Gardeners’ Chronicle (March, 1922) pp. 80-82

The Progress of the Rose in America
Professor of Floriculture, Cornell University

"The interest in the rose cannot pass. The appeal of the flower is practically universal. The variety in form and color is wide and the adaptation remarkable. It has become port of the experience of the race."—L. H. Bailey in "The American Rose Annual," 1917.

PROBABLY no other genus of ornamental plants appeals to so great a number of people as does the rose. This is due in a large measure to the varied characters of the many species and varieties, also to their wide range of adaptation to different soils and climates.

It would indeed be interesting if there were available, photographs of ancient American rose gardens, or of roses growing in greenhouses during earlier periods of the commercial cutflower industry, so that comparisons might be made between the earlier methods of culture and those of today. Within the memory of the writer the commercial growing of cut-roses has developed from comparatively small ranges with a limited output, to huge "rose factories" where the daily output numbers thousands of blooms. When one sees the huge shipments of roses from some of the large rose production centers one wonders where they all go. However, the American people demand them all to beautify their homes, to cheer the sick, to carry expressions of sympathy to the afflicted, to make more joyous the marriage ceremony; in short, to brighten and make glad every occasion and to enable the American people to "Say it with Flowers."

The history of the development of both garden and greenhouse roses in America is interesting. During the early years of rose growing little attention was paid to breeding varieties suited for our peculiar conditions. We took what the Europeans sent us and supposed they were as nearly ideal as it was possible to have them. It has been within a comparatively few years that American rose breeders have been working to produce ideal species for the landscape, the garden and the greenhouse. To see the splendid results of recent achievements in rose breeding, it is necessary to visit our best public parks, to make the June pilgrimages with the members of The American Rose Society to their test gardens, to visit the gardens of American rose enthusiasts, or to attend some of the large exhibitions of cut-roses, such as the National Flower Show in Indianapolis, Indiana, the Winter exhibition of carnations and roses at Hartford, Conn., or the New York Flower Show. In places such as these the best American roses may be seen.

Van Fleet Hybrid of Rosa Wichuraiana x R. Pernetiana. (Courtesy of American Rose Society.)

The native species have not played a large part in the development of better American types. A few, however, are suited for ornamental landscape effects. Among them are Rosa setigera, R. blanda, R. carolina, R. lucida and R. nitida. Canina  and rubiginosa are European species which have escaped from cultivation. It has been the species from Europe and Asia that have so largely influenced the present day type of ornamental roses.

Those who had an opportunity to visit the late Dr. Van Fleet, at Bell, Md., and to see there his results with hybrids of Rosa Willmottiae, R. Hugonis, R. altaica, R. rugosa, R. omeiensis, and R. Moyesii, realize how seriously rose progress in America has been retarded by the "passing on" of a wonderful rosarian. His article in "The American Rose Annual" for 1921 on "Rose-Breeding in 1920 at Bell Experiment Plot" should be read by every lover of the rose. Speaking of the favorable climatic influence for rose pollination during the season of 1920, Dr. Van Fleet wrote, "The harvest in matured seed was greater than heretofore and covered the widest range of species yet attempted, the special features borne in mind being, hardiness, disease resistance and good garden appearance of plants. Elegance, profusion and continuity of bloom, are of the highest importance and every effort is made to develop these perfections in hybrid progeny. There are already too many weak varieties that produce a few exquisite blooms tinder exceptional conditions of culture but new varieties that do not require incessant coddling are needed for American gardens." "Particular attention was given in 1920 to the utilization of the lesser-known northern species of both hemispheres such as Rosa inodora, R. pulvurulenta, R. Murielae, R. hibernica, R. micrantha, R. involuta, and R. Jundzillii of the Old World and native R. Macounii and R. nutkana, and the most northern forms of R. nitida, R. pratincola and R. lucida or R. virginiana.

Hybrid of Rosa Hugonis x R. altaica, two years old. (Courtesy of American Rose Society.)
Rosa Willmottiae in bloom at Bell Experiment Plot. (Courtesy of American Rose Society.)

There is considerable diversity in garden adaptability among these extremely hardy wild roses and crossings with the several attractive new Chinese species, and with highly developed florists' varieties may open up new features of value in the offspring. Seeds of most of the northern species are of slow germination and probably several seasons will be needed to bring out their possibilities."

*CybeRose note: Dr. W. Van Fleet [(Safrano x wichurariana) x Souv. du Président Carnot]: (wichuraiana x Mme. Gabriel Luizet) is the parentage of Dorothy Perkins.
**American Pillar [(wichuraiana x setigera) x seedling]

Rosa multiflora has been the parent of many climbing varieties which have left an indelible impression on the mind of rose lovers. The more trailing or prostrate, evergreen species Wichuraiana has played an important part in the development of the so-called "Pillar Roses." Such men as Jackson Dawson, Dr. Van Fleet, M. H. Walsh, W. A. Manda, Hoopes Bros. and Thomas and others, saw the possibilities for improvement in the desirable characters of each, through hybridization, and crosses were made between these two species; also between these and R. setigera and the Hybrid Teas and Hybrid Perpetuals. Among the best of the present day varieties which have resulted from such crosses are Dawson (R. multiflora x General Jacqueminot, H. P.), Farquahar (R. Wichuraiana x Crimson Rambler, H. M.), Dr. Van Fleet* (R. Wichuraiana x Mme. Gabriel Luizet, H. P.); Gardenia (R. Wichuraiana x Perle des Jardins, H. T.), American Pillar** (R. Wichuraiana x R. setigera); and Christine Wright (an unnamed Wichuraiana seedling x Caroline Testout, H. T.).

Rosa multiflora crossed with Teas and Hybrid Teas has also given a type of the so-called "Polyantha Pompons" like George Elgar and Cecile Brunner, varieties now so popular. There have also been produced from similar crosses the dwarf polyanthas so useful as bedding roses. Varieties of these like Echo, Triomphe Orleanais, Maman Turbat, and Mme. Jules Gouchault are also much used by florists in forcing for Spring bloom.

The Tea Roses became popular in America during the middle of the nineteenth century. Rosa odorata, or the original Tea Rose with double blush flowers, was introduced into England from Western China in 1810, and in 1824 a form with pale yellow flowers was introduced. From the crossing of this species with Rosa chinensis, the Bengal Rose, and other Chinese species, the present day Tea Roses have been produced. Among the older varieties of Tea Roses still grown to a considerable extent for commercial purposes, particularly for corsage bouquets in retail stores is Bon Silene. This was originated by Hardy in 1835 and is one of the few varieties which has stood the long-time test. Catherine Mermet originated by Pierre Guillot in 1869 was the parent through bud variation, in 1885, of the Bride. This was the principal white variety grown in greenhouses until the advent of the Hybrid Tea, White Killarney, in 1909. Bridesmaid, the pink Tea Rose popular as a greenhouse variety, was also produced by a bud variation on Catherine Mermet in 1892.

The species of roses which have been chiefly responsible for increasing the vigor of garden varieties are Rosa gallica, the Provence Rose, R. borbonica, the Bourbon Rose, and R. damascena, the Damask Rose, Hybrids of these species with R. chinensis and R. odorata have given the present day type known as Hybrid Perpetuals or Remontants. This race became popular from 1860 to 1890. Many Hybrid Perpetuals are now grown, but their more limited blooming period makes them less in demand than are the more constant blooming but less hardy varieties of Hybrid Teas. Frau Karl Druschki, General Jacqueminot, Paul Neyron, and Hugh Dickson are still found in the majority of American Rose gardens.

Near the middle of the nineteenth century European rose breeders began to search for some method of increasing the hardiness of Tea Roses. As a result existing varieties were crossed with Hybrid Perpetuals. One of the first results of such a cross was achieved by Pierre Guillot of Lyons, France, when he originated La France.

*Gardeners' Chronicle, 1918: "The Premier—A distinct variety, obtained by crossing Rosa lucens with (probably) Miss Alice Rothschild. R. lucens is said to be mildew proof, and in this respect The Premier has, so far, the good quality of its parent species. The variety is strong in growth, a pillar Rose, with light green foliage and clusters of semi-double blush flowers,each about 1 1/2 inch across. [Miss Alice de Rothschild; yellow tea]

This was, however, not recognized as a new type until 1890. The first product of the hardier type which was classified as a Hybrid Tea rose is said to have been Cheshunt Hybrid, introduced by George Paul in 1873. The writer had the pleasure of a day with George Paul shortly before his death last September. Mr. Paul then showed him with great pride, two of his most recent hybrids, "Paul's Perpetual-flowering Lemon Pillar" and "The Premier," a hybrid of Rosa lutescens.*

Hybrid Tea roses of European origin have played an important part in American rose breeding. They have furnished the parents for many of our best varieties. Honor must be given Alex. Dickson for Killarney, William Paul for Ophelia, Pernet-Ducher for Mrs. Aaron Ward, Sunburst, Souvenir du Claudius Pernet, and to many others for varieties which have been and are to he such important factors in American rose production. However, our American breeders have been doing most excellent work and no finer results have been achieved anywhere than those of American rosarians.

John Cook. Baltimore, Md., has given its the following which have been foremost among commercial varieties: My Maryland, 1908: Radiance, 1908; Francis Scott Key. 1913: Mrs. John Cook, 1919; Glorified La France, 1919. E. G. Hill, Richmond. Indiana: Richmond, 1905; Rhea, Reid, 1908: Columbia. 1916; Premier, 1918: Mme. Butterfly, 1918; Hill's America. 1921. Alexander Montgomery. Hadley, Mass.: Wellesley, 1905; Crimson Queen. 1912; Mrs. Chas. Russell, 1912; Hadley, 1914; Crusader, 1919: Pilgrim, 1919. Frederick Dorner & Sons Co., Lafayette. Indiana: Hoosier Beauty, 1915. In distinctly garden varieties of Hybrid Teas, Captain George C. Thomas has recently produced Bloomfield Abundance and Bloomfield Progress, 1920; Howard and Smith; Los Angeles. 1916, and Miss Lolita Armour, 1920. These are but a few of the recent valuable acquisitions to American varieties by American rose breeders.

The field of rose breeding is a broad one and it is safe to say that the work our Americans have thus far done is but a beginning; the future holds much of promise.

Other agencies are at work in America which stand pre-eminently for rose progress. "The American Rose Society" is carrying the rose far to the front as a flower for all classes of people. The work of the organization is governed by a body of men who are generously donating their money, time and thought to those subjects which stand for progress in every phase of rose growing in America. The test-gardens in various sections of the United States which are tinder the direction of the A. R. S. have been valuable agents in demonstrating the adaptation of various species and varieties to different soils and climates. The American Rose Annual, which the organization publishes for its members, is full of valuable rose literature. The volumes constitute a rose library and no one interested in any phase of garden work can afford to be without them.

With the increasing interest shown by our American people in rose growing, with the literature which is accumulating year by year, and best of all with the introduction of the hardier varieties, which are eliminating the discouraging element of Winter killing in the northern section, rose progress in the United States is certain.