The Western New-York Horticultural Society, proceedings of the 24th annual meeting (1879) pp. 63-72

A monograph of roses, which are of American origin, has, I believe, never before been attempted; not, perhaps, because there has been a want of interest in the subject, but because of the inherent difficulty in procuring reliable data. To discover the parentage of the various varieties, and the names of the raisers, has been an arduous undertaking, and I regret not being able to present a complete record; this, however, was hardly to be expected. Two classes have had their origin in America, the Prairie and Noisette Roses. These two classes give the most valuable climbers which we have, though our trans-Atlantic brethren do not take very kindly to the former. Besides these two classes, many varieties in other groups have had their origin in this country, several of which are leading sorts in all rose catalogues of prominence, but our chief contributions must be considered the Prairie and Noisette varieties, as introducing new and very important groups.

THE PRAIRIE ROSE (Rosa Rubifolia) is indigenous to this country. Seeds of this were sown about 1836, by Messrs. Samuel and John Feast, of Baltimore. The seedlings from this sowing were then fertilized by some of the best roses grown at the time, and from this lot came Baltimore Belle and Queen of Prairies. The Messrs. Feast, together with Joshua Pierce, of Washington, have raised nearly all the varieties of this class possessing any merit. Though inferior in quality to the Tea-Noisettes, their hardiness and vigorous habits make them of great value when the more beautiful Noisettes are too tender to be made useful. As an indication of their popularity we may state, that next to the Remontant Roses, more plants are annually sold of the Prairie than of any other class. Baltimore Belle, when in blossom, gives a display of which any one may be proud, whether the flowers are viewed individually, or in the mass. It is much to be regretted that no further development of this really valuable class has been made. There is no reason why we should not succeed in obtaining a new class of hardy climbers, which shall, in a great measure, combine the good qualities of the Hybrid Perpetual, Noisette and Prairie Roses. By patient study and care this may he done; who is there that will do it? To accomplish this desired result, the Prairie varieties might be made the seed parents, and fertilized by different varieties of Remontant and Noisette Roses known to be good seed bearers, and that are otherwise desirable sorts.

A few years ago Mr. Henry Bennett, of Salisbury, England, commenced a series of experiments in the production of new roses by artificial fecundation; selecting a number of sorts among the Tea and Hybrid Perpetual groups, and seeking, so far as possible, to combine and blend the several good qualities possessed by each. He has in this way founded a new, and what will certainly prove to be a very valuable class of roses—the Hybrid Teas. Indeed it is my opinion, that this group of Hybrid Teas, will, by the improvements which are certain to be made, soon constitute our most popular class of roses. What has been accomplished by Mr. Bennett, is very good evidence, to my mind, of what can be done by us, in producing a class of hardy Remontant Climbing Roses.

In the list of American roses, there are several varieties with which I am unacquainted, and the descriptions, therefore, are those of the raisers, or, where in a few instances it was not possible to obtain these, they are described by reliable parties acquainted with the varieties. Whenever possible, both the name of the raiser and the year when the variety was first sent out, are given.

PRAIRIE ROSES, (Rosa Rubifolia.)

These possess great vigor of growth, bloom late in the season in large clusters, and though the individual flowers lack many of the desirable features found in other classes, none are more effective in the mass.

There have been a few other varieties in commerce, but the above constitute those which have most commonly been grown, and are the only ones now propagated. The most valuable are, Anna Maria, Baltimore Belle, Gem of Praries, Mrs. Hovey, Queen of Prairies and Triumphant.

Rosa Noisettiana, or Rosa Champneyana, or Rosa Moschata Hybrida.

The Noisette Rose is a product of America, and obtains its name from Philippe Noisette, a florist of Charleston, South Carolina.

John Champney, of Charleston, from the seed of the White Musk Rose, fertilized by the Blush China, raised a variety which was called Champney's Pink Cluster. A few years after this, Philippe Noisette, from the seed of Champney's Pink Cluster, raised the Blush Noisette, and this he sent to his brother, Louis Noisette of Paris, under the name of Noisette Rose. The true name, therefore, for this class, should be the Champney, but the change cannot now be made.

This group is naturally of vigorous growth, nearly hardy, and produces large clusters of flowers; but, through hybridization with the Tea Section, the original characteristics have, in part, disappeared. The varieties now generally grown, are less hardy and have nearly lost the clustering tendency; but the flowers have much more substance, and are far more beautiful.

There have been other American varieties of this class, but I am only certain of those above named. We hope our Southern Rosarians will introduce some new types and colors of Noisettes; almost the only ones of value we now have are shades of yellow and white. In the South many Noisettes seed freely, and great improvements might easily be made, by resorting to manual fecundation. I see nothing to prevent the obtaining of the same shades among the Noisettes that we have among the Hybrid Perpetuals.

BOURBON ROSES - (Rosa Bourboniana).

These are the only varieties I can name of American origin, though others have been raised. Mr. Boll, now deceased, who was by birth a Swiss, produced a number of seedling Hybrid Perpetuals of merit; several of these were sold to parties in France, who sent them out as their own. Among these was Mme. Boll. It would be interesting to know whether any among them, besides Mme. Boll, are now famous.

TEA ROSES (Rosa Indica Odorata.)

Among the many letters I received in response to inquiries, is one from the Rev. James M. Sprunt, D. D., and is of such interest that I insert it as it came to me:

KENANSVILLE, N. C., Jan. 1, 1880.

DEAR SIR: I am just in receipt of yours of the 29th ult., asking for some particulars relative to the origin of the roses James and Isabella Sprunt.

In the spring of 1855 I removed from my former residence in this town to the premises on which I now reside. Among the plants which I carried with me, was a very large and handsome Saffrano rose. It had been trained to a single stem, fully two inches in diameter, and forming a symmetrical head about four feet from the ground. I pruned it well back, but the early summer being dry, the top died. The plant, however, put forth six or eight strong shoots from the collar at the surface of the soil, and one of these attracted my attention from its dissimilarity to the others in the color of the stem and foliage. I observed it carefully until it bloomed, when it proved to be a fine yellow, all the other shoots retaining the normal color of the Saffrano. From this sport, which was named "Isabella Sprunt," from one of my daughters, I sent cutting to Mr. Isaac Buchanan, florist of New York, in 1860, and it was sent out by him some two or three years afterwards, I think before the close of the war, though I heard nothing concerning it till 1865. (By referring to old files of the Country Gentleman, we find Mr. Buchanan first offered this for sale in 1865.)

I may add that in the winter of 1856 I took up the old plant and sawed the stock into five or six pieces, being careful to get a good share of the root to the yellow shoot; that plant still lives and is quite constant, though it has had, perhaps, two or three Saffrano flowers, certainly one, and besides, about two years ago there was a fully developed bud and flower, exactly one-half of which was like Saffrano, and the other half like Isabella Sprunt. I tried to fix this new sport, but it produced afterward only yellow flowers.

About the same time (1855) I divided some strong plants of Agrippina and planted them at my new home. Two or three years later I observed a single shoot from one of these plants growing vigorously without flowers or branches, and as I observed it from time to time, it continued until it measured over fifteen feet before it showed any buds, the rest of the plant retaining its normal characteristics. This shoot branched out very freely the following year, and cuttings retained the same habit invariably. I came to the conclusion that this was not a sport, but a chance seedling, as the flowers were so very unlike the parent, and the roots were so matted together that I could not determine whether it proceeded from the old root or not, without taking up the whole plant, which I was unwilling to do. But the wonderful thing is that after the rest of the plant had for years retained its original habit and flowers, gradually it began to change, until the whole is now like the James Sprunt in growth and flower, and no part of the Agrippina remains. I have written you this statement that you may judge for yourself, my own opinion having changed more than once. Yours very respectfully,


Saffrano is, therefore, without doubt a sport resulting from one of these strange freaks in which Nature occasionally indulges. About James Sprunt there is less certainty, but I consider it also to be a sport; it is like Agrippina, only with more substance of flower, and greater vigor of growth.

The theory of evolution would point towards this, as an example of how nature tends towards progression and improvement as well as towards variation.

In conclusion I would say a few words respecting American roses of the future. Attention is sometimes directed to the contributions we have made to the list of new and valuable fruits.

Among apples, we lay claim to such standard sorts as Jefferis, Sherwood's Favorite, Baldwin, Jonathan, King, Ladies' Sweet, Mother, Newtown Pippin, Northern Spy, Peck's Pleasant, Rhode Island Greening, Golden Russett, Wagner and many others.

Among pears, we have Clapp's Favorite, Tyson, Howell, Seckel, Sheldon, Dana's Hovey, Jones, Dr. Reeder, Frederick Clapp, etc.

Among cherries, we originated American Amber, Coe's Transparent, Delicate, Downer's Late Red, Gov. Wood, Kirtland's Mary, Robert's Red Heart, Spathawk's Honey.

Among plums, we have Bleecker's Gage, Denniston's Superb, Duane's Purple, Imperial Gage, Jefferson, Lombard, McLaughlin, Peters' Yellow Gage, St. Lawrence, Washington and Yellow Gage.

In peaches we produced the following leading varieties:

Alexander, Amsden, Cooledge's Favorite, Crawford's Early, Crawford's Late, Foster, Haine's Early, Hale's Early, Morris White, Old Mixon Freestone, Surpasse Melocoton, Waterloo, etc.

It is needless to mention grapes and strawberries, since, with the exception of three or four sorts of strawberries, only American varieties are, in this country, at all grown.

We have probably produced as many of the leading and best varieties of fruits as all other countries combined. Generally speaking, this has not been due to any particular skill which has been brought to bear, but rather to the great range and variation in climate, and to quick observation in discerning and utilizing the variations which nature, under favorable circumstances, is ever producing.

If we assist nature in her strivings for variation, and turn her laws to our advantage, how much more interesting and satisfactory in every way would be the result

For example, in the dissemination of a new pear; a graphic and attractive description, and the reputation of the disseminator for sending out novelties of value only, will procure, at least, a limited sale for the new variety offered. But, if it can be said that the new pear is a known seedling from Sheldon, or from Beurre Superfin crossed by Urbaniste, how much more confidence would be placed in the new kind proffered ! We know the characteristics of Sheldon, of Beurre Superfin, and of Urbaniste, and we can have some idea of what their progeny will be.

Much the same laws operate in the animal and vegetable kingdoms. No experienced breeder of cattle or horses would think for a moment of depending upon chance results; he knows that by crossing this strain with that he will obtain what he desires, and will be able, in a great measure, to know what the produce will be.

By this knowledge we keep and improve our breeds of Jersey and Holstein cattle, our Hambletonian and Mambrino horses, and secure variations in them, such as we desire. Why then do we not more generally pursue the same course in raising new fruits and flowers.

In the production of new roses, instead of having exhausted the field, as a few writers have incautiously observed, we have only just entered it; the future possibilities open to the raiser of new roses is only dawning upon us. Lyons, France, is the head centre from whence most of our cherished roses have come. Mons. jean Sisley, an eminent horticultural authority, says that none of their Rosarians practice artificial fertilization, they simply gather and sow the seed, as they would sow a field with carrots, and for the most part not even keeping the varieties separate. Nature, unaided, is left to do all, and everything is left to chance.

By adopting the same practice we might just as well produce many varieties of value, and I hope there will be found among us many to thus take their chance in the production of new sorts. But why leave it all to chance?

What more pleasing occupation can there be than by hybridizing artificially, to engage in the art of producing new varieties, aye, and not only new varieties, but new types of roses now unknown.

"This is an art which does mend nature, change it rather; but the art itself is nature."