The Gardener's Monthly 23: 67-69 (March, 1881)


The present seems to me a suitable time for directing the attention of all who are interested in the production of new varieties of plants, to the possibilities open in the way of raising new roses. It seems very strange that with the superabundant energy which is inborn in the American people, we have done so little towards producing novelties in roses. Daniel Ball, of New York is the only American who ever raised varieties of Hybrid Perpetuals of any value. Outside the Noisette and Prairie families of roses, America has given almost nothing of merit; what there are, James Sprunt, Isabella Sprunt, Harrison's Yellow, Mme. Ball, Cornelia Cook, are soon told off. Why this stagnation? It cannot be because it is thought there is no profit in the production of seedling roses, for the success of the growers in France is evidence to the contrary.

This state of things should no longer continue; let us up and be doing! There is no reason why we cannot raise just as good seedling roses as are grown elsewhere, and perhaps better, with the application of those traits which characterize American inventors, for we have a greater diversity of climate than is found in any other country, and, as a people, are quicker to grasp ideas of improvement than others. We may therefore be assured that there is no good reason why, within a few years, we should not send out just as fine roses each spring or autumn as now come from England and France.

Most of the new roses are from natural fertilization. Few growers resort to artificial fecundation, first, because they have succeeded reasonably well up to the present time, by merely accepting what crosses nature has chosen to give; and second, because of the additional trouble which resorting to manual fecundation would cause. The experienced in such matters, generally coincide in the belief that we are less likely to obtain flowers of good form and finish from crosses made artificially, than from those which come by natural means, e. g., by insects or wind distributing the pollen. I do not subscribe to this opinion. I cannot but believe that we are even more certain of obtaining flowers of high finish from artificial fertilization, than we are from natural, if we but observe natural means, and study carefully the laws of cause and effect. The following varieties of roses are all claimed as the results of artificial impregnation:

Varieties Class. Parentage. Raiser.
America, Noisette, Solfaterre x Safrano, T. G. Ward.
Captain Christy, Hy. Tea, Victor Verdier x Safrano, Lachaune.
Gem of Prairies, Prairie or Hy. Climber. Queen of Prairies x Mme. Laffay, Burgess.
Harrison Weir, H. P., Chas. Lefebvre x Xavier Olibo, Turner.
John Hopper, H. P., Jules Margottin x Mme. Vidot, Ward.
Le Pactole, Tea, Larnarque x Yellow Tea, Mme. Pean.
Marie Van Houtte. Tea, Mme. de Tartas x Mme. Falcot, Mme. Ducher.
Mme. Welche, Tea, Devoniensis x Souv. d'un Ami, Mme. Ducher.
Mrs. Harry Turner, H. P., Chas. Lefebvre x Alfred de Rougemont, Laxton.
Paul Neyron, H. P., Victor Verdier x Anne de Diesbach, Levet.
Princess Mary of Cambridge, H. P., Duchess of Sutherland x J. Margottin, Granger.
Reine Marie Henriette, Hy. Tea, Mme. Berard x Gen. Jacqueminot, Levet.

Besides these there are the hybrid teas raised by Mr. Bennett, which, though untested as to their value outside, have proved of great worth for forcing under glass. I do not recall any other varieties that have been produced by manual fecundation, but those given will, I think, show that we may safely expect roses of the highest quality originated in this way. But, granted that we are less sure of high finish, all practitioners admit, that by means of artificial fertilization, we are far more certain of attaining a produce distinctive in character; this being so, we have a very strong incentive that should encourage our efforts in this line. Last winter, in the months of February and March, I made some experiments in hybridizing, and obtained seed from the following crosses:

1. Charles Lefebvre x Emily Laxton; 2. Charles Lefebvre x Safrano; 3. Safrano x Charles Lefebvre; 4. Bon Silene x General Jacqueminot; 5. General Jacq’t x Solfaterre; 6. General Jacqueminot x Madame Bravy; 7. General Jacqueminot x Isabella Sprunt; 8. Gen. Jacqueminot x Abricot; 9. Gem of Prairies x General Jacqueminot; 10. Marie Van Houtte x Francois Michelon; 11. Dupetit Thouras x Bon Silene; 12. Aimee Vibert Scandens x Ben Silene; 13. Louis Odier x Lamarque; 14. Climbing Victor Verdier x Mme. Bravy; 15. Marie Baumann x Safrano.

The seed from No. 12 is small and poor, it is doubtful whether any of it will germinate. That from Nos. 1, 9, 11 and 13 is small but mostly good; all the rest is fine, healthy looking seed, especially that from Nos. 2, 3, 5, 6, 15. Besides the varieties operated on as named above, I attempted to fertilize others, but, though operating on perfect flowers, was not successful; among them were La France, Anne de Diesbach, Glorie de Rosomanes and the Prairies Baltimore Belle and Anna Maria. During the winter months we have very few sunny days in Rochester, and as sunlight is an important item in hybridizing, my failure with the varieties last named can be partly attributed to this cause; besides, the Prairie roses, and also La France, are very difficult subjects with which to work, as none of them bear pollen to speak of, and therefore are useless as male parents; the pistils instead of being isolated or apart, as in the majority of roses, are glued together in one, and do not easily impregnate from any pollen placed there. I do not understand the cause of failure with Anne de Diesbach, having perfect flowers with which to work, and using it both as male and female parent. I anticipated that this would prove one of the best of all H. P. roses with which to experiment, and my entire lack of success is a mystery. But to successfully cross, not only different varieties, but different sorts in various classes, requires no great amount of skill, and is attainable after a little practice by almost any one. I hope this article may induce others to engage in one of the most interesting branches of floriculture, and any who are so disposed, and who have plants growing under glass, can, this winter, begin their experiments in the fascinating pursuit of hybridizing. Whenever possible, it is well to choose a sunny day, and to operate in the morning, so that the flowers operated upon, can be exposed to the influence of the sun, immediately after they have been fertilized. The flower selected for a female parent should have the stamens removed by a fine pair of scissors, known, I believe, as embroidery scissors, just before the pollen is ripe. If the pollen be quite ripe, some of it is most likely to have fallen on the pistils, and a perfect cross could not then be expected; if, on the other hand, it be too green, the pistils will not be in a proper condition to receive it. It is therefore somewhat difficult to give precise directions as to just the proper time for removing the stamens, but in such a variety as Gen. Jacqueminot, it is generally best to remove them just before the natural unfolding of the flower. Therefore, a few hours before the flower would naturally fully open, the petals should either be pulled off, or be carefully pushed back from the centre of flower, and the stamens removed. It is best to carefully remove the flower petals altogether; this is easiest done by the fingers, pulling off the petals separately, or only two or three at a time. To apply the pollen, use a small camel's hair brush, and be sure that the pollen is quite ripe; if it does not readily attach itself to the brush, it is not in fit condition for use. The more single flowers will naturally give more pollen and be better seed bearers than the very double ones, and are therefore more suitable for first experiments. Such are General Jacqueminot, Bon Silene, Safrano, Duke of Edinburgh, etc. By hybridization, we may hope for results more speedy and more attainable than can be expected by simply sowing seeds, the produce of roses, left entirely under the control of natural agencies. We believe that by careful study and perseverance, it is possible within a decade or two of years, to have a yellow Marie Baumann, a white Alfred Colomb; surely these are worth striving for.