The Garden 13:(326)136 (Feb. 16, 1878)

Rosa polyantha.—Mr. George Paul having told us of the beauty of this Rose as a vigorous climber in Mr. J. Sisley's garden at Lyons, we, in reply to an inquiry, received the following note from that veteran amateur, who has enriched our gardens with so many good varieties of plants:—

"As to the principal object of your letter, I can say but very little. I have possessed Rosa polyantha since it has been introduced from Japan. It is a very hardy shrub, having stood with me the severe winter of 1870, when we had, in December, 24° Centigrade below freezing point. The flowers are white, small, and single, but they are borne in clusters, like the Lilac. It seeds freely. It needs no pruning; quite the contrary. I have obtained from its seeds several varieties with double flowers, which are about the form and size of those of R. multiflora; they are generally white, but some are tainted yellowish or pink. I must suppose that the mother plant has been fertilised, through insect agency, with the pollen of other Roses, because my son, who is an engineer in Japan, wrote to me that in the neighbourhood where he resides, where the Rosa polyantha grows wild on the hills, it always comes true from seed, but that may happen because there are no other Roses in the neighbourhood."

The Old Rose Advisor, Volume 2: 317-319

A note on the parent of the Polyantha roses:

"This species originated in Japan, whence it was introduced into France for the first time, as far as we know, around 1862. It was the Fleuriste de Paris which received the first slip, which still exists, and which, planted in the nursery of Longchamps, grew into a strong shrub which, each year, is covered with thousands of blossoms of a very beautiful white. Here are the characteristics of the Type: Shrub extremely bushy, very vigorous; nonblooming branches nearly climbing, growing to nearly two meters [ca. 6 feet], in the case of young plants on their own roots; strong thorns, enlarged at the base, slightly hooked; 5-7 leaflets, sometimes even nine pairs of oval-elliptical leaflets, which are soft, gentle to the touch, villose, and thoroughly but shallowly dentate; rachis rust-colored, with short prickles similarly colored, enlarged at the base and sharply barbed on each side; blooming branches comparatively slender, with smaller leaflets which are more rounded and more obviously dentate than those of the sterile branches; inflorescence in long, pyramidal, subconical panicles, quite upright, much branched; buds very small, solitary, or most often clustered, on a shortly-villose flower stalk; blossoms lightly and pleasantly fragrant, the scent somewhat resembling that of Tea roses, pure white, or slightly sulphurous; 5 wedge-shaped petals, very large at the summit, which, in the middle, exhibits a large notch, giving it the appearance of the 5-armed Maltese Cross...; hips... very small, with deciduous sepals, beautiful glossy red, as if varnished, at maturity, with many long and narrow seeds. It blooms around the end of May, and is very ornamental. If perhaps this species originated in Japan, it is also, we are told, found in China...lt is from this latter country that Monsieur A. Leroy's firm has received it with no other name than that of 'new rose.'

"It is evidently quite variable, and the small number of seedlings it has given us have sometimes differed from the Type so much that none of the characteristic of the original are preserved. Along the same lines, Monsieur Jean Sisley tells us, in a letter written September 8, 1873, 'This single 'Polyantha'...produced, without artificial pollination, very distinct and notable varieties. Guillot fils has obtained double blossoms, yellow as those of the Banksia, and double reds, as well as one he calls remontant, and one with foliage like that of R. microphylla; but none of these varieties has that characteristic which distinguishes the Type: blooming in a panicle, which, to my way of thinking, makes it distinct from all other rosesas well as more meritorious.'

"June 30 of that same year, Monsieur Sisley wrote to us, " 'Polyantha' is very hardy.. . It seeds easily, producing many varieties, which however are not out yet—single pinks, double pinks, single and double yellows, and a very double white. This last is going to be released to commerce. [A footnote adds: This very double white-blossomed plant looks like a miniature Noisette; it seems to be the equivalent of the Pompon Chinas, and could be used, like them, in borders... It was to be seen at the last exposition at the Palais de l'Industrie, in the booth of Messrs. Lévêque and son.., under the name 'Pâquerette in allusion to the small size of all its parts, and the elegance of its flower.]...Ph. Rambaux has shown some seedlings which he calls Noisettes because they have that look—but they are from 'Polyantha'.'

"We have had a chance to see and study the growth and bloom of Monsieur Rambaux's plants, and cannot hesitate to say that they have the appearance of Teas and Noisettes, and that their flowers have, in color, fragrance, and general character, the look of these two groups. All the plants are freely remontant, blooming until frost stops them. The hips are nearly all subspherical, smooth, and glossy, varying from 7 to 10 millimeters [ca. 25-.45 inch], and in color varying from orange red to brownish violet; one exceptional variety has longly oval-acuminate sepals which are persistent, while all the others are deciduous.

"In a letter of October 25, 1875, on the same subject, Monsieur Sisley adds, 'I forgot to tell you that the seeds of my children of 'Polyantha' are three or four times larger than those of their mother." [R-H76]