The Gardeners' Chronicle. July 14, 1900. p. 24-25
ROSE SPORTS AND SEEDLINGS
by "Wild Rose"
IT always seems to me that in our Rose lists and catalogues it should be most distinctly stated whether a new Rose is a sport (or what the French call un accident fixé), or a genuine seedling, and this for two or three reasons. In the first place, I do not think as much credit is due to the originator of a new sport as to the raiser of a new seedling. A grower walking through his ground notices a Rose which is different from all the others on the same plant; he at once sees that it is something that ought to be looked after, and as soon as he persuades himself that the new variety is likely to be a valuable one, he sets to work to propagate it. He has, however, had no share in producing it, and therefore I do not think that much credit is due to him. In very many instances the sport refuses to be fixed, and I have known a case where for years the attempt has been made, and had at last to be abandoned. As a rule, the sport exhibits flowers of the same shape and substance as that from which it originated, and in all respects its counterpart, except in the matter of colour.
Another reason why sports ought to be especially mentioned is, that some of them have an unpleasant way of reverting to the type; a notable instance of this occurred in the case of that remarkably-coloured Rose, Sir Rowland Hill. A beautiful box of it was exhibited at the National Rose Society's exhibition at Edinburgh in 1887, and obtained a Gold Medal of the National Pose Society as a new Rose. The exhibitor did not state whether it was a seedling or a sport, and it was believed to be a seedling; had it been stated that it was a sport, I think the judges would have asked that it might be shown again. Many were attracted by its beautiful claret colour, and it was extensively sold (and so were those who bought it!), for the following season complaints came in from all quarters that it was nothing but Charles Lefebvre, and purchasers complained that their plants were nothing but that fine flower. Now had it been stated that it was a sport, I think purchasers would have held back until they could hear more about it. I can not think that there is any very great credit in sending out a Rose of this character. I once found in a friend's garden in the north, that very beautiful Sweet Briar sport Janet's Pride, but I never claimed any credit for the discovery; and when after a time I presented some plants of it to my good friend Mr. George Paul, who sent it out, I would not have my name in any way connected with it, as I was sure it would give a false impression to Rose growers—and yet I think there are few flowers which have gained greater popularity than this has done.
Another Rose which has gained the Gold Medal has been that very beautiful one of Mr. Piper's Sunrise; this is a sport from Sunset, which is itself a sport from Perle des Jardins, and I think we may look upon this now as really fixed—a large number of plants have been distributed, but I have not heard complaints of any as reverting to the type. The Rose from which they both sprang is one which is very apt to divide; but I do not think the same complaint is made of Sunrise, owing perhaps to its not being quite so full of petals. These sports, however much they may differ in colour, nearly all retain the form of the type. I say nearly all, because some doubt has been thrown upon the origin of Merveille de Lyon, some saying that it is a seedling from Baroness Rothschild, others that it is only a sport of that flower from which it so widely differs in form, that I think following the rule in such cases it must be a seedling, and not a sport. Several sports come to its from America, but they are variable in their character.
When I contrast seedlings with sports, I do not refer to those seedlings which in former days came from heps gathered at haphazard from the Rose garden, but as always now-a-days (at any rate with our home-raised flowers), when they are the results of careful cross-breeding, and when a good deal of judgment has to be exercised as to what parents should be selected for the cross. If anybody will refer to the treatise on the Hybridisation of Roses by Mr. Walter Easlea, published by the National Rose Society, he will see how much judgment is necessary in this matter, and therefore he will see how much more credit is due to those who, proceeding on scientific principles, endeavour to give us the results of their judgment and experience. I believe I am not far wrong in saying that this artificial crossing was not exercised by any foreign Rose-grower until quite recently; and yet it is somewhat remarkable that since they have professed to carry it out, they have produced no flowers among the dark-coloured section comparable to those which they sent us in former years. A. K. Williams, Alfred Colomb, Charles Lefebvre, Dr. Andry, Duke of Wellington, Fisher Holmes, General Jacqueminot, Horace Vernet, Louis Van Houtte, Marie Baumann, Prince Camille de Rohan, Reynolds Hole, Xavier Olibo, are Roses which were raised in what I might call the pre-scientific period, many of them between thirty and forty years ago, and yet there has nothing been produced during recent years which can at all equal them. I think this ia a very remarkable fact, and I cannot but cease to wonder why it is now that we get none of these high-coloured Roses from the continent.
It is the same way with the Teas; the old varieties, such as Anna Olivier, Comtesse de Kadaillac, Catherine Mermet, Rubens, Devoniensis, Innocente Pirola, Jean Ducher, Madame Cusin, Marie Van Houtte, Niphetos, Souvenir d'Elise Vardon, Souvenir d'un Ami, still hold their place amongst the very best of the kind. In fact, although new Teas are every year advertised by the dozen, very few find their place in the front rank; while in those that are announced, we find the parents now-a-days very frequently put forward. The interest which is taken in Roses is evidenced in various ways: thus the other day I had a letter from a correspondent who wanted very much to know if there was any book published, either in England or abroad, which would enlighten her as to the parentage of our Roses. I answered that so far as I knew there was none, and in fact as regards some of our oldest and most valued varieties, it seemed to be impossible, because we knew nothing whatever concerning some of them. There is one other point in connection with these sports to which I have alluded, which is of some interest, namely, why it is that the Rose and the Chrysanthemum are the only florists' flowers (so far as I know) which are subject to this variation. I never knew, for instance, a sport of the Carnation or Picotee, the Dahlia, or the Auricula. [We have frequently seen sports from all of these, and have no doubt they are much more common than our correspondent suggests. ED.]. And why these two flowers should be so subject to them, is one of those mysteries which I suppose we cannot solve. The Rose is a flowering shrub, and the Chrysanthemum a herbaceous plant: and though so unlike in character, are similar in their tendency to this accidental variation. There is one Rose, a favourite everywhere, and unsurpassed in the brilliancy of its colour and its many excellent qualities, of which, I believe, the parentage is not accurately known—I mean Marechal Niel. We had hoped ere this that something might have arisen from it, but it still remains facile princeps amongst yellow Roses. Wild Rose.