Gardening 10(229): 198-199 (Mar 15, 1902)
Hybrid Stocks for Rose Propagation
Walter Van Fleet

An essay by Dr. W. Van Fleet, Little Silver, N.J., read before the American Rose Society.

But little effort has been made to ascertain the rose stocks best suited for American use. Rose growers here mainly propagate cuttings, and 'own root' roses of all varieties that may be increased in that manner have, until very lately, been much preferred for culture both under glass and in the open. Recent successful commercial trials, however, have shown the advantage of grafting certain forcing roses on stocks resistent to the eel worm, as well as to supply a root system of greater vigor than is inherent in the variety wanted. Then, too, a considerable number of the most desirable hardy roses propagate very sparingly, if at all, by cuttings. The increase by root cuttings and clump division is slow and precarious, so that budding and grafting on congenial stocks remain the only practicable methods.

We have hitherto accepted the stocks most approved by European growers as without question the most available, and for greenhouse commercial work the Manetti rose, of hybrid China parentage, may always be most useful; but for outside planting both. Manetti and dog brier have proven dismal failures under our climatic conditions.

The latter does not thrive at all, and the former, while vigorous enough, suckers badly and ceases growing too early after dry summers to encourage late blooms in those varieties disposed to autumnal flowering.

Manetti roots are very fibrous, forming a perfect mat in rich, moist soil; but they run shallow and are quickly affected by drought. They drink greedily soluble nourishment, but seem unable to extract much plant food from dry soil. The common experience with roses worked on Manetti is that they are troublesome and short-lived, unless so planted as eventually to throw out an adequate root system of their own. The great majority of the imported budded roses are discarded after blooming a season or two, and the remaining plants seldom develop into the strong, vigorous specimens we have a right to expect.

These defects in European stocks have been long known, though but little effort has been made to find more useful substitutes. One nursery in the west claimed some years ago to use Mme. Plantier, a vigorous and very hardy rose of much-mixed parentage, but of the hybrid China type, with great success; but we have not heard much about it since. Our native prairie rose, Rosa setigera, has been used in an experimental way by the writer and others with much success, both as a stock for budding and for root grafting. It is exceedingly hardy, the foliage is resistent to most diseases, and the root system is strong and penetrates the soil deeply. Buds or grafts unite readily, and the union seems very permanent, but time has not tested the latter claim. All varieties tried grow well on this stock, which may be easily increased by seeds or cuttings. It is of a climbing habit, and the canes are not suitable for high budding for tree or standard effects. The roots seldom sucker, all the new growth starting from the crown.

For high budding we have found nothing better than the Penzance hybrid sweet briers, Rose Bradwardine, Amy Robsart and Anne of Gierstein. They grow here more upright and vigorous than the type species, and are not subject to sun-scald like standard Manetti. Other hybrids of the sweet brier, with General Jacqueminot, and with various hybrid perpetuals, of our own raising, have the same characteristics. There is no suckering, and they are easily increased by cuttings.

Lord Penzance and other sweet brier hybrids, containing blood of the Persian Yellow class should be avoided for this purpose. The canes are more slender, and propagation is less certain.

The most suitable stocks for low or dwarf budding and root grafting appear to be hybrids of Rosa multiflora and R. Luciae, more widely known as R. Wichuraiana. Seedlings of Clothilde Soupert crossed with Crimson Rambler furnish the best example of the former class.

Some are thornless, or nearly so, strong, rapid growers and deep rooters. They work very easily, and the buds or grafts soon make a firm union. They can be increased by cuttings of green and hard wood with the greatest facility.

Crosses between Crimson Rambler and R. Wichuraiana, to use the name best known, are still more vigorous but less upright in habit and quite thorny. They strike readily from cuttings, and also root as freely from the tips as a dewberry, when allowed to trail. The roots penetrate the soil deeply, and the bark works with ease when ready for budding.

Crosses between R. Wichuraiana and China roses sometimes possess great vigor. One plant two years from the seed, planted in poor, gravelly upland threw a trailing cane twenty-six feet long last summer. They all seem very easy of propagation and are more upright and less thorny than R. Wichuraiana itself, which trails as flat as a melon vine.

The roots of R. Wichuraiana and its hybrids go deep down in the soil, and if there is any moisture or fertility they will find it. They will thrive on the most barren slope when established and the plants look as if they would endure for all time. The long, smooth roots are admirable for grafting, and they can be worked as easily and certainly as apple roots if good wood is fitted to them. The grafts may be tied with twine or lightly waxed and packed in damp mess, and kept rather warm until union is effected.

Neither Rosa multiflora nor R. Wichuraiana hybrids sucker, but buds start freely from the crown, which should be set rather deeply in budded plants. There is no trouble with suckering from the root grafts. Plants of the above hybrids grown from cuttings of good sized wood are very manageable and would seem to preferable to Manetti for most purposes.

R. multiflora seedlings are being used to some extent by commercial rose growers, and they seem to be growing in favor; but we think hybrids of the Rambler series would be more satisfactory. Helene, a very vigorous and almost thornless seedling of Crimson Rambler, is now in commerce, and looks as if it would answer the purpose admirably, though we have not tried it.

While rather off the subject the writer would mention that Perle des Jardins, budded on an established plant of the Cherokee rose, Rosa laevigata, is giving splendid blooms of almost exhibition quality, in a cold, damp house where five years' effort with potted Perles on own roots and Manetti only resulted in a chance 'bullhead' once or twice a year. Further trials will be made with teas and hybrid teas on this stock.

There is a growing conviction among propagators that the stock is as important as the scion, and grand commercial results have come from the proper selection of resistent and congenial stocks in the culture of grapes, plums and other fruits. The breeding of stocks by hybrid1zation and selection may become as essential as the production of new varieties, if American rose culture is ever to reach its proper development in the horticultural world. The conclusions above detailed are based on very limited experimentation, and are offered only to stimulate further research in that direction.