The Magazine of Horticulture 22(11): 513-516 (Nov. 1856)
THE ROSE
PROF. CHAS. G. PAGE, WASHINGTON, D. C.

* Clemence Ruffin is called by Paul a Bourbon Perpetual. It is between the Bourbon and Remontant, partaking more of the latter, and always in bloom while in a growing condition. It is the most delicious of fragrant roses.

Deservedly at the head of all floriculture, excelling all flowers in its unceasing developments of novelties and beauties, the Rose is not only to be cherished for its fascinations, but is justly entitled to that which it has never yet received, viz., a systematic description of the varieties. This remark has no reference to the botany of the Rose, (of itself sufficiently vague,) but to the innumerable varieties resulting from cultivation, where botanical distinctions are either merged or lost. As a fashion, a passion, or a mania, the Rose, at the time of Nero's great rose banquet, stood preeminently high among flowers; but where was Devoniensis and Clemence Ruffin* when Cleopatra received her paramour upon a thousand dollars' worth of rose leaves, or when the tyrant of Rome regaled his courtiers with one hundred and fifty thousand dollars' worth at one sitting ? There was but one idea, but one attribute, (if we may except the peculiar softness and coolness of rose petals,) impelling these luxurious nobles into such inordinate extravagance, and that was the tempting odor of the rose. It is this which has given for centuries the commercial value to the rose, for the manufacture of the ottar and rose water, and for an ornament to the garden; but for twenty years past, the commercial value of the rose has gone up in another scale. The great traffic now is not in roses, but in varieties of roses, and it is important that some rules of trade should be adopted; and first among these I would suggest some standard and definite mode of describing roses, so as to convey to all at once the true character of the rose. Those who purchase roses by catalogue are constantly disappointed in the color and form, fulness and size of roses. We can hardly find two florists or rose cultivators agreeing in their description of the color and fulness of roses. Take Devoniensis for an example. Paul says its "color is creamy white; centre sometimes buff, sometimes yellowish." Rivers says, "it is not yellow, as was first supposed, but it is of a fine creamy white." Parsons says it is a "fine creamy white, tinted with rose." Buist says it was first represented as being "a fine sulphur yellow, and figured as such, but it proves to be a creamy white, and when just open in cloudy weather, of a canary color." Another florist calls it blush; another, incarnate, and so on, until it becomes like "Joseph's coat." Take another example. Neither of the above high authorities gives us a correct idea of Tea Goubault. One calls it bright rose color, and another rosy blush inclining to yellow in the centre; while in fact its peculiar appearance and distinctive character is due to the decided difference in the color of the upper and under surfaces of the petals.

It is to be regretted that in floral as well as other descriptions we have no fixed nomenclature of colors. The primitive colors yellow and red are rarely met with in roses, and the blue has yet to be discovered. The various modifications of color used with so little discrimination in describing roses range themselves under general heads somewhat as follows:

If we could select certain objects in nature of constant color with which to compare the choice roses, or if we should select a certain number of well known and established roses as standards of color for comparison, we might dispense with much of the ambiguity and circumlocution now used in describing roses.

Another most fruitful and annoying source of error is the want of accuracy in defining the form and fulness of roses. One author describes a rose as "double," another "very double," and another "perfectly double." Another rose is said to be "full," "very full," and "perfectly full." A rose with five petals is single; with two sets or ten petals, double; and above this number there is no fixed character or rule of description, except under the general epithet, full, with its various qualifications. The appearance of fulness in a rose does not depend entirely upon the number of its petals, for the size and form of the petals and size of the rose must be taken into the account. For instance, Leveson Gower, though a large rose, appears to be full, with an average of only forty petals. The petals are all large and curled or turned over at top, so as to fill up the rose. La Reine, in good condition, averages eighty petals, some of which are very small, so that it does not appear to be very full. Souvenir de Malmaison, probably the fullest of all roses when well grown, will average two hundred petals, a great many of which are small or imperfectly formed. The number of petals averages the same in Bosanquet and Mad. Angelina; the former being the smaller appears the fuller of the two. With the exception of Sanguinea, the following have been described as "full roses:"—

  Minimum
No. of Petals
Maximum
Sanguinea 10 20
Bosanquet 25 30
Mad. Angelina 28 30
Manteau de Jean d’Arc   33
Euphrosine 20 62
Leveson Gower 35 40
Nemesis 20 46
La Reine 70 90
Rivers’ Large Crimson   75
Devoniensis   78
Triomphe de La Duchese 90 95
Prince Albert 135 145
Leon des Combats   155

To those familiar with the sizes and forms of these roses it will be evident that the number of petals alone will not convey the character of the rose. The conclusion I have arrived at, after weighing all points, is, that a good description of a rose should embrace the following particulars in the form: whether cupped, globular, expanded, loose, or compact; the diameter or breadth of the rose; the height or thickness of the rose, where practicable; the average number of petals,—their appearance, whether stiff and erect or turned over, and about what proportion of them are under size, or imperfectly formed. The odor of the rose: this is found to vary very much. Anisette has the odor of anise seed; White Microphylla, of the magnolia; Euphrosine, a tinge of jasmine; Devoniensis, a combination of sweets hard to describe; Julie de Fontenelle and Harrison, yellow, of violets; Clemence Ruffin, of ottar of roses, with an admixture of lemon; Luxembourg, Victoria Modeste, Ophir, Jaune Desprez, and some others, have a fruit-like ordor.[sic] The Musk Clusters are said to have the odor of musk, but this is too equivocal to be considered characteristic.

The character of the rose for persistence may also be important. Some roses endure but one day after blooming, and some continue in a good condition for a week. From the rapid increase in improved varieties and the great number in cultivation which must be yearly superseded, it is not improbable that rose growers will find it important and necessary to hold conventions occasionally for the purpose of systematizing the rose traffic, and, in fact, to regulate the whole business of rose culture.


Lovers of the rose will welcome this attempt of Prof. Page to systematize and simplify the descriptions of its beautiful flowers, which have heretofore been so barren and uncertain. We shall look with great interest to the continuation of his paper in another number.—Ed.

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