The Gardeners' Chronicle ser. 3, 2: 659 (Nov 26, 1887)

Rosa Polyantha

ROSA POLYANTHA is unquestionably one of the most decorative Roses in existence. It is true that the individual flowers are single, and not large but the countless myriads in which they are produced, and the immense size of the trusses (each generally containing several dozens of blooms) render the display made by the plant in blossom, not only far more striking, but also of longer duration than that made by most double Roses. The flowers are pure white, with bright golden stamens, and owing to their being so abundantly produced it is almost in. credible how dense a mass of snowy bloom the plant in flower appears literally to consist of, for practically all sterns and foliage are obscured from view. As it is always difficult to give in words a clear idea of the exact appearance of a plant which is not generally known, a photograph, reproduced in the Supplement, was taken last June by Messrs. Byrne, of Richmond, of a large plant of Rosa polyantha in full bloom, to show the habit and appearance of this beautiful Japanese species as it grows here (Sunningdale). This particular plant is about 13 feet high, and 18 feet across, and might undoubtedly have extended infinitely further, both in height and width, but that it is already taller than the fence of split Larch slabs against which it grows, and consequently gets broken off by the wind at that level; and on the one side it is bounded by a railway fence, while any attempt at extension on the other side is promptly checked by being shut in the door, which is in constant use there.

As a little plant out of a travelling pot this Rose was planted in its present position nearly six years ago, and for the last four summers it has annually presented an appearance similar to that now shown in the accompanying plate, in addition to having furnished many hundreds, if not thousands, of cuttings for stocks. The plant is growing in very sandy soil, which was manured at the time of planting, and beyond having its long branches tied back to the fence in spring, the Rose has since taken care of itself. Besides presenting so beautiful an appearance, the flowers are deliciously fragrant, and prove a source of great attraction to the bees. The plant is absolutely hardy, and has even been described by a well-known French grower as the very hardiest of all Roses. In France also it is finding considerable favour as a stock both in the form of seedlings and cuttings, and for some Roses it certainly seems to answer well. It has been a good deal employed here during the past four seasons, and among the Roses tried on it the climbing Teas and also the stronger of the non-climbers, such as Marie Van Houtte, Jean Ducher, &c., as well as their relatives of the Victor Verdier race, succeed admirably. R. polyantha is as easy to propagate from cuttings in the open ground as Manetti; and roots even more rapidly. One season's cuttings were inserted in September; were planted out the following March, and budded on four months later (in July); that is to say, they were worked as stocks within ten months of their insertion as cuttings. Of course this can occasionally also be done with Manetti, but not with the almost unfailing certainty of the Japanese Rose. It remains to be proved whether R. polyantha can claim to be as good a general stock as the native Brier, but it does appear likely to be valuable to those who find a difficulty either in obtaining a supply of Brier cuttings or in making them strike, as it grows in any soil, and the Teas thrive well upon it as they will not out-of-doors upon Manetti.

It is rather a curious consideration that it is from this rampant climber that we have obtained our most charming Liliputian Roses, the hybrid Polyanthas of catalogues, such as Mignonette, Pâcquerette, Perle d'Or, &c., which hardly exceed a few inches in height. In spite of the cross with the Teas having so altered their habit of growth, however, the many-flowered inflorescence still remains characteristic of these miniature Roselets, and their loss of stature is compensated by their perpetual flowering—a quality which the species lacks.

The object now, however, is not so much to prove the value of Rosa polyantha as a seed bearer, or as stock, or as a bee-plant—though these are all additional recommendations in its favour—but rather to show that the mere fact of a Rose having only single flowers does not prevent its being a most effective garden plant, and that wherever there may be a rough fence, an unsightly shed, or anything that wants covering, whatever the soil or situation, the value of at least one single Rose as a decorative plant will be quickly proved by the planting of Rosa polyantha. T. W. Girdlestone, Sunningdale, Berks.

[Japanese Roses seem calculated to worry the botanists of the old school as much as their European congeners do. No one, for instance, seems to be able to say definitely what are the limitations between R. multiflora and R. Luciae, nor whether what is above called polyantha (if it be really Siebold and Zuccarini's plant so named) is referable to either. Certainly it does not belong to R. indica, as Miquel thought it did. Franchet and Savatier say that R. multiflora has the under-surface of the leaves slightly hairy—at any rate along the nerves—while the styles are glabrous. In R. Luciae the leaves are glabrous and the styles pubescent. Next year Mr. Girdleston can tell us to which set his plant belongs. ED.].

The Garden p. 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."

Rosa polyantha bibliography