Gardeners' Chronicle 5(123): 556-557 (May 4, 1889)
IS MARÉCHAL NIEL AN OUTDOOR ROSE?
WHAT a glorious Rose this is when seen in its full beauty! but is it ever in that condition when grown out-of-doors? It has fallen to my lot to see it grown under the most varied circumstances, and I have long since come to the conclusion that the only place in which it can be seen in its real beauty is under glass.
There are cases in which other conditions, besides power of withstanding frost, have to be taken into account as in the outdoor cultivation of Tea Roses, in which we must include (as they are generally joined together) the Noisettes. As to which section the Maréchal properly belongs may be a moot point, it is mostly classed amongst the Noisettes, and yet there is a great deal of Tea look and perfume about it, its long rampant shoots would proclaim its belonging to the same division as Gloire de Dijon, but there is a delicacy about its foliage which leads one to regard it as a Tea-scented Noisette; of its history little is known, it is supposed to have been a seedling from Cloth of Gold, or Isabella Grey, most probably the latter, and was raised by Pradel; it was seen in the same year by Mr. George Paul and myself in different hands before it was let out, and although we both thought very highly of it, yet commercially it did not realize what it ought to have done, owing to this joint-ownership, although since that time no Rose, whether in plants or as cut blooms, has had so large a sale.
When I question its capabilities as an outdoor Rose, it is not because I believe its constitution to be defective, although the late Mr. Ellwanger thus wrote of it, "The finest of all yellow Roses, it is of delicate constitution, and requires very careful treatment to produce satisfactory results; it is only adapted for culture under glass, and even then the inexperienced would do better not to attempt its culture, but use in its stead Madame Marie Bedon, Solfaterre or for non-climbers Perle des Jardins."
This is a statement which we cannot, at any rate in England, endorse; we look upon any of these as far inferior to the Maréchal, which we regard unrivalled as an indoor Rose, although it is very apt to die off after sure, however, whether this is only when worked as a standard, it is then apt to become "gouty" at the point of junction between the scion and stock. I have known many plants of it which have thus succumbed, and no treatment seems to be able to save them; it is true wherever I have seen this take place they have been worked as standards, and am inclined to think that where worked as dwarfs on the Seedling Brier that this would be obviated; at least, my own limited experience tends to confirm this view. Some seven or eight years ago I planted in a pot a Maréchal Niel, and placed it at the back of a small lean-to about 12 x 8, there it has pushed its roots through the pot into the ground, while it has covered the back of the house, and would, if I allowed it, usurp the whole; but there are as yet no signs of the gouty swelling, and it makes every year long vigorous shoots. I am obliged to cut out large quantities of the wood, and obtain between 300 and 400 blooms (not of large size) annually.
But this is a digression. I return now to the question first started — Is Maréchal Niel an outdoor Rose? As a standard in the open, I have never seen it do well after a year or two, and if it is to be grown outside, a wall is the proper place for it; but to me its one fatal defect for this purpose is its habit of drooping its blooms — the footstalks are not sufficiently strong to bear it up, as on that magnificent but rarely seen yellow Rose, Cloth of Gold or Chromatella; and as the outer petals are always discoloured, you see nothing but what seems to you half-dead blooms.
I have in my mind two which I have seen in this neighbourhood, both on a wall facing southwest; one of them fell a victim to mildew; year after year it was terribly crippled, and at last its owner cut it down, but its blooms at its best days were, as I have said, poor things to look at from a distance, and you had to cut a flower before you found out its beauty; the other was a fine example, which flourished for several years, but at last fell a victim to that gouty tendency to which I have alluded; but here, too, if a stranger came up to it with its luxuriant foliage, he might have wondered what had happened to it that its flowers were so faded. On approaching it he finds that he has only been looking at the outside petals, and that he must gather the flower to see its beauty. How different this is from Cloth of Gold all who have been able to grow that lovely but capricious Rose can tell. What a sight, for instance, was a fine specimen that was in its perfection some twenty years ago in this parish, covering the front of a dwelling-house facing south-west on a light sandy soil. I have seen it with 200 blooms, some single, others in clusters; but all standing up well, certainly not as deep in colour as the Maréchal, but withal very beautiful. Dr. Bennet and Mr. A. Hall Gray have described in the Rosarian's Year Book how beautiful it is on the Riviera and in the Azores.
I see that in a contemporary it is stated that in a garden near Taunton — the very garden, I believe, where the same writer described the Tea Roses as not hardy — he saw a bed of Maréchal Niel. He rightly says he has never heard of such a bed before, nor do I think he is likely to gain many converts to his plan; he describes the growth as most luxuriant the whole bed forming a thicket of strong shoots, some as thick as a man's thumb, and from 5 to 7 feet in length. The bed was planted in the autumn of 1887, and before they commenced to make new wood last spring, many of the strongest shoots were pegged down on the surface, and they are seen to have formed roots. Certainly all tibia sounds well; he adds, however, that a few flowers were produced last year, but the weather was not very favourable for them. This, too, I can quite believe, and I think, moreover, that there can be nothing but disappointment in store for such abed with its beautiful foliage and all its flowers hanging their heads, and showing the discoloured outsides which is neither a "thing of beauty, or a joy for ever."
My verdict is, that as an outdoor Rose Maréchal Niel had better be left alone, and that the proper place for it is the roof of a greenhouse, where its beautiful golden cups can be seen from underneath. Your correspondent in last week's paper would seem to upset my ideas; but while I can quite believe (though I am much surprised) his account of its behaviour in the Midlands, it is very probable that I should find the same fault with it.
As to its colour, that is a very uncertain matter. Sometimes I have been told that its paleness is owing to its being too much in the shade, and sometimes to its being too much in the sun; but there is one thing noticeable about it, that it is much richer in colour alter it has been cut a day or two; and I believe that many of the highest coloured flowers we see owe their deep yellow to this cause, and not to any secret of growth.