The Cottage Gardener 4: 392-394 (Sept. 26, 1850)

Donald Beaton

ROSES.—The next division of this subject—and then I close it for the present—is this: after the September or autumn dressing of the plants, as I recommended last week, and as we manage them here, the earth is broken round every bush separately with a fork, and liquid-manure is given to each once a week as long as flower-buds can be seen. Whether the autumn is wet or dry, we consider (indeed we have found it out) that rain water, whether direct from the clouds or from the watering-pots, is not of itself strong enough to enable the plants to open the flowers properly. They are much in the position of weary travellers at or near the end of a long toilsome journey: they have been hard at it since last May, growing and flowering and putting by a little for another season. To this add the shorter days and cooler nights lowering the heat and light, which are the grand stimulants for keeping up their spirits, and you make out a case, and a deserving case too, for artificial support in the shape of liquids. All this time, as I have just said, the borders may be wet enough for ordinary plants, but "wet enough" is not the thing, but whether there is strength enough in it to cause the flowers to open. We often say, that such-and-such new roses are unsuited for our climate; they do not open freely in the autumn with us; and then comes the old consequence of giving a dog a bad name. Now, if roses and all other plants would do what we wanted without the aid of art and science, what would become of us poor gardeners? There would then be no "profession" for us to get bread and cheese by, and we might all go to Bath or New Zealand, and so might the book-makers; but things are much better ordered, and we must order and improve our practice in blooming roses late in the autumn, and when we do we shall find more sorts "fitted for our climate" than some of us would like to acknowledge. Let it be, at any rate, a weekly allowance; and if twice a week all the better; the earth is a good "fixer" of good things, and the watery parts will find their way into the draining. High feeding is one of the grand secrets of getting fine autumn flowers; but it is of little use now to say, that we had given them "such a dressing" of manure last spring: now is the time; but unless the clear-out of weak shoots and useless old leaves be attended to, little weak shoots can only furnish mere apologies for roses.

There is one more point that, if one could attend to it, would go a long way to establish the credit of autumnal roses; but this point is so difficult, that I am almost afraid to say any thing about it—besides, the ladies will be against me. The point I allude to is the top point or end of the flowering shoot, which they find so convenient to have along with the rose itself, to stick in their water-glasses; but now that the mornings are getting cold they must have roses in their rooms. I would never grudge after this time to have all the roses that were fit cut every morning, but I do grudge, most seriously, to have the best three or four buds at the top "clipped off," as if they were of no more use; whereas if left on the plant they would soon produce other roses in half the time that the next lower set of buds can do. The way I get over this is not in the power of most people; instead of scores I plant out hundreds of rose-bushes, in all sorts of out-of-the-way corners about the kitchen-garden. For the last few years I have been getting up a stock of the finest hybrid perpetual roses in the rosary; and, if I live so long, I hope to do away with all those roses which only bloom once in the season; and to have none but climbers and perpetual roses in the regular rosary; and I suppose the gardeners of many of the large country families will do the same; for as the fashion goes now, the great families are up in London during the old rose season, and never see their summer roses at all except as cut flowers, and by the middle of July their rosaries are the least interesting parts of their garden establishments.

There are two roses, and two only that I know of, which ought to be grown on their own roots every where, if cut roses are to be looked for to Christmas time: one of them is Gloire de Rosamene, which by a particular management, is by far the most brilliant of all the autumn roses, beating Geant des Batailles itself in producing ten flowers to his one, and fully as dark fiery crimson. After the end of October, if this rose is cut when it is half blown, it will keep a week or ten days in the glass, and no one can tell but it is a double rose— whereas it is nearly a single one. The particular management required by this rose is, to make a biennial, that is, a two-yearling of it, to make the best of it for a Christmas rose—I mean, it must be cut right down to the ground every second year—any time in April, and after a few years no one, who has not seen it treated that way, could believe the enormous quantities of roses it can furnish. But the liquid-manure tank should be stirred up for it every week, from this time, to make the best of it. Another peculiarity of it is, that it must not be worked on any other stock, only grown on its own roots, and it will root as freely as a geranium. I know as much about rose-stocks as Mr. Rivers himself. I have been put to my wits'-end for them, and out of 50 sorts of stocks that I tried this Gloire de Rosamene on, it only succeeded on one; but for that one stock I have no name; it was a sucker from a standard rose, which I budded near the ground, and for the last seven years both did very well indeed—the standard above, and Gloire de Rosamene as a bush round the stem.

There is a hedge of Gloire de Rosamene growing on its own roots in a very light piece of ground in this garden, and only a yard away from another hedge of the common laurel. This rose hedge has, therefore, not much to boast of for a good bed; but it grows most healthily, and flowers enormously in June, and from September till Christmas; and I believe that it would not refuse to do well in a bed of sand, if it had three or four good waterings of liquid manure in the course of the season. Our gardeners here say the hedge lives entirely on "pot victuals," meaning the watering-pot; and when it is in full bloom against the laurel hedge, and seen at a distance on a dull morning or in the dusk of the evening, one might imagine the hedge was on fire. Now, every other plant in this hedge is cut down close to the ground every year, late in April, and by this time the fresh shoots are from three to five feet long, after being once stopped in July to cut away the first blossoms, so that the cut-down plants are only used for the autumn bloom. Next year these shoots will be trained against wire, almost at full length, only the small side shoots being cut out, or very close, and the next set of plants cut in their turn. A stranger passing along this hedge could hardly perceive that anything particular is done to it, because the new shoots are trained as fast as they grow against the shoots of last year. Two points are thus gained—the hedge is not allowed to grow beyond a certain height, five feet, a plan which is necessary for that situation, and the enormous quantities of cut flowers it would yield. I have seen our boys make bouquets of roses in bud from this hedge, with a couple of rows of the buds of the old White China round the outside of it, and I am ashamed to say the diameters of them, they make them so large.

Here, now, is a fair sample of how a gardener gets entangled in roses when he wants to work among them or write of them. Farther back I thought I would keep to the two roses on their own roots, the hedge rose and Fulgore, but here the White China appears as an edging for a silly bouquet, and if I do not say something about it on the spot, I shall be besieged with letters. This is always the way when we let the pen slip, and mention a plant incidentally. This White China rose had the good fortune to come into the world before they found out the way to give roses such hard names, and, like old gardeners, very few people care anything about it; in short, I do not know if the nurserymen grow it at all, it is so old; but this I do know, that they grow no China rose half so useful. It is in full flower every day from May to December, and late in the season it is the only white rose one can pick to make a variety in the glasses. In November the buds of it are as hard as acorns, and as pointed as a bayonet, and if it is wet weather, the out side row of petals look much faded, and nine persons out of ten would pass it as gone; but strip off the faded covering and you have the nicest white rose bud you ever saw, and it will keep ten days fresh in a dry warm room. All the autumn roses for house decoration ought to be cut before the buds are more than half blown; they will keep all the longer, and look as well if not better than if they were quite open; they escape the damp, and will open in the glasses.

It often happens, that one's garden in front or behind the house is a long narrow piece of ground, and the end farthest from the house is often taken up with choice vegetables, so that the flower and kitchen-gardens are almost all in one. Now, with that arrangement, this Gloire de Rosamene would be the very thing to make a hedge of to divide the two gardens from each other; and where the walks interfere, I would make an archway over them of a different rose for variety—say the Felicite Perpetuelle, the best of the evergreen section, and also the best of them to bud others on. Then, in June, how well the delicately white blossoms of this beautiful rose would contrast with the fiery red of the Gloire de Rosamene. Besides, one might well amuse oneself of an evening to bud perpetual roses all round the archway; for every rose in the catalogues will grow famously on the Felicite perpetuelle. To make this hedge thick, and to allow of every other plant of it, or every third plant, to be cut down, if that was thought advisable, the plants should stand a foot apart; and then on the flower-garden side of this splendid hedge I would plant a whole row of the old white China rose, and about two feet from the bottom of the hedge. This arrangement would provide more roses at less cost of space in a small garden than any one could believe who did not see the plan tried, to keep the hedge in its proper place, a row of stakes would be required the second season after planting; and for the first two years the stakes need not be higher than a yard; because all that would be necessary would only be to keep the lower part of the hedge in a straight line; the tops might lean over on either side a little, and look all the more graceful; but as soon as the plants are of full strength, I think they would look best trained regularly as a hedge from "top to bottom"—as the mason built his house. There is no speculation in all this; I have had such a hedge under my control these seven years, and I am quite sure of the plan, and that there is nothing in the garden looks better. The stakes need not stand nearer than from six to nine feet apart, and small wires to pass from stake to stake, and eighteen inches from stretch to stretch. Very small wire will do, and a pound of it, for very little money, will run a long way.

Another plan, which would add greatly to the pleasure of having such a beautiful hedge to divide one's garden, would be to plant the Fulgore rose as every fourth or fifth plant in the hedge; and, if one could get them so, the plants would do much better on their own roots. This Fulgore does not do well, I believe, anywhere worked on another plant, after the first few years. It would grow better on the Gloire de Rosamene itself than on any other rose, and might safely be budded on it as it stands in the hedge; and so might Madame Laffay, the third best rose for such a hedge. Fulgore is gone much out of fashion for the last few years, because it does not grow well on the dog-rose stock, at least, it will not live long on it if pruned close; but of all the late autumn roses it is by far the sweetest, and comes nearest the old Cabbage rose in shape, and blooms as late as Madame Laffay: but the true way to manage it is to get it from cuttings, and to cut it right down to the ground every second or third year, and then after thinning the flower buds, and with "pot victuals," you might cut dozens of full blown roses of it that the people in London could not make out from regular cabbage roses, and nearly, if not altogether, as sweet. Sometimes it will make three or four shoots as many feet in length, and then flower at the ends, while the rest of the head is languishing for want of nourishment; and when that happens away go the weak parts by the first hard winter, and of course an under bark disease follows; and the sweetest of the autumn roses is pronounced to be bad to keep, and, as there is no lack of sorts, it is thrown aside. It is true, that bad habits of this nature are a good deal under the control of the gardener—the long shoots might have been stopped when it was seen that they meant to have it all their own way; but then they would turn sulky, get hide-bound, and you must either assist them to follow the bent of their own nature, and not allow them a foster-parent, but to grow on their own roots, when by an occasional cutting down to the ground they will make the best autumn bloomers we have.

Now, in my experiments with rose stocks—for I have been driven to make all sorts of trials with them—I have found out more secrets than this of managing the Fulgore. There are twelve or fifteen other perpetual roses that will grow on their own roots much better than when they are worked on the best stocks; and, what is of far more consequence, they will succeed on poor land where the dog-rose could not keep a leaf after the first fortnight of dry weather; and if I had to grow beautiful hushes of the dog-rose, I must reverse the present custom, and bud it on Madame Laffay, which is perhaps the best stock of all for the whole race of hybrid perpetuals on all soils inimical to the race. I have had bushes of this exquisite rose which made shoots six feet long the second season from the cutting, indeed, in the cutting-bed, which was of the lightest sandy soil, and no strong water was given them. I have budded a few other sorts on it some years back, by way of trial, with which I am pleased. I have transplanted them three times, which is a good test to find out if the variety is given to form root suckers; and I believe it is not—mine showed none yet; and as to suckers from the stem of any stock that was reared by hand, I would not allow garden room for any one who could not prevent that after reading that useful work, The Cottage Gardener. I have this last month put in some hundreds of cuttings of Madame Laffay, with a view to make use of them to work a collection—or rather a selection—of hybrid perpetuals on. I wish I could get rid of this stupid prefix, hybrid; how it came to be applied to these more than to other roses I cannot tell; there is not a rose worth growing in the whole country which is not a hybrid; and as we call the natural monthly roses "China's," the Perpetuals had no more need of supports by hybrid stakes than I have of "seven mile boots." Mr. Appleby has given the best receipts for making cuttings of the hardy shrubs that I have seen, in the first volume of THE COTTAGE GARDENER.

PRUNING PERPETUAL ROSES.—At the risk of having the Editorial whistle in my ears to warn me of the space I occupy, I must say two or three words, more in season, about roses, as very likely I cannot turn to them again for a long time. I have just pruned a row of perpetual roses that are growing on their own roots. I cut them very close, all except one or two of the very weakest shoots, which I left at full length. The reason I left these little shoots is, that they might take the still rising sap and keep it for themselves, instead of letting it be wasted by "bleeding;" and this they have done, for none of the cut shoots bled. Now I shall watch these cut down roses, and when I see the bottom eyes are swollen, like those of a man blowing the bagpipes, I mean to transplant them to another part of the garden. By this simple process of cutting off the shoots, I shall gain many advantages: the roses can be removed a month sooner than the usual time, by which they will be well rooted in the new place before Christmas, every cell and tube being full of sap before winter, as they must be by this plan; they will burst into leaf next spring as if they were not disturbed in the autumn, and having made good roots before this time, there is no fear but this vigour will be amply sustained, and that before the end of May no one could make out that they were transplanted for years past. I have explained all this over and over again; yet people who read constantly keep sending to us, week after week, for instructions about roses and other things, as if they had never opened a gardening book; so that we must, as it were, hammer out our instructions upon many points repeatedly before we can make the thing familiar to the million; and there is no point in gardening which seems to require more hammering than that of the due preparation of plants for removal to make the best of them. Cutting the roots all round some time before the tree or shrub is removed, as Mr. Errington recommends, is one grand step gained, and cutting the branches as I insist on is no less so; but the two operations must not be performed at the same time, otherwise the good effects of pruning to get the bottom buds plump and full of sap is interfered with in a particular degree; still, I would much rather do that than follow the common herd, and prune at the time of removing a plant; for there is no more effectual means for crippling its energies.

Beaton Bibliography