American Rose Quarterly (1930)

Is General Jacqueminot in American Commerce?

By G. A. STEVENS, Harrisburg, Pa.

THE name is, of course. Next to Frau Karl Druschki, it is probably the best-known name in Hybrid Perpetuals and perhaps the best-known name of all roses, for many people know of the "Jack" rose from memory or hearsay who may never have seen the rose itself. I think there is a genuine doubt that the true variety is easily obtainable nowadays.

In 1908 or 1909 I got my first Général Jacqueminot. It was an own-root, one-year-old plant, and I paid 15 cents for it. It bloomed the year I got it and died in the following winter, but I never forgot its brilliant red color, so different from the purplish red, old-fashioned roses abundant in every dooryard.

In 1917 another plant was acquired from George H. Peterson, of Fair Lawn, N. J. The bloom tallied exactly with my memory of the flower seen nearly ten years before, and I accepted that plant as Général Jacqueminot. I still believe it is the true variety.

Its flowers are large and almost fully double, not quite, but much fuller than Frau Karl Druschki and somewhat less than Francis Scott Key. The color is brilliant light red, not crimson by any means—something near the color of Ecarlate or George C. Waud at its best. I call it "tomato red" for short. The petals are regularly placed, imbricated—that is, overlapping—and it has a pointed center which is well held before it opens. The fragrance is rich and of the true rose scent. The plant is notably vigorous in a bushy way, with lots of canes and an unusual abundance of rather light green foliage.

CybeRose note: William Paul (1848) described the H. Chinese variety as "flowers deep purple, shaded with brilliant crimson, large and full; form, compact. Habit, erect; growth, vigorous. Introduced in 1846."

When I came to Breeze Hill in 1924 I found numerous plants labeled Général Jacqueminot which did not correspond to my plant in any particular. The bushes were thin, with waxy foliage, much bronzed in the young state, and the flowers were semi-double, rather small, and dark, purplish crimson. In consulting with Dr. McFarland about the differences I found that he took no exception to the variety he had, and apparently recognized it as the Général Jacqueminot he had always known.

Unconvinced, I obtained specimens of Général Jacqueminot from various sources to compare with the Breeze Hill plants, and found in every case that the rose supplied was identical with them. The Breeze Hill plants came, in 1912, from a local nursery which does not specialize in roses. The curious thing about the matter is that I have been conducting a similar hunt for the true Prince Camille de Rohan, and in every case get the same variety for both Rohan and Jacqueminot! And neither is true!

Here are descriptions of the true Général Jacqueminot by people who ought to know: First from French sources—"Les Plus Belles Roses au Début du XX Siècle," edited by Charles Amat for the Société Nationale d'Horticulture de France, 1912, states: Général Jacqueminot. "Rouge vif.-fl. gr., en coupe, odor.," which being interpreted means: "Bright or lively red, large, cup-shaped, fragrant."

Next, from the 1921-22 catalogue of Ketten Brothers, of Luxembourg, where it is classed among roses "écarlate et vermillon" as "rouge geranium velouté nuance rouge fraise" which translates as "velvety geranium-red shaded with strawberry-red," from which I gather that there is no purple in Général Jacqueminot as it is known in France and Luxembourg.

Now Germany: From the "Amateur Gardener's Rose Book," by Dr. Julius Hoffmann, published in 1905, available to me only in a translated edition: "Large, fairly well-filled, cupped, fiery carmine-red." From Peter Lambert's epochal catalogue of 1912-13: "Lebhaft, leucht. rot mit samtig," which I make out to mean, "Sparkling, glowing red with velvet sheen." No hint of the purple crimson in Deutschland, either!

From England: In the "Select List of Roses" of the National Rose Society, 1921, Général Jacqueminot is described as follows: "Bright scarlet-crimson." In "The Rose Garden," by Wm. Paul, 1881, it is said to be "Brilliant red, large, and very double," and modern catalogues follow with similar sentiments.

In America, the rose was described by the historian Francis Parkman in his "Book of Roses," 1871, as "A fine crimson, and though not perfectly double, one of the most splendid of roses. Its size, under good culture, is immense ... and it glows like a firebrand among the paler hues around it." "Parsons on the Rose," 1887, has this to say: "One of the most beautiful roses, but its open flower, not being perfectly double, is surpassed by others. Its color is scarlet-crimson with a soft velvety sheen." Ellwanger, in "The Rose," 1892, reports: "Brilliant crimson, not full, but large and extremely effective."

I believe that any careful reader of the above descriptions would conclude that they fit the rose which I obtained from Peterson in 1917 better than the Breeze Hill plants, and those which I have obtained from growers since 1925. I am forced to the opinion, shared by my good friend, J. H. Nicolas, who has discussed this matter with me many times, that the rose generally supplied by nurseries is not the true Général Jacqueminot.

In Ellwanger's book, "The Rose," there is mention of another Général Jacqueminot, a Hybrid China variety, sent out by Laffay in 1846, six or seven years before Roussel produced the famous Hybrid Perpetual which is under discussion. Ellwanger described the other rose as purple-crimson, which fits the present commercial variety perfectly. Is there an explanation in this fact?