The Hybrid Tea, JRHS 29: 529-535 (1902)

Rev. Joseph H. Pemberton,
Vice-President of the National Rose Society


IN introducing the Hybrid Tea for consideration by the Conference, bear with me if I allow some echoes of the last Rose Conference, held in 1889, to reach our ears.

"The class of Hybrid Teas do not seem to have made real advance. After 'Cheshunt Hybrid' came in 'Reine Marie Henriette,' and then some double climbing Roses from Nabonnand, as 'Reine Olga de Wurtemberg' and 'Marie Lavallée.' 'Camoens' and Bennett's 'Grace Darling' are beautiful free-flowering additions likely to continue." (Roses since 1860, by Mr. G. Paul.)

"The separation of these hybrids from the parent group has not been made too soon, although I think some varieties that have been placed here might have remained with the Tea-scented, and others have been placed with the Hybrid Perpetuals. They are hybrids between individuals of these groups, and are not always a distinct departure from one or the other parent. We gain something in constancy of flowering by this cross, but the offspring is often susceptible of injury by frost." (Grouping of Garden Varieties, by Mr. W. Paul.)

These echoes help us to realise the position. In 1889 Rose cultivation was on the eve of a new era, the era of the Hybrid Tea. The invasion of our gardens by a new race was imminent, quietly yet steadily advancing, aided in no small degree by a revival of a more refined appreciation of the beautiful in the Rose, a revival of what are appropriately termed "Decorative" Roses. Speaking generally, the decade of 1870-80 was the era of the exhibition Hybrid Perpetual as we know it now, since those of the sixties had for the most part given place to larger and more perfect flowers. In like manner the decade of 1880-90 may be termed the period of the Exhibition Teas. We are not surprised therefore to be told (I again quote from the last Rose Conference Report) that "Hybrid Perpetuals are virtually perfected." Those were days when the so-called Exhibition Roses were paramount; the demand was for them, and the supply corresponded. Our exhibition schedules bore witness to the fact that two groups, and groups by no means to be despised, were in power, the Hybrid Perpetual and the Tea. Nevertheless, as in politics, so in the Rose world, a third party was in process of formation which now is challenging the other two for supremacy—the Hybrid Tea. The time was propitious. Lovers of the Rose were yearning for something more suitable for the garden than purely exhibition Roses. The introduction of Mr. Bennett's 'Her Majesty' set us thinking. Magnificent as a specimen-flower when seen in the exhibition tent, as a garden Rose it lacked that something which can best be expressed in modern Italian as simpatica. Few and scentless were its flowers, which by being perched on the top of a stiff stem savoured of stubbornness and self-conceit. Was it for this that we had expelled from our collection 'Aimée Vibert,' 'Maiden's Blush,' 'Mrs. Bosanquet,' 'Félicité Perpétue,' and all our grandmothers' Roses, with their exquisite scent and masses of flowers? We resolved to have them back again, and with them anything that was as free in flowering and perpetual.


This was the psychological moment for the advent of the Hybrid Teas. By reference to a trade catalogue we can trace their advance. In the catalogue for 1890 we find six, and then two years later, and every two succeeding years to 1901, we find the number of Hybrid Teas to be twelve, thirty-one, forty-three, forty-nine, and sixty-five. These returns are taken from the catalogue of a grower who is most careful in his selection, so careful indeed that some varieties are omitted which, in my opinion, might well be included. But what do these figures show us? Just this, that during the last ten years Hybrid Teas have increased from six to sixty-five. In support of this evidence let us call upon the "Official Catalogue" of the National Rose Society. In 1882 this Society published its first catalogue, which, with the exception of the Bourbon 'Souvenir de la Malmaison,' contained nothing but Hybrid Perpetuals and Teas. In the second edition of 1884 three Hybrid Teas found a place, these being 'Cheshunt Hybrid,' 'Reine Marie Henriette,' and 'Longworth Rambler.' In the edition of 1893 there were twenty, and in the last edition, that of 1899, there are no less than forty, showing an increase of 100 per cent. in six years. What these statistics foreshadow I leave to the consideration of the Conference; but on one point we shall probably all agree, that since our last Conference the progress of the Hybrid Tea has been phenomenal.

Fig. 152.—Hybrid Tea Rose ‘Mme. Jules Grolez’ (The Garden)


This is a question the Conference might well endeavour to determine. We greatly need a definition. It is difficult to reconcile the grouping together of 'Marquise de Salisbury' and 'Caroline Testout,' the former showing affinity with R. spinosissima, the latter, especially in its armature, with R. canina. It is more difficult still to discover the dividing line between 'Kaiserin Augusta Victoria,' Hybrid Tea, and 'Maman Cochet' Tea (fig. 153); and what prevents 'Gruss an Teplitz' from being classed as a China? Rabbits are excellent judges of Teas and of Roses possessing any strain of Tea, but whilst leaving untouched many so-called Hybrid Teas, they are most partial to 'Suzanne Marie Rodocanache,' Hybrid Perpetual. Why is this variety excluded from the Hybrid Tea group? Again, are we to conclude that the apparent diversity among Hybrid Teas is a result of heredity? It is stated that the first Hybrid Perpetual was obtained by crossing the Hybrid China with a Damask Perpetual. If this is so, then we have in this class the intermingling of R. damascena with R. gallica. On the other hand there is considerable variation in Roses of the Tea-scented group, which appears to owe its origin to the blush Tea introduced from China in 1810, and the Yellow Tea received from the same country in 1834. Was not the Hybrid Tea originally a cross between the Hybrid Perpetual and the Tea-scented? Have we kept to this? Is there not rather a tendency in the present day to class all perpetual Roses of an indefinite character as Hybrid Teas, regardless of botanical characteristics? It seems that a raiser considers there are but three courses open to him. He obtains a seedling, propagates it, and then, when on the point of distributing it, considers whether it is a Hybrid Perpetual or Tea. If he is unable to determine this point, he calls it a Hybrid Tea. Again, some it may be who approach the question from the more or less restricted view of an exhibitor, jealously protect the Tea-scented class from any intrusion of a red flower. A dark Rose in a stand of Teas, they say, spoils the stand. As an instance of this we may cite the case of 'Souvenir de Thérese Levet,' introduced in 1882, which had to struggle hard to maintain its position as a Tea. If this Rose had been sent out some ten years later, I venture to say it would, solely on account of its colour, have been classed as a Hybrid Tea. And here I would put forth another possible reason for this extension of the group. The National Rose Society steadfastly refuses admission to any Hybrid Perpetual in the decorative Rose classes at its exhibitions, the result being that no new decorative Rose, if classed as a Hybrid Perpetual, unless it is single, has any chance of being seen at the National Rose Society exhibitions, and therefore to avoid the above restriction the decorative Hybrid Perpetual is sent out as a Hybrid Tea. Has not the time arrived when more care should be exercised in the classification of a new Rose, and if so I repeat the question, What is a Hybrid Tea?

Fig. 153.—Rose ‘Maman Cochet’ (The Garden)


As we have already observed, this group is most comprehensive. It includes some first-rate exhibition varieties, such, for example, as 'Bessie Brown,' 'Caroline Testout,' 'La France,' and 'Mrs. W. J. Grant'; excellent pillar Roses, as 'Reine Olga de Wurtemberg,' 'Longworth Rambler,' and 'Waltham Climber.' Above all, it is by far the best class for those who desire a profusion of flowers for the garden. They are, as a rule, very free-flowering, vigorous, and as hardy as any Hybrid Perpetual. But this comprehensiveness, excellent as it is, makes it impossible to lay down a definite rule for cultivation applicable to all alike. Especially is this the case with the method of pruning. Each variety has its own idiosyncrasies, and therefore what may be good for one may be death to the other. But speaking generally, Hybrid Teas, unlike Hybrid Perpetuals, are impatient of the knife. It is better not to prune than to prune too much. And then, with reference to the stock, it is by no means certain that the Brier is the best for all. For instance, 'Mrs. W. J. Grant,' I am inclined to think, prefers the Manetti, whilst 'Clara Watson,' with us, has on the much despised Polyantha given the finer flowers and stronger growth. Does not the question of cultivation therefore seem to rest on this basis—~knowledge of each variety gained only by personal observation and experience?


Hybrid Teas having become so prominent during the last ten years, it would be well at such a gathering of Rose-growers as this to place on record the names of some of the pioneers in this new departure, giving honour where honour is due. For the best Hybrid Teas we are principally indebted to H. Bennett, A. Dickson & Sons, Nabonnand, PernetDucher, and W. Paul & Son, sharing between them forty-four varieties. Paul & Son, of Cheshunt, led the way with 'Cheshunt Hybrid,' sent out in 1878; for, although some Roses which have since been recognised as Hybrid Teas were already in cultivation but classed as Hybrid Perpetuals, Messrs. Paul & Son were the first to detect and establish the difference between Hybrid Teas and other Roses. Of the varieties raised by Mr. H. Bennett the best, I think, is 'Viscountess Folkestone.' Messrs. A. Dickson & Sons have proved themselves his worthy successors, and are well to the front as successful hybridisers, some of the most valuable Hybrid Teas emanating from this firm. Among the best of those already tested are 'Mrs. W. J. Grant,' 'Bessie Brown,' 'Liberty,' 'Killarney,' 'Marjorie,' 'Countess of Caledon,' and the three beautiful singles, 'Irish Beauty,' 'Irish Modesty,' and 'Irish Glory.' Last year we received from this firm 'Mamie,' 'Duchess of Portland,' 'Mildred Grant,' Roses of considerable merit; and this year are promised 'Alice Lindsell' and possibly 'Florence Pembcrton.' In M. Nabonnand's collection 'Bardou Job' takes the leading position, and M. Pernet-Ducher will long be remembered for some of the very finest productions, such as 'Caroline Testout,' 'Gustave Régis,' and 'Marquise Litta,' closely followed by 'Madame Abel Chatenay,' 'Madame Cadeau Ramey,' and 'Souvenir du President Carnot.' A grand record. To William Paul & Son we owe, amongst others, 'Exquisite,' 'The Waltham Climber.' and 'Tennyson.' Guinoisseau has given us 'Augustine Guinoisseau,' Geo. Prince contributes 'Clara Watson,' M. Geschwind has made our gardens gay with 'Gruss an Teplitz,' and Paul & Son our dinner tables in early spring with 'Lady Battersea.' There are many others one would like to mention, but time forbids. They shall be recorded in an appended list,


We are informed by Lindley, in his monograph of the Rose, that the name "Rose" is derived from the Celtic word rhodd and the Greek ροδον, signifying "red"; but why is it that the Hybrid Tea class, speaking generally, is so deficient in reds of a decided colour? Of Hybrid Perpetuals we possess magnificent reds, such as 'Horace Vernet,' 'Charles Lefebvre,' and 'Victor Hugo.' When shall we have a 'Horace Vernet' of the 'Caroline Testout' type, robust, constant, and free'? Year by year we eagerly scan the lists of new Hybrid Teas, and inspect the stands of new Roses, but although in 'Bardou Job,' 'Marquise de Salisbury,' 'Liberty,' and 'Gruss an Teplitz' we have some good reds, yet for the most part the gold medal Roses are pasty, washed-out-looking things. We want something definite—a good red, dark and vivid, or a good pure white—and to the raiser who supplies these we shall accord a hearty greeting.