The Southern Agriculturist and Register of Rural Affairs 4(12): 617-622 (Dec 1831)

Art. I.—Some observations on the culture of the Cherokee or Nondescript Rose, as a hedge plant:
selected from the unpublished manuscripts of the late Stephen Elliott. June 8th, 1814.
(Read before the Horticultural Society of Charleston, October 13, 1831.)

Along many parts of our sea-coast the want of timber begins to be seriously felt.

With the increase of our population, and the extension of our cultivation, the destruction of our forests has been proportionally great. The culture of cotton has accidentally added to the causes which were naturally waiting them. By diverting a great portion of the labour of the country into a new channel, and requiring for its successful cultivation a frequent change of soil, the woodlands were every where rapidly cleared; and in many situations no more timber were reserved than appeared to be absolutely necessary for the immediate use of the plantations. The storms which since the year 1804, have swept our sea-coast with unprecedented violence and frequency, have accelerated the progress of this evil. On the islands and on the exposed points of the adjacent main, most of the fruit trees which were reserved by the prudence of the proprietors, have been destroyed by the unaccustomed violence of the wind. The planters already in many situations begin to suffer from the want of timber for fences, and to perceive the necessity of procuring some substitute for this troublesome and expensive enclosure.

In countries where stone does non abound, hedges of living plants offer the only resource against the failure of limber: and where suitable plants can be discovered it cannot be doubted that hedges from their duration, their strength, and their exemption from accident are superior to wooden enclosures of any description whatsoever.

To the planters of this country who are beginning to suffer from the want of the timber, and to those who may wish to give to their plantations the improvement which permanent and impenetrable fences will certainly bestow on them, I would recommend the culture of the plant now generally known in Carolina and Georgia, by the name of the Cherokee or Nondescript Rose.

It is now about fifteen years since some observations I made on its habits and growth, led me to believe it would prove a most valuable hedge plant; as such I recommended it to many persons, but circumstances which it is un necessary here to mention, prevented me from making any experiment but on a limited scale.

I have now, however, for the last four or five years been planting these hedges extensively, and I feel gratified in stating that the result has answered my most sanguine expectations, and I think, I may without fear of disappointment, congratulate this country in possessing a plant which for strength, for permanency, for facility of culture, and for beauty equals, and perhaps, exceeds the hedge plant of any country and of any climate with which we are acquainted.

*Mr. Kin, a most indefatigable collector of the plants of the United States, and I believe a very worthy and honest man, assured me that he had found this Rose on or near the Cumberland mountains, in Tennessee.
**As even the name of Cherokee Rose is attended with some inconvenience and confusion, having been already applied, though improperly to the rose coloured Robinia. (Robinia hispida, Lin:) it may, perhaps, be not improper to introduce a new and appropriate name, and distinguish this plant as the "Hedge Rose."
CybeRose note: Nathaniel Hall, esq. was married to Anne Gibbons, daughter of Joseph. The Gibbons brothers mentioned were William and Barack, also sons of Joseph. Gov. Edward Telfair was married to Sarah Gibbons, daughter of William.

The history of this plant is obscure. It was cultivated before the revolution by the late Nathaniel Hall, Esq. at his plantation, near Savannah river, and having been obtained from thence and propagated as an ornamental plant in the garden of Mr. Telfair, and the Mr. Gibbons' of Sharon and Beach Hill, under the name of the "Cherokee Rose," it is probable that it was originally brought down from our mountains by some of the Indian traders.* Michaux met with it in the gardens in Georgia, and perceiving that it was an undescribed plant, he introduced it into the gardens near Charleston as an Nondescript Rose. Hence it has obtained in that neighbourhood the popular but absurd name of the "Nondescript." In Georgia, it has always retained the name of Cherokee Rose.**

In the year 1796, I obtained a few of these plants and placed them accidentally at no great distance from each other on a straight border of my garden. About two years afterwards the garden was destroyed and thrown into pasture and the plants entirely exposed. I afterwards removed from the plantation, and for a few years it was uncultivated. In 1802, the plants had already formed a substantial hedge, their long flexible branches falling to the ground and taking root extended themselves on every side. They soon met, and intermingling their thorny limbs formed a barrier which no quadruped could break, and which I believe no bird can penetrate.

This original hedge still remains on my plantation; it is employed now as a garden fence by one of my negroes; it has extended sixteen or eighteen feet in breadth, and its height nearly equals its width. It has been suffered to grow to this size partly from curiosity as its situation was retired, but principally because in its efforts to extend itself, it annually furnished a great number of layers and offsets for the formation of new hedges.

Rosa Sepiaria? Caule aculeato, decumbente foliolis ternatis, (rarissime quinatis) foliolis lanceolatis, acutis, serratis, coriaceis, glaber, dimis, lucidis, perennantibus, floribus solitariis albis calyce hispido, laciuiis, lanceolatis longe acuminalis inequalibus duobus apice foliaceis serretis.

I have not entered into a description of this new plant, because in this country it is well known. I shall merely subjoin in a note its botanical characters.† Its qualities are more important and it may be proper to detail some of the advantages which it eminently possesses. Approaching to a vine in its habit, its growth is rapid. Its branches are thickly armed with short strong and persistent thorns, and their flexibility enables the cultivator to give them whatever form he may prefer; as they take root readily wherever they touch the ground, and can be trained in any direction where they may be required, every weak place can in one or two months be strengthened by living plants, and with attention the whole hedge may be made a continued series of plants with their stems and branches so completely interlocked, and so strongly armed as to become to animals impenetrable. Even without attention this result generally takes place. Add to this that, as by layers the places of the old plants which decay can be immediately supplied, the duration of the hedge may be considered as interminable.

Although beauty in a hedge may not be an object of primary importance, it has some claims to notice, and may add some inducements to its cultivation. This Rose has been introduced into all gardens as an ornamental shrub, as a hedge it would decorate our fields, it would enliven the sombre and tawny hue of our sunburnt pastures, its dark, lucid, and perennial leaves would give gaiety and animation to the bosom of winter, whilst its large snow white flowers would exhibit through the summer, a splendid contrast to its rich foliage.

Its cultivation is easy. It will grow without much difficulty from cuttings, but as its branches, if undisturbed, fall to the ground and take root, a few old plants will afford a very great supply of young ones with roots, and these if set out at any time between September and March will succeed almost universally.

It grows in all soils, but prefers a close and damp one. I have raised it, however, in the poorest and driest sand, but its growth was proportionally slow. How it will bear submersion I have not ascertained. If it should not be easily destroyed by water, it will prove a great acquisition in the swamps along the margin of our large rivers, where the fences are often by freshets swept entirely away; and in their rich soils it will grow with great luxuriance.

It has resisted the cold of 1779-80, and 1796-97, the two severest winters within the recollection of most of the present generation. Of the former winter I have but an indistinct recollection, and with this plant I was not then acquainted; but in the latter it grew in my garden, and when the orange trees were almost without exception killed to the roots, this rose was uninjured.

The method of culture which has succeeded best with me, and which, I would, therefore, recommend, is to plant on the level ground, and suffer it to grow without support. It should be kept free from weeds and bushes for one season, and then, (except in newly cleared land where shrubs shoot up vigorously from old roots) it will protect itself. Its growth, however, will certainly be accelerated by care and attention. If planted on banks, the soil on their summit is generally poor and dry, and the plants grow slowly and require much nursing, and if planted near fences and supported by them, the branches will climb on the fences, and leave the base of the hedge where strength is most required, open and weak. When once a good and compact base is acquired, height is very soon obtained.

The oldest hedge on my plantation planted as I recommend, was used as a fence at the age of four years, by stopping a few gaps which had been used as paths by cattle. A single pannel of fence stopped each gap. This hedge is about 600 yards long. The plants were originally set out at a distance often feet. If they had been planted as near as five feet, I have no doubt that one year would have been gained. Indeed, in one part of this hedge where the ground is rich, it formed when three years old, a sufficient fence. I have now trimmed it to a width of seven feet, a space very little greater than a worm fence occupies and less than is necessary for a double ditch and bank, and I find it amply sufficient- The size and fashion of the hedge, however, may be regulated very much at the pleasure of the cultivator.

It may be proper to mention that the hedges on my plantation have been constantly exposed through the winter to cattle of every description, excepting goats. In February and March, sheep and cows eat the young shoots, but they have never injured the plants themselves although they have possibly retarded their growth. On the other hand it is probable that extensive hedges of this rose would afford a very considerable resource to cattle at that season of the year when food is most wanted.

These hedges will certainly require some work to trim them and keep them in good order; but this will be trifling when compared to the waste of time and labour necessary to repair our wooden fences. Besides the hedges can be trimmed at any season of the year when the planter has most leisure: and if neglected, even for years, no other evil will arise than the temporary loss of ground, occupied by their encroachments. The oldest plants can be trimmed without injury.

It, perhaps, is scarcely necessary to point out to the planters of this country the important consequences that may result from the general introduction of hedges on their plantations. By enabling them to divide their grounds into fields of different dimensions. They will have the power of varying their culture with ease, of making experiments at pleasure, of improving their pastures, and of arranging their crops not merely with a view to the immediate product, but to the future amelioration of the land and the convenience of their crop. The advantages of permanent enclosures would be felt in every branch of agriculture. They are the foundation of all improvement. And who in this country can encounter the trouble and expense of extensive wooden enclosures, when, besides the rapid decay of the material itself in a climate so unfavourable to its duration; gales of wind frequently level and injure them, and a neglected spark of fire may entirely destroy them. Hedges are entirely exempt from these accidents; they are planted and formed with little trouble, they strengthen with age, they bear injury and neglect, they defy the severest tempests, and their perpetual verdure secures them from the ravages of fire.

June 8th, 1814.