The Garden Magazine 31(6): 373-374 (Aug 1920)
A VISIT TO THE ROSE FACTORY
J. Horace McFarland

IT WILL be noted that I do not write of a Rose factory, but definitely of the Rose factory. A number of Rose-workers are now hybridizing Roses in and for America, and I do not minify the worth of their efforts and their results when 1 refer to Dr. Van Fleet's establishment at Bell station, in the wilderness between Baltimore and Washington, is the one place where the most effort and the broadest effort is proceeding to produce better Roses, or rather better outdoor Roses, for American door-yards.

Other hybridizers are seeking continually for size, color, and commercial quality in that special field which flourishes under glass and markets a cut product. Captain Thomas is breeding broadly and intelligently toward the eventual hardy everblooming climbing Rose with initial successes, and some casual rosarians are adventuring in climbers by conventional crosses.

But Dr. Van Fleet, with the wide reach of the Federal Department of Agriculture back of him, with command of the native forms of all the world, with long years of experience and the patience bred of many efforts, and most of all with that uncanny sixth sense of feeling for what he cannot see, is uniquely working all the time, every day — and long days of non-union hours at that! — toward his goal of the Rose that will take its place with the Lilac and the Hydrangea as a hard-luck shrub, found in every bit of ground near a home that has room for a single plant.


NOT THE CONVENTIONAL IDEA OF A ROSE BUSH
Rosa Hugonis is a flowery shrub of unusual merit, giving its clear yellow blooms in the earliest spring and in rich luxuriousness. One of the new and perfectly hardy plants from Western China

ANY honest Rose-lover will admit that the highly-developed Hybrid-tea Roses of the day, lovely as are their blooms, are difficult and elusive as plants. They are subject to bugs and bothers, and Jack Frost lays his chill hand upon them with annual frequency. When they are at their June best of bloom, the flowers are marvelous, but the bush has little to commend it, and in the heat of our July and August days it is all too often leggy, leafless, and lorn. We coddle it then with sprays and manures, and hope for the fall days of regenerating coolness, in which before freezing we may expect to have some new growth and some wonderful blooms.

Yet the fact remains that most American homes having a bit of ground to serve as a garden are practically Roseless. Indeed, the total sale of Rose plants in the United States in 1920 did not provide more than one fifth of a Rose plant for each home in the land and when I consider that my own little garden had about a hundred new plants I feel like a Rose robber!

The truth is that the Roses of to-day do not commend themselves as universal and easy shrubs, and therefore most of us know them by grace of the florists and by tradition of our grandmothers' gardens.

It is to meet this need, to put the influence of the Rose into more homes and lives, that Dr. Van Fleet is laboring. He hopes to furnish the land with Roses that are not only lovely when in bloom, but are sightly garden plants when out of bloom. He wants to provide these Roses with resistance to cold and to disease, so that they will be as dependable as Mock-oranges.

Several visits to his Rose factory in May and June show progress, gratifying and astonishing to those of us who admire, but merely encouraging to the Doctor himself. He has new varieties of entrancing loveliness, covered with broad single and semi-double blooms from purest white to clear lemon yellow, and with tints of salmon and pink. He has shrubs with carmine blooms, and the whole gamut of reds is being run through his working in the deep-toned Roses (especially R. Moyesi) of far-away China.

Hardy yellow Roses have been more of a hope than a fact in America. We have several, but they are painfully deficient as shrubs. The introduction in recent years of the Chinese Rosa Hugonis has added very notably to our resources, both as to color, floriferousness, and shrub quality. Hugonis is a lovely rose, and it adds not only color and good habit to the garden, but as well is desirably early to bloom, anticipating other roses by half a month and continuing for about three weeks to furnish its arching wands of clear and lively yellow.

Despite its reluctance to produce fertile seeds when crossed with other species, Dr. Van Fleet has succeeded in doing wonders with Hugonis. With the fine Rosa altaica it gives forms of great beauty in bloom, foliage and plant. Flowers measuring as much as three inches across are seen on the plants of these hybrids, with foliage that is different and pleasing, and with a graceful shrub habit.

CROSSED with the familiar and excellent Japanese Rosa rugosa, Hugonis has yet dominated even this vigorous form to a notable extent and the resulting hybrid seen in May was semi-double, full and large, beautifully cupped, and in pleasing pink shades. Some of these rugosa crosses are dwarf in habit, giving promise of a desirable border form, utterly different from anything now in our gardens.

Another intermixture of Hugonis is with a white form of rugosa, and the hybrid surprisingly shows pink shades, the sulphur heart of the full flowers— averaging nineteen petals each — being the Hugonis contribution. This beautiful bloom does not fade to pure white, retaining its distinction to the end. Hugonis crossed with the fine American Hybrid-tea Rose Radiance has given, five years from the seed, a plant of good form, covered with very fragrant semi-double blooms of light salmon pink, tipped with a deeper hint of Radiance. This hybrid is a Rose delight.

Rosa Moyesi is a very distinct Chinese wild Rose, the sizable flowers of which, in the best forms, are a peculiar and pleasing deep dark red, while the hint of blue in the green of the foliage, and the strongly upright growth of the canes, further distinguish it. Dr. Van Fleet has worked wonders with Moyesi. One hybrid with Wichuraiana shows large single blooms of glowing crimson surrounding a white eye, which in turn encircles bright yellow stamens. The bush is of vigorous pillar habit. Another Moyesi hybrid is with Rosa Engelmanni of the American west, and it seems to Dr. Van Fleet a conspicuous and desirable sort. The flowers are large, of even bright carmine, which does not fade blue, though the foliage has in it a distinct bluish tint.

Along the approach to the Rose factory, on one visit to it, were blooming certain brilliantly crimson double Roses, which proved to be of an unnamed rugosa hybrid — just an incidental treasure. Dr. Van Fleet has used rugosa effectively for many years, and is yet at it, as we have seen. He has some fine hybrids between Wichuraiana and forms of the "China" Rose, one of which, "W. C. 24," blooms its pink flowers constantly on a dwarf and very attractive bush. A hybrid between the favorite white climber Silver Moon and the old Tea Rose Isabella Sprunt, provides full flowers in clusters of a delicate lemon shade. What the hybridizer calls a first-rate hedge Rose, because it is of suitable form and blooms throughout the season, has in it a mingling of rugosa with Triomphe Orleannais. It has been sometimes called Rosa Iwara.

BUT I may not continue to catalogue the exhibits, lest I run out of adjectives, or commit the familiar solecism of describing each of these really " new creations" as "the best ever." The whole display is fascinatingly interesting to a Rose lover, not only because of the sheer novelty and beauty of the Rose hybrids, but because of their great importance to this yet Roseless land of ours. Here, 1 firmly believe, are some sorts that will put Roses in the yards and in the hearts of hundreds of thousands of Americans, when once the official red-tape and the unofficial but very real terror of Congress have been overcome. If the American Rose Society can be an instrument in arranging to help improper commercial distribution of some of these new Roses, it will again justify its increasing influence and membership. Recent correspondence with the Secretary of Agriculture, Mr. Meredith, provides hope for a working arrangement for dissemination under equitable conditions.


A FEW FACTORY SAMPLES
Part of the Rose garden where Dr. Van Fleet gives his "creations" their try-out. In the foreground a promising Wichuraiana and Pernetiana hybrid. Blooms 4-in. in diameter, cream-white with salmon centre, "as double and as perfect as a Dahlia"