Country Life in
America 20(4): 22-23, 66 (June 15, 1911)
AMERICA'S CONTRIBUTION TO ROSE CULTURE
THE MOST IMPORTANT VARIETIES WE HAVE PRODUCED—HOW ROSE CULTURE HAS BEEN REVOLUTIONIZED SINCE 1893
BY A RACE OF ROSES WHICH HAS AMERICAN CHARACTER
By JACKSON DAWSON
Of the Arnold Arboretum, where he has produced many valuable new roses
Photographs by NATHAN R. GRAVES, A. R. COLEMAN, and ARTHUR G. ELDREDGE
AMERICAN rose culture was revolutionized in 1893 and the foundations for the Ramblers was laid. These hardy climbing roses give us more bloom and color for the money than anything we ever had before. Prior to 1893 our roses were not well adapted to the climate of the northeastern part of the United States. Therefore, I shall make no attempt to describe the progress before that time. Indeed, I have been asked simply to tell what part I have played in the evolution of this new race of roses, making it clear to beginners how the main results were achieved, and hinting at the glories that are still to be striven for.
As to garden roses I shall merely say that it is impossible for the beginner to get any connected series of mental pictures showing the progress class by class, color by color, and season by season. The subject is too complicated. America has produced many glorious garden roses but, broadly speaking, they are not as well adapted to our climate as the hardy climbers which have a pronounced American character. For, while it is true that the prototypes of these climbers originally came from Japan and China, and that European breeders have produced many of the best varieties, there is no denying that the Ramblers of to-day fit our climate to perfection. So popular are these new climbers that one of the leading rose growers of the world says he now sells three times as many Ramblers and other hardy climbers as of all the other roses put together.
It is evident that we must build an American race of roses on three species native to Japan and China, viz., Rosa multiflora, Wichuraiana, and rugosa. For multiflora is the parent from which Crimson Rambler got its climbing habit and multitude of blossoms; from Wichuraiana (the memorial rose) we get the glossy, near-evergreen foliage and July bloom; while the rugosa (or Ramanas) rose gives us the best bush rose that is known. All three of these species are more resistant to insects and diseases than are the garden roses.
When I began hybridizing roses in the early 'eighties there were very few good pillar roses that would stand the climate of New England without protection. So I began with the white-flowered variety of multiflora. The red one had lately been introduced, and this gave greater height and more flowers than any hardy rose we had. I made my first cross with multiflora and General Jacqueminot, which was then the most famous H. P. of a deep color — crimson. Of course, I hoped to get double or semi-double roses, and I also wished to retain the hardiness and climbing habit of multiflora. But a hybridizer must learn to be content with any break at all from the original species.
At first I failed, but at last a break was made and all sorts of forms were secured. As usual, most of them were worthless. But I got a pink rose which I crossed with General Jacqueminot, producing my first success, the Dawson rose, which received a silver medal in 1894 from the Massachusetts Horticultural Society. This has large clusters of double, bright rose flowers, ten to twenty on a stem, and sometimes grows fifteen feet high. I had produced other good roses but they were poor parents. The Dawson was the first hardy climber which I could cross with other roses with any prospect of getting seed. With the aid of the Dawson I secured other good Ramblers with white, peach, salmon, red, and purple flowers, but they were all single or semi-double and I never got a yellow one. I tried to get a yellow Rambler by crossing Harrison's Yellow with the Dawson and multiflora, but the offspring were mongrels of the worst sort. I obtained the Dawson rose in 1888, and Mr. Patrick Barry said that it was well worth the journey from Rochester to see it. It grew about nine feet high, spread fifteen or twenty feet, and was covered with thousands of flowers in the early part of June. The Dawson is still cultivated in America and seems to be much prized in England.
|Richmond, the best
deep crimson rose; easier to grow than Meteor and
Liberty. An example of Mr. E. G. Hill's work in raising new Hybrid Teas
|Rosa multiflora, prototype of the Ramblers. Mr. Dawson worked
and the other Japanese species, R. Wichuraiana and rugosa
Another success which I made along the same line was a rose called Minnie Dawson, which also got a silver medal. This was one of the first steps toward fulness of flower, it being a semi-double white rose borne in large pyramidal clusters. I got it by crossing multiflora and Dawson.
The best single-flowered product of these Dawson-multiflora crosses was Daybreak, which had the merit of blooming in late July. The flowers are borne in great pyramidal clusters, and the color is very fine, a warm salmon red (or "pink," as some call it), suggesting the popular Daybreak carnation. It is vigorous and profuse, but on account of its trailing habit is useful chiefly for banks and rock work.
|Lady Gay, showing what it will do in two years.
An example of the
and wonderful roses — mostly Ramblers—raised by Mr. Michael Walsh
My next line of effort was with the memorial rose (Rosa Wichuraiana). This was considered worthless by most people who saw it at the Arnold Arboretum, because it was merely a creeper with small, single, white flowers. But a creeper can be trained as a climber, and this memorial rose had exceedingly beautiful foliage, was very glossy, wonderfully free from insects, and especially cheerful in late autumn when other roses shed their leaves. So I set to work crossing the memorial rose with the best garden roses — General Jacqueminot, Clotilde Soupert, Bardou Job, and Belle Siebrecht. I got some fine new roses, for Wichuraiana is the easiest species to hybridize of any with which I have worked, but unfortunately these new roses proved to be poor parents, as they would not produce seed. However, my first success along this line was the W. C. Egan rose, a cross between the memorial and General Jacqueminot. It has large clusters of double, flesh-colored roses, resembling Souvenir de la Malmaison, but a trifle smaller. The foliage, too, is like Malmaison, but brighter, and the habit half climbing. The Egan rose got a silver medal from the Boston critics, who are not always the easiest people in the world to please, and Professor Sargent still thinks it the best of my early productions.
In 1893 came Crimson Rambler, and in the same year I introduced the memorial rose, hybrids of which have followed in a steady stream. At first the Ramblers and the Memorial Hybrids were considered separate classes, but both were so successful that hybridizers the world over began 'to cross them, and we now have all sorts of intermediates, and many people simply class them all together as "Hardy Climbers." Naturally, I made a great many crosses between Crimson Rambler and the memorial rose, and the results were astonishing. No two seedlings were alike, and they had every variation in color and habit. The best of the early ones was the Farquhar, a bright pink flower which is probably the most popular of my roses at the present time. When I first got it I compared it with carnations of the day—Melba and Marquis. The fresh flowers were nearer the former in color, while the blossoms a week old were more like Marquis. The flowers were so much like carnations that it was hard to tell the difference even when they were side by side. The habit of Farquhar is like Wichuraiana, but the foliage is even more brilliant, and the plant is more robust and hardy, showing that the hardiness is due to the Rambler blood.
|Silver Moon, an example of Dr. W. Van Fleet's work. This has the large, ivory-white flower of the Cherokee. but from the memorial rose come the hardiness, flowers in clusters, and long period of bloom.|
My finest production along this line is the Sargent rose, which combines the good qualities of the memorial, Crimson Rambler, and Baroness Rothschild, a Hybrid Perpetual rose noted for its great size, nearly globular form, bright pink color, and splendid texture. The Sargent rose is semi-double, nearly three inches across, and of a pale rose color, and the bush, at a distance, strongly suggests a Kalmia or mountain laurel. The best clusters contain fifty to sixty flowers. This variety blooms from the middle of June to the end of July. The foliage is all that could be desired, being of the rich, glossy green so characteristic of the memorial rose, and unlike the Crimson Rambler, it remains in perfect condition after blooming. The original plant was raised in 1903 and has been visited by thousands of people who have pronounced it a wonderful picture when in bloom, as it grows about eight feet high and was nine feet in diameter in June, 1910, when the picture on page 21 was taken. This variety has not yet been put on the market, but it has received a silver medal.
Only one other line of effort can be mentioned here, that is, the third of the great Japanese species which are revolutionizing American rose culture — rugosa. This species, Professor Sargent thinks, is the most promising of any, because it makes the best bush of all, has foliage as glossy as that of the memorial rose, and is hardier. Also it has large showy fruits which are attractive until Christmas. Therefore, I early began crossing rugosa with garden roses, especially General Jacqueminot.
My first success along this line was the Arnold rose, which got a medal in 1893. This was a rich crimson, darker even than General Jacqueminot, very fragrant, and with the splendid foliage of its other parent, rugosa. It was a good rose in itself, and I hoped it would lay the foundation of a race of garden roses which would be perfectly hardy, resistant to insects, and deliver us from the bother and expense of budded roses. But these hopes were dashed. For five years I tried to cross the Arnold rose with other roses and never got one seed. I still think the Arnold a good rose, because it has one of the most brilliant colors to be found among rugosa hybrids, rivaling Carmine Pillar. In fact, when the sun shines on the Arnold rose the eyes are quite dazzled. The bush is about four feet high, and it is almost a perpetual bloomer.
Obviously, the next step was to try to combine the good qualities of the rugosa and memorial rose, since they supplement each other in time of bloom, in habit, and in winter beauty. My greatest success along this line is the Lady Dunson [Lady Duncan]. This has the prostrate habit of the memorial rose and the big flowers of rugosa. They are a rich, glowing pink, melting into an exquisite large yellow centre of golden stamens. It is well adapted to covering rocky places and low walls, and is one of the most desirable roses for evening decoration, as it shows up beautifully under artificial light.
We have made a great many other crosses at the Arnold Arboretum, and have not forgotten the native roses, especially the prairie rose (Rosa setigera). Every one is at it now, and there is plenty of work for all. If any readers of this article are able to visit the Arboretum and are especially interested in roses we should be glad to have some one show them the latest improvements, particularly if they will give us a little notice of their proposed visit.