American Rose Annual (1942) pp. 50-60.
Better Roses for All Regions of North America
By DR. J. A. GAMBLE, Washington, D. C.

Editors' Note.—Dr. Gamble here really applies to present conditions the knowledge given to us in the two other Washington addresses of last Septembr. Dr. Resser tells of the age of the rose. Dr. Little opens to us our natural resources. Dr. Gamble shows what we may do with them.

OF GREAT MOMENT to the question of supplying more rose enjoyment to each of the millions of home-gardeners who live in North America, is the fact that extensive areas of this continent lie within the boundaries of the tropical, south temperate, temperate, north temperate, and frigid zones. This situation results in great unlikenesses between the different regions in degree and duration of summer heat and winter cold; in soil-wetness, dryness, composition, and so in rose-growing opportunities.

Because of the resulting widely different growing conditions, the task of supplying each of the different areas of North America with its most suitable roses is an extensive undertaking. Notwithstanding this, to the thoughtful and resourceful the outlook for accomplishing this very thing is enticing.


As is well known, most of the rose varieties now sold in commerce in America were imported from abroad. Each spring and fall home-gardeners experience keen delight in reading the new rose catalogues. These, in the main, are masterpieces of modern advertising. In most the latest in imported roses is played up on the front pages. These paintings of the new rose queens cast a spell over American home-gardeners. The idea that one may really have these foreign rose beauties is usually followed by the desire to acquire as many as possible.

That our present rose supply is mostly of imported origin results largely from the lack of sufficient production here, and from the fact that American home-gardeners demand the best and latest in roses.

It is apparent that time job of providing suitable rose varieties for each of the different climates of this continent is largely a North American regional rose-production problem. It is apparent also that we must look to rose hybridizers who not only do their work on this continent but in and with the rose problems of each distinctly different plant-growing area of it.

A clear picture of what is taking place rose-wise in thousands of localities on this continent is reflected in the rose-bush buying situation in this Washington, D.C., area. The climate here is perhaps more favorable for growing the roses from "away" than is that of most of North America.

To assist local home-gardeners in securing rose varieties likely to do well for them, the instruction committee of the Potomac Rose Society of Washington, D. C., in 1940 listed some twenty-three sorts. A check of these shows that twelve were propagated twenty or more years ago, eight between 1920 and 1930, and the remaining three before 1937. Most of these twenty-three varieties are thus seen to have been growing in America for a rather long period of years. Only two of these twenty-three are carried in the current "Proof of the Pudding."

The rose-nursery catalogues describe the new imported roses. In the hands of home-gardeners less than a third of these "novelties" later prove to be successful in the ordinary garden. As a result, many soon disappear from the catalogues. The novelties that do succeed are soon relegated to the rear to make way for the more recent rose introductions. But local home-gardeners, in order to find and secure the twenty-three which they should have locally, would have to use perseverance of a high order to get past the imported rose beauties. Some of the rose catalogues received in this area do not even list all of these proved twenty-three varieties.

The writer, like other rose fanciers, is very fond of these glorious new roses and works faithfully to make them live as best he can. But we rose fanciers, I dare say, occupy less than 1 per cent of the home yards of America, and it is of the other 99 per cent we must also think when we seek to best extend the planting and influence of the rose on this continent.


After planting in any region, a major requirement is that roses grow to a maximum degree, produce as many fine blooms as possible throughout the seasons of that area, remain thoroughly healthy, require a minimum of care, be so constituted as to live happily, and, of most importance, be rose varieties that come to stay.

It seems to this rose-grower that developing understocks regionally suited to the soil and seasons of each of our different growing areas is essential to the best rose advancement. In the search for such stocks there should be a careful evaluation made in each rose zone, especially of the wild species growing in that particular soil and climate. These, being a millions-of-years product of that section, should be adapted to it, and the improved roses subsequently budded on them should survive better in that region than on the present imported rootstocks not so regionally suited. The providing of regional stocks bred in part from the wild roses of each region appears then to be most important. Any lack of all-summer growth or other desirable character in the proposed regional stocks, it seems probable, may, by crossing, be captured from the present imported stocks.

Most of the American species have drawbacks as understocks which include summer resting, suckering from the roots, underground stems, twiggy tops, and a general absence of the essential strong central growing stem. It is felt, however, that, by crossing the regional species with R. setigera and the stocks in present use, sufficient of the hardy characteristics which each of the regional wild roses possesses can be retained so that such breeding work will result in the most promising regional rootstocks obtainable. Hybrids of wild and improved varieties often do not set seed readily. This is due, in part at least, to the close breeding of the wild sorts occurring during the long years in which they have been growing in the same expanding clump, and also resulting from differences in chromosome numbers. Sometimes the seeds the crosses produce lack sufficient vitality to grow well. These are some of the breeding problems that will have to be solved. Mr. M. Horvath, who has perhaps shown the most patience and success in breeding improved sorts from our wild roses to date, makes the following optimistic statement regarding this breeding situation: "Many a tight corner in rosebreeding has been negotiated before."

With the finding of the new agent (colchicine) said to be of assistance in rose-hybridizing, and also of other recently discovered breeding helps, the way seems to be opening to make fuller use of the good points of each of the American specie in the production of better and more suitable rose understocks, and of improving rose varieties for each of the different regions of North America.

It is also felt that the perfection and use of area-improved wild stocks may well precede the production, by breeding, of more suitable and better regional roses. The latter will likely take many intervening generations to attain and in their production we should benefit from the experience gained in the perfection of area understocks.

In the main the rose nurseries on the West Coast now bud on Ragged Robin and on Multiflora and ship the roses produced North, South, and East for planting. Nurserymen located in the East, South, and Middle West, who also bud mostly on Japanese Multiflora, sell their rose output to home-gardeners for planting in the North, South, East, and West.

It seems probable also that the proposed regional rose understocks might make the improved rose varieties, which now do reasonably well in any area of North America, do better, and will also tend to extend the usefulness of some of the imported roses. The longevity of these stocks so budded may be expected to be less, however, than when budded with the projected roses that are bred in part from them.


The need in America for roses especially suited to the growing conditions of our different areas has been well expressed by several of our forward-looking rosemen and women. The late E. G. Hill, of Richmond, Ind., in presenting the Hubbard medal to M. H. Walsh for the latter's rose Excelsa, in 1914, said:

*The late E. G. Hill would be pleased to know that twenty-five years later the Potomac Rose Society of Washington, D. C. on September 30, 1939, presented its first gold medal to M. H. Horvath, of Mentor, Ohio, for his production of American roses through the use of American wild rose species.

"I hope some day that this medal will go to some man who will take up our native species, and from our best and hardiest hybrid Teas produce roses which shall be free from what we call black-spot, and which will flourish in our American gardens. I believe that it can be accomplished,* and that some day it will be done, and I would like to see our Society take this matter into careful and serious consideration. Climatic conditions to a great extent are against the beautiful roses that grow and thrive so finely in England, France and Ireland. We have to get some new material in our roses; they must have different blood in them, I thoroughly believe. Climatic conditions vary so greatly in our country that it would seem necessary that several types should be brought out, adapted to the various conditions and requirements of the different sections."

Long before Mr. Hill made these statements, Samuel Feast, of Baltimore, had, in 1843, crossed R. setigera and R. gallica to produce Baltimore Belle and Queen of the Prairies. Dr. Walter Van Fleet had also (in 1902) produced American Pillar. Extensive work with R. blanda since 1914 has been done by Dr. N. E. Hansen of Brookings, S. D., to produce over a dozen wild rose hybrids that are hardy in his rigorous climate. Dr. Maney, of Iowa, during 1938 was successful in crossing R. setigera with Ophelia, Rocket, Golden Ophelia, Gruss an Aachen and Smiles, followed by the successful crossing of R. canina and R. blanda. Maney's work in crossing R. multiflora and R. blanda and also Multiflora-Rugosa and Blanda, is of special interest to the subject of this paper. These understocks are now being evaluated at Ithaca, N. Y., and Blacksburg, Va., in cooperation with the American Rose Society. From this start it seems certain, as the result of the work of Dr. Maney, Guy Yerkes of the United States Department of Agriculture, N. E. Hansen, M. H. Horvath, and others, that a start has already been made toward the production of the regional rootstocks and the regional improved roses advocated in this paper. However, the development of the best rootstocks for each of the several different rose-growing areas has yet to be undertaken in a wide enough scale actually to supply the North American continent with such.

M. H. Horvath, of Mentor, Ohio, was the first one to really begin the exploration of the American species for the production of roses hardy and suitable for the different sections of North America. To date his greatest success has been with R. setigera, a wild climber, although he has more recently broken through to the production of a R. blanda hybrid of promise, and is now working with the repeat bloomer, R. suffulta, in the hope that its improved hybrids will also possess the recurring bloom and hardiness of this wild species.

Mr. Horvath's first marked success came in 1925 in using R. setigera, R. Wichuraiana, and Lady Alice Stanley (McGredy) to produce Mrs. F. F. Prentiss. Through the use of the latter in later crosses, he got Federation, Pink Profusion and Mabelle Stearns. With this same R. setigera-Lady Alice Stanley cross Mr. Horvath also secured Dooryard Delight and Mrs. Frank B. Stearns.

Doubloons, Captain Kidd, Jean Lafitte and Long John Silver, the "Treasure Island" Climbers, came from Mr. Horvath's crosses of R. setigera with Austrian Copper (a remote parent of Souv. de Claudius Pernet), Hoosier Beauty, Willowmere and Sunburst respectively. Hercules is a Doubloons and Charles P. Kilham cross. The so-called Treasure Island Climbers, mentioned above, possess great hardiness, and, like the pirates after whom they were called, are likewise traveling the world and doing well for themselves.

So, to date, Horvath has come the nearest to fulfilling the quoted 1914 prediction of the late E. G. Hill. His improved roses from R. setigera have been mostly vigorous climbers that are hardy, bloom well, and whose flowers are usually delicately tinted. Their growing and their ''going'' power and hardiness are conveyed by some of the names given them—Jean Lafitte, Long John Silver, Captain Kidd.

One of the main differences between Comtesse Vandal and R. setigera, for example, can be demonstrated by a seed-test. Seeds from R. setigera will usually produce a large percentage of roses that resemble their parent, while those from Comtesse Vandal will produce few, if any, plants having roses that resemble herself. This ability of the former to reproduce herself may account for the pronounced hybrid vigor noted in the wild-improved rose crosses made by Horvath and others.

Most important from the present early death of many improved roses, it is recalled that must of the roses imported to America each year go back to the rose species of China and the Orient. There they were accustomed to growing for twelve months of the year. These are here budded mostly on Japanese Multiflora, a rose plant that likewise grew throughout the year in its native Japan. Less than 10 per cent of North America has all-year growing conditions, and this area is not thickly populated. The 40 per cent of our land area that is thickly settled has a growing season of about six months, and the other 50 per cent of the land area of North America has a growing season of less than that. May it not be that the subsequent curtailed lives of most improved roses here is due in part to these facts?


To whom in North America can the beginner, and even the more experienced home-gardener, now look to guide them to the rose varieties of most promise for their gardens? One answer would be to lists such as that provided by the Potomac Rose Society or to those by local garden clubs.

Commercial men in command of the channels of rose trade do not usually grow roses for, or advertise those sold, on a regional-success basis. Most of them especially feature the very newest imported varieties that do passably well in their own nurseries. While it is true that most also carry many of the standard sorts in their catalogues, these are not usually set forth prominently.

With garden roses to date we appear to have been attempting to fit the different growing conditions of the home-gardens of this continent to the rose varieties which we individually fancy and buy from the nursery houses whose catalogues reach us. To enable many of the roses selected from them to grow most successfully would entail adjusting area-growing conditions. Accomplishing this is a manifest impossibility as area plant-growing conditions are largely fixed and are the result of forces over which we have hot had, and cannot hope to have, control.

It is believed that the rose movement on this continent will meet with much greater and more substantial advancement if we will turn our efforts to the proposed "geographical" approach.

In the production of zone roses all advantage needs to be taken of the present rose information and material. The improved varieties that now grow happily in the sections of the world having growing conditions similar to those prevailing in the different regions of North America should prove of particular value. All of these should be imported, and each be utilized in those parts of North America having like growing conditions.

In North America each garden is different in some essential growing particular, location, or soil-composition, fertility, or drainage. Even regions and in gardens where certain now do fairly well, such, if worked on regional stocks, might go from well to better.

Areas with severe climates and very short growing seasons should not expect to have roses that compare in size, color and quality with those produced in sections having longer or more favorable rose-growing conditions. The first named, however, are entitled to the best possible rose blooms that can be developed for their particular region. These they do not have generally to date.


It is apparent that too large a percentage of the gloriously pictured roses that come to us "from away" fail here, and for the reasons given. Most of them never become more than just "visitors" who came to see us for a time. Few indeed remain to become "rose home folks." So, in attaining better roses for each region of North America, let us look all of our "wild-rose home folks" over most carefully and utilize the very best in each. From the experience in other lands we are likely to be greatly surprised and pleased at the rose beauty and durability that may result.

This forecast is given substance by the fact that the fields and forests of North America, which comparatively recently (when measured by the forty million years that roses have been growing in the soil of North America) became the sites of each of the many millions of home yards on the continent, were each originally fields or forests where the wild roses of their region grew.

When we produce improved roses and understocks that are dependably hardy for each of our different rose zones, as demonstrated by area-growing tests, the rose movement in North America will have been stabilized and its best future assured.

Every home-gardener in North America is calling for roses that when once planted will continue to live and bloom well for many years. Most home-gardeners have but little time to take care of flowers. Regional roses should remain healthy with less attention than do most of our present Hybrid Teas. This hardiness, too, is a natural rose condition, for this flower, in its natural state, the world over, is the bloom of one of the hardiest and most adaptable of the woody shrubs.

Through the projected regional stocks and improved roses, the rose frontiers in each of the different rose-growing regions of this land will be extended to meet those of adjoining regions. To accomplish this, the projected regional roses must be developed to have health, longevity, all-season, bloom, and be especially suited to, and be of the best possible quality for the regions in which they are planted. When what is proposed in this paper is effected, the slogan of the American Rose Society, "A rose for every home—a bush for every garden," will finally be truly in process of fulfillment.

It would appear that the securing of better roses for all regions of the North American continent has not really more than just begun. It is further evident that the roses likely to result from the endless new combinations of the improved varieties at hand with the American wild roses and others as yet largely unmodified, offer possibilities that amaze and thrill the imagination of all thoughtful contemplators.

This American Rosarium and these Regional Rose-Test Grounds, proposed by this rose gardener in the 1936 American Rose Annual, when effected will each become energizing centers for the rose movement on the North American continent. And until they are realized, the rose movement here cannot seriously be said to be "on the march."

These centers will render service in such clear fashion that the way forward for each home-gardener in America to more and better roses will appear. They will bring home to our people in all walks of life what the rose flower has to offer each of them in the way of greater happiness and life enrichment, and will for each light the way forward to that end. With the establishment of these "Meccas" it is believed that the rose movement on this continent will finally come lumbering into its own at last, strong, resourceful, equipped, and confident that it is able to bring the best possible roses to all who yearn for them, wherever they may live and garden in North America.

It is also felt that, until this service comes, we will continue essentially to collectively buy, plant, and tend some twenty-five million and more additional rose plants each year; and that yearly a large portion of these will continue, as now, to be found "not suited" to the gardens in which they "happen" to be planted.

Even those of these improved varieties which do have areas here suited to them, now, in too many cases, have become the victims of our failure to properly prepare the way for their coming. The facts appear to be that while on this continent with its areas so vast and varied there are untold numbers of gardens where even more of these new roses "from away" than are now produced here would do well, the whereabouts of most of such gardens on the North American continent are at present very largely unknown. Supplying their location means ascertaining by regional growing tests the garden areas where each suitable improved variety will grow with marked success.

It seems to me that the first step in securing better roses for all regions of North America is to effect the establishment of the projected American Rosarium and its supporting regional trial-gardens. Together, these give promise of enabling a sound and competent rose-improvement start to be made from where the affairs of the rose, in each section of this continent, are at the present time. They will enable those concerned to continuously know and service the unfolding rose needs of each region, and by so doing will satisfy and will advance the collective rose needs and aspirations of the millions of garden-minded and rose-loving people in each region of North America.

Among the definite opportunities awaiting these energizing centers are:

1. Utilizing the rose species of each region on the North American continent and elsewhere in the development of specially suited understocks for each different rose-growing region of this continent.

2. Area Test: each of the present improved roses budded on the above, especially those which originated in areas with similar growing conditions in other parts of the world.

3. From the improved roses now in hand, and the wild rose species of America and the world, by breeding, develop the best possible regional rose varieties for North America.

4. As soon as feasible, require that all roses advertised, offered for sale, or sold in any area of this country, be only those which have shown by competent growing tests in each area concerned, that they are especially suited to the growing conditions of that region.