The Rose Amateur’s Guide (1840) pp. 69-75
Thomas Rivers


The Austrian Briar, a native of the South of Europe, is found on the hills of the North of Italy, producing copper or red, as well as yellow flowers; but, strange to say, though the flowers are invariably single, yet they never produce seed. In this country also it is with extreme difficulty, and only by fertilising its flowers, that seed can be perfected; if the flowers are examined they will all be found deficient in pollen, which accounts for this universal barrenness. A Double Copper Austrian Briar is yet a desideratum.

The Copper or Red Austrian, the Capucine of the French, is a most singular rose; the inside of each petal is of a bright copper red, the outside inclining to sulphur; this rose is most impatient of a smoky atmosphere, and will not put forth a single bloom within ten or twelve miles of London. The Double Yellow, or William's Double Yellow Sweet Briar, is a pretty double rose, raised from the Single Yellow Austrian by Mr. Williams of Pitmaston a few years since; this blooms more freely than the original species, and is a most desirable variety. Rosa Harrisonii is also a double yellow rose, said to have been raised from seed in America, and sent from thence to this country about four years since: this has proved one of the most beautiful of yellow roses; its flowers before expansion are globular, but a hot sun makes them expand and lose much of their beauty. It is a more robust grower than the Double Yellow Sweet Briar; its flowers are also a little larger, and do not fade so soon. The Single Yellow is the most brilliant yellow rose we yet possess; and it will probably be the parent of some double varieties, its equal in colour.

To this peculiar family of roses a few new varieties have been added. Cuivre Rouge, a curious hybrid, partaking of the Boursault Rose, with smooth thornless branches and dull reddish single flowers, and the Superb Double Yellow Briar, a seedling raised by Mr. Williams of Pitmaston from the same rose, and, I believe, at the same time as the Double Yellow Briar. This has larger and more double flowers, but they are perhaps not so bright in colour, which might be owing to the excessive wet weather during its flowering season, as it bloomed here for the first time last summer (1839). A third variety is also in my possession, from Italian seed, which gives hopes of being a very double globular bright yellow rose, producing its flowers in great abundance.

To bloom them in perfection Austrian Briars require a moist soil and dry pure air; but little manure is necessary, as they grow freely in any tolerably good and moist soil; neither do they require severe pruning, but merely the strong shoots shortened, and most of the twigs left on the plant, as they, generally, produce flowers in great abundance.

No family of roses offers such an interesting field for experiments in raising new varieties from seed as this. First, we have the Copper Austrian, from which, although it is one of the oldest roses in our gardens, a double flowering variety has never yet been obtained. This rose is always defective in pollen, and consequently it will not bear seed unless its flowers are fertilised: as it will be interesting to retain the traits of the species, it should be planted with and fertilised by the Double Yellow; it will then in warm dry seasons produce seed not abundantly, but the amateur must rest satisfied if he can procure even one hep full of perfect seed. A French variety of this rose called "Capucine de Semis" seems to bear seed more freely, but as the colour of its flowers is not so bright as the original, its seed even from fertilised flowers would not be so valuable.

The beautiful and brilliant Rosa Harrisonii, however, gives the brightest hopes. This should also be planted with the Double Yellow Briar, it will then, as I had the pleasure of ascertaining even the last unfavourable summer, bear seed abundantly; no rose will perhaps show the effects of fertilising its flowers more plainly than this, and consequently to the amateur it is the pleasing triumph of art over nature. Every flower on my experimental plants, not fertilised, proved abortive, while, on the contrary, all those that were so, produced large black spherical heps full of perfect seed.


*Introduced to our gardens in 1629.

The origin of this very old and beautiful rose, like that of the Moss Rose, seems lost in obscurity. In the botanical catalogues it is made a species, said to be a native of the Levant*, and never to have been seen in a wild state bearing single flowers. It is passing strange, that this double rose should have been always considered a species. Nature has never yet given us a double flowering species to raise single flowering varieties from; but exactly the reverse. We are compelled, therefore,. to consider the parent of this rose to be a species bearing single flowers. If this single flowering species was a native of the Levant, our botanists, ere now, would have discovered its habitats: I cannot help, therefore, suggesting, that to the gardens of the east of Europe we must look for the origin of this rose; and to the Single Yellow Austrian Briar (Rosa lutea), as its parent; though that, in a state of nature, seldom if ever bears seed, yet, as I have proved, it will if its flowers are fertilised. I do not suppose that the gardeners of the East knew of this, now common, operation; but it probably was done by some accidental juxta-position, and thus, by mere chance, one of the most remarkable and beautiful of roses was originated. From its foliage having acquired a glaucous pubescence, and its shoots a greenish yellow tinge, in those respects much unlike the Austrian Briar, I have sometimes been inclined to impute its origin to that rose, fertilised with a double or semi-double variety of the Damask Rose, for that is also an eastern plant.

As yet, we have but two roses in this division; the Double Yellow, or "Yellow Provence," with large globular and very double bright yellow flowers, and the Pompone Jaune, or dwarf Double Yellow, both excessively shy of producing full-blown flowers; though they grow in any moderately good soil with great luxuriance, and show an abundance of flower-buds; but some "worm i' the bud" generally causes them to fall off prematurely. To remedy this, various situations have been recommended: some have said, plant it against a south wall; others, give it a northern aspect, under the drip of some water-trough, as it requires a wet situation. All this is quackery and nonsense. The Yellow Provence Rose is a native of a warm climate, and therefore requires a warm situation, a free and airy exposure, and rich soil.

At Burleigh, the seat of the Marquis of Exeter, the effect of situation on this rose is forcibly shown. A very old plant is growing against the southern wall of the mansion, in a confined situation, its roots cramped by a stone pavement; it is weakly, and never shows a flower-bud. In the entrance court is another plant, growing in front of a low parapet wall, in a good loamy soil and free airy exposure; this is in a state of the greatest luxuriance, and blooms in fine perfection nearly every season.

Mr. Mackintosh, the gardener, who kindly pointed out these plants to me, thought the latter a distinct and superior variety, as it was brought from France by a French cook, a few years since; but it is certainly nothing but the genuine old Double Yellow Rose.

In unfavourable soils it will often flourish and bloom freely, if budded on the Musk Rose, the Common China Rose, or the Blush Boursault; but the following pretty method of culture, I beg to suggest, though I must confess I have not yet tried it:—Bud or graft it on some short stems of the Dog Rose; in the autumn, pot some of the strongest plants, and, late in spring, force them with a gentle heat, giving plenty of air. By this method the dry and warm climate of Florence and Genoa may, perhaps, be partially imitated; for there it blooms in such profusion, that large quantities of its magnificent flowers are daily sold in the markets during the rose season.