) one of the old type of growth but again a better and more consistent colour. 'Lucie Marie' (Dickson, '30) was more varied in colour, the buttercup-yellow being heavily splashed with salmon, but in bedding quality an indication of how rapidly the growth was moving forward to hybrid tea quality.
I would like to pause here, as a personal experience might help the reader to appreciate the difficulty still besetting the raiser in his search for color-consistency combined with satisfactory growth. My first true yellow was 'Yellowcrest', '35. It was a true, shining gold on a fairly strong plant, but with very thorny wood. It promised to be thoroughly good and then, without warning, after its first flowering it shed its leaves (as I have seen 'Austrian Yellow' do). It broke into growth once more and flowered freely in the autumn only to repeat the process. How to retain the colour and yet replace the foliage? It was not until the outbreak of the Second World War, when we were digging up and burning roses to make way for the food drive, that one bloom on three plants ('Lilian' x 'Yellowcrest') solved the problem, but the war years had to pass before this rose was named 'Eleanor Le Grice' and introduced in 1950. This rose was to have a profound effect on floribunda roses later.
We must be forgiven if, because of the number of cultivars pushing into the lists at this time, a few have been chosen and the others left. 'Lord Lonsdale', (Dickson '33) was a superb flower, the colour of which has never been surpassed, but a miserable plant condemned it out of hand.
'Phyllis Gold' (Robinson, '35) deserves a special tribute, coming at a time when good British hybrid teas were at a low ebb; it had a long and successful run. Its successors, good but never making big headlines, were 'Winefred Clarke', '64 and 'Yellow Petals', '71.
What happened to 'Souvenir de Denier van der Gon', '35? Its name buried a fine rose of unique shade, reddish yellow to deepest golden yellow. Would others might take warning! Its only tribute is a fading memory.
And then came 'Peace', '45. I don't know that its colour can be called golden, but here is a rose which makes nonsense of general rules, for as 'Soleil d'Or' brought in a new colour, so 'Peace' gave a new constitution to the rose bush, a new conception of what a rose should be. Other Meilland yellows, 'Monte Carlo' '49, 'Belle Blonde', '55, 'Marcelle Gret', '47, 'Mme Yves Latieule'' '49, 'Cannes Festival', '51, played their part in their year, but only 'Peace' could stay the course and still stay ahead all these years.
A rose which holds a special place is 'Lydia' (Robinson, '49), a real deep mustard yellow, but unhappily its colour was not transmitted to its progeny. This was followed the next year with 'Spek's Yellow', '50 ('Golden Scepter'), a small, greenish-yellow bud developing into a deep golden-yellow flower, borne so freely that for a time it was planted among the floribunda roses. Again its colour failed to be transmitted to its seedlings. Perfume has always been elusive but has often been present and one of the sweetest was 'Sutter's Gold' (Swim, '50). Although this cultivar has a great deal of scarlet and red in its markings and the yellow is a rich old gold, it is so distinct that it should be mentioned. Not a great success as a parent, its freedom of flowering, wiry upright stems, strong perfume and good health are a challenge to many newcomers. 'Tawny Gold' (Leenders, '51) was one of the deeper orange-shaded golden roses, which held its own for quite a time, especially for forcing.
So far we have had few good American varieties, 'Sutter's Gold' being the best. This was followed by another from Herbert Swim, 'Buccaneer'. Tall, upright and very free in flower it is interesting in having as its parent one of the greatest forcing roses, 'Golden Rapture' in the States ('Geheimrat Duisberg', Kordes, '33). Boerner of Jackson & Perkins raised 'Golden Masterpiect', '54 and 'King's Ransom' was raised by Morey in '61. I would consider the latter as our best golden yellow so far.
'Golden Sun' (R. Kordes, '57) brought back memories of the burnished sunny gold of 'Golden Emblem', but with some of its faults too. It was followed by 'Golden Giant', '61 which was taller and hardier.
If one comes too much to the present time there is far more likelihood of mistakes. One should mention 'Dr A. J. Verhage', '63, one of the orange-yellows with good forcing qualities and a very promising seed parent. This brings us to 'Grandpa Dickson', '66 ('Irish Gold' in U.S.). Another with a pale, greenish-white bud, it never captures the gold, but as a pale primrose it is proving its worth as a bedding rose which produces large, handsome flowers on upright stems. Most of the blooms are carried singly, unusual at the present time.
Here, then as briefly as circumstances permit, is a brief synopsis of the yellow roses which have flitted across the stage. Some have lingered longer than others while many live again in newer, better sorts. All the time the raisers of today are building on the foundations so patiently laid down seventy years and more ago.
My article is not quite finished for I must write of the yellow floribunda roses. This is a much shorter task, for not until 1938 do we find a really yellow variety. Few yellow floribunda roses ever achieved any real success, and only 'Allgold' has held an unchallenged position in the selected list of floribundas for any length of time. During all the period yellow cultivars have been produced, but as far as I can see there have never been more than two of this colour chosen in the twenty-four top selection at one time. I know that the reds and orange-flames have achieved greater prominence, but the pink blends appear more frequently in the list.
Probably one of the greatest factors in reducing the popularity of the golden yellows as a whole has been their lack of stability in colour. Tall growth, strong foliage and big double flowers may be traced largely to 'Cläre Grammerstorf, Kordes, '57 ('Harmonie' x R. eglanteria seedling). 'Harmonie', '54 is another Kordes seedling (R. eglanteria hybrid x 'Peace'). One can only guess that the R. eglanteria seedlings had one yellow parent, but in all cases so far 'Cläre Grammerstorf' seedlings have failed to give colour stability, and even those seedlings which begin as golden-yellow bleach to creamy-white long before they shatter. Many of these cultivars are excellent, but their colour variation precludes their use in many colour schemes.
It is interesting to note that colour depth has been achieved only when R. foetida has entered closely into the parentage. In 'Poulsen's Yellow' (Svend Poulsen, '38) it is interesting to note the parentage, 'Mrs. W. H. Cutbush' x 'Gottfried Keller'. "Gottfried" had a varied history. Raised by Dr F. Miiller, Weingarten, Germany, in 1894, who also raised the interesting 'Conrad F. Meyer', Hy. Rugosa, 1899, the parentage was [('Mme Bérard' x R. foetida persiana) x ('Pierre Notting' x 'Mme Bérard')] x R. foetida persiana and it is described as apricot-yellow. Here we have another raiser working like Pernet-Ducher. His work remained in obscurity but undoubtedly if we hail Pernet-Ducher as the father of the yellow hybrid tea we should proclaim Dr Müller as the father of the yellow floribunda, although we owe it to Svend Poulsen that the potentialities of 'Gottfried Keller' were developed. The second group arising from this parentage culminates with 'Allgold', itself a seedling from 'Goldilocks' x 'Ellinor Le Grice' (H.T.) and we find that 'Goldilocks' had as one parent 'Doubloons', from a hybrid of R. setigera x R. foetida bicolor. A unique feature of 'Allgold' is its purity of colour which has no counterpart in that petals, anthers, stigmas and pollen are all clear yellow.
A variety that has also been used as a parent is 'Masquerade', but here colour variability has been introduced through the red of 'Masquerade' appearing in the bud and the fading bloom of the progeny. Turning to the list of deep yellow polyantha roses, we find ... [missing 113]
used as a parent produced few seedlings of merit. Undoubtedly, the best was 'Yellowhammer' '56, but this faded also. It appeared for three years only in the best 24 floribunda roses, 1958, '59, '60.
In 1945 came the great break in 'Goldilocks' for this, although pale primrose, was a strong and effective grower. It was good for crossing but for one grave fault, its inability to shatter, i.e. to drop its old bloom cleanly. Time and again it ruined its progeny by transmitting this fault. Boerner's second try produced a double flower but pale and 'Yellow Pinocchio' soon became an "also ran". 'Danish Gold' (S. Poulsen) was an interesting cross [('Golden Salmon' x 'Souv. de Claudius Pernet') x 'Julien Potin'], but again it soon faded. This was also true of the many strong growers, prolific in flower, produced by Kordes and Tantau. These included 'Golden Rain' (Tantau, '51), 'Yellow Holstein' (Kordes, '51) and Sandringham (Kordes, '55).
It was in '56 that the great break came in 'Allgold', which has so far been unsurpassed in depth and constancy of colour, freedom of flower and health of foliage. From 1962, the time when 'Allgold' left the list of the 12 best new floribundas, it has remained high in the list of 24 selected floribundas. We badly need a taller grower and a fuller flower. This promised in 'Goldgleam', '66, but so far the promise has been unfulfilled. 'Gold Cup' (Boerner, '57) and 'Green Fire' (Swim, '58), both excellent roses, failed to stay the course.
Mention has been made already of 'Cläre Grammerstorf', '57 and its many seedlings. The most popular has probably been 'Arthur Bell' which, although it fades badly, has growth and scent. Among roses which delighted the public was 'Faust', '57 ('Masquerade' x 'Spek's Yellow') and this appeared in the chosen list of 24 from '63 to '68. It was tall, colourful but variable, making at times a '63 to '68. It was tall, colourful but variable, making at times a spectacular head of bloom, one of which gave it the President's Trophy over 'Allgold'.
Of the 52 varieties which I have noted as coming under this heading, a bed of 'Gold Marie', '58, Kordes ('Masquarade' x 'Golden Main') can be spectacular, given the necessary space where vigour and mass can be seen with very telling effect. 'Golden Treasure' is an intense gold and where it can be wintered successfully it may beat 'Allgold' for intensity of colour in its first flush of bloom. 'Kerry Gold' is one of the thousands of 'Allgold' seedlings, but also one of the very few to become ane ffective new rose. So many 'Allgold' seedlings fail to shatter and produce too few flowers to make really effective bedders.
Who would forecast the future? We would like a floribunda rose with the perfume of 'Arthur Bell', the growth of 'Gold Marie' and the freedom, health and colour fastness of 'Allgold'. No doubt it will be found one day.