Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society 73: 11-19 (1948)
Bertram Park, D.B.E.

A FEW fond persons are always deploring the loss of the "Old Roses" those "grand old scented Roses of our grandfathers." Let them pause and consider. Were those old Roses really so outstanding or is it a case of "distance lends enchantment" or, that the old descriptions of those Roses were well enough true in their day, but had no comparison with modern achievement to put them against? STEVENSON'S "Rocket" shocked society by tearing through the countryside at 20 miles an hour, but perhaps the "few fond persons" do not think that the latest oil-fired streamlined G.W.R. masterpiece is any advance on STEVENSON'S "Rocket." There are two reasons for the gradual disappearance of old hybrid roses, (a) that they have deteriorated by vegetative propagation and have lost their original vigour, and (b) that they are superseded by better forms and except as museum pieces are not worth keeping anyway.

The deterioration is very marked indeed a few years immediately after the introduction of some new varieties. In my earlier days among Roses before I gained sufficient experience to select and bud my own plants, there must have been dozens, I almost said hundreds of new varieties which I bought and then discarded as useless, a year or two later. If the new variety has sufficient intrinsic quality and vigour to do well during these first few years, it may settle down to a long life, but inevitably sooner or later a further deterioration sets in until that variety gradually disappears from cultivation. The reason for this first period of deterioration is because the "eyes" of a new variety are valuable and produce the principal financial reward to the raiser. It must be remembered that the production of a distinct and improved new variety takes years of labour and great knowledge and experience. Consequently having been exhibited and received a gold medal or other award there is an immediate demand for it and every available "eye" is sold from that first small stock of plants, whether they are good, bad or indifferent and are taken from stems quite regardless of the quality of the flower which that stem has produced. The weak or bad eyes produce weak and bad plants from which all the eyes are again taken for budding. Result, all those plants are inferior to the original specimens.

I have no doubt that if the nurserymen were to take only the best eyes and only from those stems that have given perfect flowers this highly selective propagation would keep up or even indeed improve on the quality of the original strain. This, however, is quite impossible on a commercial scale in the nurseries, but it has been shown to be true in private hands. MR. HERBERT OPPENHEIMER, by continuous highly selective propagation over a number of years, has greatly improved the strains of some of the varieties in his glasshouse at Bray, so much so that with some they are almost distinct varieties. In one case his blooms are completely different from the blooms on my plants, yet they come from the same original. He has also some older Roses that are now, with him, as good or better than ever, yet they have disappeared from commercial cultivation, and the majority of gardens.

There is no doubt that the quality of the eye and the stem from which that eye is taken determine the quality of the resulting plant.

The fact is that no Rose of complex pedigree has a life of much more than fifty years. Before the century is out all of them will have died away and new varieties have taken their place. There is a catalogue published by a nurseryman in France in 1820 containing a list of 2,000 cultivated varieties. They are nearly all extinct and there is no advantage in resuscitating them. Of the hundreds of varieties raised between then and the end of the century not more than half a dozen are worthy of modem attention except as curiosities, and how many want to make museums of their gardens? Please understand that my remarks do not apply to the species or near species, or their hybrids, there are few more valuable flowering shrubs for garden decoration than these.

Some of the Gallicas and damask hybrids are very near to their original species parents and still retain their original vigour. Only true species, when self-fertilized, breed true to type, but if self-fertilized seeds of the former garden varieties are sown and grown on, some of the seedlings would come almost true to their parents, but some would have reverted to their grandparents and in a second generation would have mostly reverted to their original species types. Many of these old Gallicas are so closely allied to their original parents that they retain some of their first vigour (but they also retain that characteristic, one full flush of flowering once only a year).

When we come to the so-called Hybrid Perpetuals (which were so rarely "perpetual") of the last century their pedigrees are already very complex and, propagated continuously by vegetative processes, they have gradually degenerated and are to-day, where they survive, but shadows of their original selves. Take 'Roger Lambelin' as an instance of my assertions. When this Rose was introduced about the year 1902 it was the sensation of the show, great globular blooms "such as never had been seen before"(!) so said contemporary descriptions. Tall strong plants making vigorous remontant growth. Can you grow a plant of it like that to-day? No! four years ago I budded it again, but no effort or care in cultivation will make it grow much more than a foot in height with weak straggly stems and thin characterless flowers, but travesties of those shown in 1902. As a variety it is finished; let it rest in peace or remain enshrined in those memories which are sufficiently long, but do not try and grow it in the gardens of to-day.

A very few of those fifty or more years old still retain their vigour, but how rarely do we see even 'Frau Karl Druschki' in a newly budded plant grow into those great bushes or throw those 6 ft. long and 3/4 inch thick shoots which I remember pegged down across the beds at Wisley thirty years ago. A few fine old trees of other varieties exist still, and a few magnificent old climbers are still thriving on the walls of old houses, but try to propagate them again and the most endless patience will not reproduce the plants from whence they came. The great DEAN HOLE once said that, "If I for some heinous crime were miserably sentenced for the rest of my life to possess but a single Rose tree, I should desire to be supplied, on leaving the dock, with a strong plant of 'Gloire de Dijon'." He describes one of his trees as having a lateral of one year's growth, which is 19 feet long, and the bole of another tree which is 10 inches in circumference, but yet a few years old only.

What is a newly-budded plant of 'Old Glory' to-day? Have you ever seen a plant not more than a few years old give blooms that the fondest imagination could think were worth the cultivation? What would DEAN HOLE think of 'Gloire de Dijon' to-day? — not much!

Thus is the necessity for the continuous creation of new varieties, new varieties to take the place of the old ones dying out, and not only new varieties, but improved varieties and not only of existing classes but new classes themselves. Thus the Hybrid Polyantha, a comparatively new class, has now firmly established itself as a most desirable garden plant until in course of time some genius will hybridise a new combination of species to oust it from its present universal popularity.

But there is still plenty of room for more of this class of vigorous everblooming garden plants. 'Frensham' from an undistributed polyantha seedling by 'Crimson Glory' is an outstanding gold medal new introduction raised by an amateur MR. A. NORMAN. The young flowers are small and perfectly formed, but soon open out into the loose formation characteristic of its class. By judiciously disbudding the first or centre buds in each group of three, enormous trusses can be obtained on the same stem all in full flush at the same time. The colour is a rich deep scarlet unfading till the flowers drop; few heps are formed so that little attention is needed and when one truss fades another is preparing to take its place. Hard pruning will keep the plants dwarf, but with light pruning they will grow to 3 feet high and form a dense prickly hedge (Fig. 5). 'Ena Harkness' also raised by MR. NORMAN ('Southport' X 'Crimson Glory') is a front rank Gold Medal Hybrid Tea, and by Hybrid Tea I mean that it has almost pure descent from the original China species with very little of that infusion of Persian yellow blood that has brought so much beauty but so much trouble to our present Rose gardens. The pedigree of 'Southport' the seed parent of 'Ena Harkness' is not recorded, but I do not believe such a brilliant scarlet could be created from the long line of bluish-crimsons without the addition of a little yellow. The alternate severe frosts and thaws of last winter destroyed many good plants of all varieties in my garden, but of thirty plants of 'Ena Harkness' I lost not a single one. It is a strong, upright and perfectly hardy bedding and garden Rose which I can confidently recommend to all (Fig. 4). From the same seedpod came 'Red Ensign,' a very large deep crimson, the crimson of the China Rose, of exhibition form and size, and what a scent I Another fallacy of "the few fond persons" is that modem Roses have lost their scent. The fact is that there is a far higher percentage of scented Roses in our gardens to-day than there ever were in the gardens of the nineteenth century. True in 1900 the genius of PERNET DUCHER evolved the beginnings of that new class, later named Pernetiana, of pure yellows, oranges, scarlets and flame colours which has brought such sunshine into our gardens. But also brought those characteristics of the Persian Yellow, lack of scent and some lack of hardiness. Would we sacrifice all the glorious colours of our rose beds to-day on account of the temporary loss of some perfume between 1900 and 1920? Since 1920, scent has gradually been bred back into our new Roses of yellow colouring, and to-day it is a practical impossibility for any scentless Hybrid Tea or Pernetiana Rose to attain to the Gold Medal of the National Rose Society and be introduced to the world with that honour to recommend it. The hybrid Polyanthas and Wichuraianas as classes have not yet acquired scent which is temporarily excused, and one of these classes must have quite exceptional merit in other qualities to receive the premier award. 'William Harvey' and 'Margot Anstis,' both with Certificates of Merit and from the same stud, are especially recommended to exhibitors, that is to say that under good cultivation they produce large perfectly-shaped Roses and are very free flowering, but require a little more care and attention than those commoner types, though of course all good Roses deserve that care and attention not always invariably their lot. 'Margot Anstis' is an even-toned soft satiny pink and 'William Harvey' a deep scarlet.

BEES of Liverpool have raised many good Roses. In the last few years they have received certificates of merit for 'Doris Grace Robinson' ('Swansdown' x 'McGredy's Yellow') 'Raffles Bruce' ('Mrs. Sam McGredy' X 'Aureate') and 'Mabel Francis' ('Leading Lady' x Southport'). The last is a soft self pink large and well formed; I do not know why it did not receive the gold medal, the voting must have been close. I have had it in my garden for two years and like it well enough to be increasing my stock of it (Fig. 6). 'Doris G. Robinson' is an ivory white with the long petals reminiscent of 'McGredy's Ivory,' and 'Raffles Bruce' is a rich orange.

One of the finest pink Roses ever sent out is undoubtedly 'The Doctor'; it was distributed in England in 1938 on the margin of the period set me for review, but it is a great Rose and must be included. It was raised by HOWARD AND SMITH of California and named by them after one of the most famous men in the Rose world of America, DR. HORACE MCFARLAND; his full name had already been given to another Rose so this had to be abbreviated to 'The Doctor,' but everyone knew who was the Doctor. It is a glorious rich deep pink, unfading until the petals drop, and has the strong perfume that one senses before one comes near to the plant. A very large Rose but not too full to be unable to open its long petals in any weather. I have grown it since before its general distribution and it has always been a delight. The plants have not always been as strong as I should like, but I am budding a new bed next year on polyantha simplex stock which may suit it better than has canina.

'Poinsetta,' also raised by HOWARD AND SMITH, is a Rose that has been very highly spoken of in America, and has received the award of the American Rose Society's certificate, and the Award of Merit of the R.H.S. in this country. It is described as "definitely the most brilliant scarlet Rose ever produced, well named, as in colour it is similar to the plant of that name. The buds are of ideal form, long and pointed, on long stems and it is an excellent grower." With the recommendation from America it should be well worth a trial by those looking for bright colour in the garden.

'Charles Gregory' was raised in Holland and named after the founder of the firm of C. W. GREGORY AND SON. It is a medium-sized decorative of bright mixed tones of red and yellow, of good shape and on long stems and has received the Certificate of Merit of the National Rose Society. I have seen it growing in the nursery and have been sufficiently attracted to it to bud a quantity in my own garden to bloom next year (Fig. 3). 'Spek's Yellow' is a medium-sized rich yellow, on long stems and is undoubtedly a good Rose for cutting. It was very well shown at the Chelsea Show and made a good impression; there is room for a good decorative yellow such as this, and I think it will fill a want.

F. MEILLAND of Tassin, Lyons, is one of the most successful breeders in France :md he has raised a masterpiece which he named after his wife MDME. A. MEILLAND. This has already been "out" in America for two years, and has been re-named in the States 'Peace.' It was shown here for the first time this autumn under that name and received the highest distinction of the Gold Medal of the National Rose Society; at the same Show one of the blooms exhibited was also selected to receive the medal as the best individual bloom in the Show (Fig. 2).

'Peace' is perfectly formed, very large, of pale lemon colour and with the margins and edges of the petals delightfully tinted with cerise pink. I have seen it growing in the nurseries and the plants are strong and healthy with no trace of any disease. I was particularly impressed with the large number of blooms per plant, exceptional when they are of such large size. There are several more of the Meilland productions queuing up for presentation. Among the Roses introduced in the last few years the following should be noted: 'Lady Trent' (PEDRO DOT, 1939), coppery orange, strong stems and glossy foliage, pedigree not given, but probably from 'Mrs. Sam McGredy.' Awarded Certificate of Merit of National Rose Society. 'Mary Wheatcroft' (ROBINSON, 1943) of similar colouring and probably another seedling from 'Mrs. Sam McGredy.' 'R. S. Hudson,' introduced in 1945, is of golden maize colour, of good form and high-pointed centre, awarded Certificate of Merit by the National Rose Society and the Award of Merit of the R.H.S. This is a Rose which should do well, but I think that sufficient consideration is still not being given to the names of new Roses by their sponsors. 'Arthur J. Taylor' (1946) is a very large Rose of carmine colouring, a vigorous growing garden Rose and a variety for the exhibitor of specimen blooms in showboxes. Certificate of Merit National Rose Society and Award of Merit R.H.S.

'Wheatcroft's Golden Polyantha,' outstanding as the first true yellow in its class, has large trusses of flowers throughout summer and autumn and has beautiful shining foliage. Certificate of Merit in 1945.

*Hybrid Moyesii

The miniature China Roses are again receiving attention and make charming subjects as pot plants or in the rock garden. 'Josephine Wheatcroft' (PEDRO DOT, 1947), Certificate of Merit, has tiny perfectly-formed flowers of buttercup yellow on compact bushes about 16 inches high, and continuously in bloom the whole season. 'Baby Crimson' (PEDRO DOT, 1946) is another, a miniature plant less than 9 inches high with trusses of tiny blooms "glowing like rubies above the mid green foliage." On the other extreme is a 6 foot shrub Rose called 'Nevada,' a Hybrid Bracteata* (PEDRO DOT, 1945) having its main flowering in May when it is covered with masses of creamy buds flecked with pink.

Another amateur who is doing well as a successful hybridizer is NORMAN FLETCHER of Faringdon. 'C. A. Fletcher' is a large clear crimson of good form which won a Certificate at the Summer Show 1947. Among the JACKSON AND PERKINS American Roses, the latest is a really beautiful Hybrid Polyantha named 'Fashion' which is pure salmon colour, a distinct and most attractive novelty shown for the first time at the National Rose Society's 1947 Autumn Show. I shall certainly want this when it is available. 'Poulsens Bedder,' another Hybrid Poly, is already well known, a bright pink semi-double extremely free-flowering bedding Rose. E. B. LE GRICE, of North Walsham, has raised a number of Hybrid Polyantha Roses including 'Dainty Maid' which is one of the best, and has continued his work in this now very important and popular class. 'Dusky Maiden' is a large semi-double deep red shaded maroon with golden anthers; it is particularly notable in being scented. All the earlier Hybrid Polyanthas were completely lacking in this quality, as inherited from its species ancestor, and the breeders have had particular difficulty in introducing it. 'Dusky Maiden,' a ('Daily Mail' scented x 'Etoile de Hollande') seedling X 'Else Poulsen,' is a good Rose.

DE REITER, one of the outstanding breeders in Holland, has raised a number of very fine dwarf Polyanthas of brilliant colours, but has now made a great advance in producing a small-flowered seedling with the growth and habit of the more vigorous Hybrid Polyantha class, and has named it 'de Reiter's Herald' as the forerunner of a new type. The very large trusses of bloom are bright scarlet shaded orange, and make a wonderful effect when massed as a bedder.

'Fantasia' is another attractive new golden yellow Rose which received a Certificate of Merit, raised by DICKSONS of Newtownards, Northern Ireland. Though I have not grown it myself, it is said to be exceptionally free-flowering and a good grower by those who have seen it growing in the nurseries.

The pedigree illustrated traces back the parentage of three outstanding new red Roses to four original species (page 17).

It is noteworthy that the pollen parent in every case is red, supporting the theory that the male parent influences colour. The R. chinensis species is a purplish-pink or light crimson as is also the R. damascena, and this bluish or purplish tint persists until it is met by the descendant of R. lutea when 'Crimson Glory' becomes more scarlet. The parentage of 'Southport' is not published, but the yellow colouring at the base of the petal indicates without any doubt a strain of R. lutea descent. When this second influx of lutea strain meets 'Crimson Glory' the result is the almost pure scarlet of 'Ena Harkness.'

For some time I have been puzzled where the damask fragrance came from in all these red Roses as it does not exist in R. chinensis.

I have however, just come across a record that the second parent of 'Jacqueminot' was 'Portland Rose' (also known as 'Rose du Roi') and that the latter was directly descended from R. damascena x unknown.

'W. E. Chaplin' is red but scentless, so that in this case the fragrance is transmitted through the seed parent. The remontant and continuous blooming qualities and the dwarf habit (contrary to the semi-climbing habit of R. chinensis) come down through 'Mrs. W. J. Grant' and 'Mdme. Abel Chatenay' (Hybrid Teas) from R. indica the original Tea Rose.


Some old gardeners are notoriously difficult to educate and many of their methods of cultivation are difficult to correct. One of the old practices is to put manure on the Rose beds in the autumn to protect the plants during the winter. This will do nothing of the sort; on the contrary the manurial salts may stimulate premature growth during mild periods, or the manure will keep the beds clammy wet and waterlogged during rainy spells than which nothing could be worse. If the plants need protection, and they certainly did in many localities last winter, rake up the soil 6 inches deep round the crowns. This enables surplus water to drain away and so keeps the crown drier. Last winter the thaw in the middle of two frost periods which occurred in many localities left pools of water round the base of the plants which, when the frost clamped down again, froze the plants in solid ice. It was this solid ice round the crowns of the plants which killed so many of them. In Scotland and Northern England, where the frost was continuous and the beds throughout the period were deep in snow, very little if any damage was done. The earthing up must be levelled off as soon as possible in March after winter frosts are over.

Another fallacy is that Roses like clay. Roses do not like clay. Oak trees may grow in clay, but Roses will not, they are not really fond of very heavy loam over clay subsoil, excepting perhaps the wild briars. The best soil for Roses is a medium loam over a well-drained subsoil. If the drainage is not natural, it must be provided, especially when the subsoil is clay.

One of the greatest fallacies of all is to put quantities of manure at the bottom of the beds when making them up. Nor is it indeed necessary to put any manure at all in the beds when preparing them. Far more important is it to mix in ample quantities of compost, peat, chopped turf, old hay, straw and any kind of rotted vegetable material to make the top spit rich in humus. It is advantageous, however, to mix bone meal in the top spit, about three double handfuls or more to the square yard. This is a mild and long lasting manure which can do no harm to newly-planted Roses. The proper place for manure (farmyard, stable or chemicals) is on the surface of the beds in April, to be lightly forked in the following winter. With newly-planted Roses, leave even this surface dressing until the second year, but when planting, a handful of bonemeal and two or three handfuls of peat are advantageous.

DEAN HOLE once wrote of having his beds prepared 4 feet deep. Labour was cheap in those days. Roses will grow perfectly well in properly prepared soil 10 inches deep, providing there is another spit of well drained soil beneath and the surface is subsequently properly cultivated and manured. It is the humus and the drainage which are the first essentials.

Another mistake is too much lime. In the bottom spit a quantity of lime in a clayey soil helps to break it up, but in the top spit it can easily be overdone, especially where the soil is light. Roses do not do well in an alkaline soil; the best soil for Roses should have a slightly acid reaction about pH6.

Stocks: the universal root stock in England for budding Roses has been canina briar from "time immemorial." The shortage of imported stocks since 1939 has, however, compelled many nurserymen to use others, and they have found that on soils from light to medium the Polyantha simplex (or Multiflora japonica) gives as good or in many cases better results than canina, but special care has to be taken to see that the roots do not dry out between lifting and transplanting. In heavy soils canina is still considered the best stock for budding dwarfs as well as standards and it also transplants best and with the least risk of damaging the roots.

Laxa is also coming into use again, and I have seen in some nurseries laxa and canina in nearby rows budded with the same variety with the former in every case giving better plants. In America probably 80 per cent, of the Roses throughout the continent are budded on multiflora. In California and the North-West, a China stock called odorata and 'Ragged Robin' ('Gloire de Rosomanes') are in principal use, rarely if ever is canina used. In this country the canina and rugosa are both used for standard stocks but the former is far and away the better. Rugosa has the extremely bad habit of throwing up suckers from roots which may appear all over the bed two or three feet away from the parent. Rugosa is also decidedly not so hardy as a stock plant. Nearly every one in my garden was killed last winter, but very few caninas were harmed at all. Unfortunately rugosa is easier and very much cheaper to propagate. The briars (canina) take several years to grow on from seedlings, or when cut from the hedgerows suffer a high percentage of loss in transplanting. The present price charged for briar standards is not excessive, therefore, and personally, I would never use rugosa again except in the glasshouse for pot work.

Pruning; is this still a thorny (!) subject? perhaps, but I have not time to talk about that now.