The Garden Magazine pp. 253-256 (June 1915)

Ernest H. Wilson, Arnold Arboretum

[EDITOR'S NOTE.This is the first of a series of articles of unusual importance that will appear month by month in THE GARDEN MAGAZINE and each one having a timely interest. Mr. Wilson writes both as a botanist and a practical horticulturista rare combination, indeed. More than any other man living, he is justified, as the result of his travels and collections in China and Japan, together with his work in the gardens and nurseries of Europe and America, to speak authoritatively on the subject which he touches. In this series of articles, he will present many new and perhaps surprising conclusions, besides helping to unravel some of the mysteries or confusions that have hitherto surrounded the stories of some of our favorite plants. Mr. Wilson goes to the fountain head for his facts, and every statement made in this and the future articles is based on an actual verification of references, dates, etc., and an acquaintance with the living plants themselves, both in their native regions and in our gardens.]

*CybeRose note: I checked Plukenet. The following description might be a double-flowered pink R. multiflora:
Rosa incarnata multiplex, subrotundo folio crispo, barbulis s. Calycis radiis foliosis amplissimis. In amici nostri integerrimi Thom. Payne. armig. Hortulo amoenissimo jamdudum collegimus, cujus ramulum in Herbario vivo exsiccatum asservamus.
Thomas Payne was involved with the English East-India company.

THE establishing of a trading factory at Canton, in southern China, by the English East-India Company toward the close of the seventeenth century, would appear to have very little if, indeed, anything to do with the development of modern horticulture in general and the Rose in particular. But as a matter of fact it has had a great deal to do with both, and garden lovers generally (though they may not know it), owe a big debt to the directors and officers of that grand old Company. The Company met with great opposition from the Chinese and others and it was a century before it fully established itself in China. Nevertheless, in the earliest days of its career there an officer of the Company sent to England some dried plants, among them two Roses, known now-a-days botanically as Rosa multiflora and R. laevigata, which are mentioned by Plukenet in his Almagestum in 1696.* Toward the end of the eighteenth century in spite of the Napoleonic wars and the fact that each vessel was armed and often had to do battle against foes, the captains of the East-Indiamen, as the Company's ships were called, used to carry home plants which they, or the factory officials at Canton, found growing in the gardens of the Chinese.

These plants found their way into the gardens of the Company's directors and their friends and from hence into the Royal Gardens, Kew, and elsewhere. To these agencies we owe our earliest varieties of Chrysanthemums, Camellias, Moutan Peonies, Chinese Primrose, Chinese Azaleas, and, what here concerns us chiefly, the first plants of the Chinese Monthly, Tea and Rambler Roses—parents of the modern Rose.

Early in the eighteenth century India received through the same source many plants including these and other Roses. It is important to remember this since one of these, the Chinese Monthly Rose (Rosa chinensis), was afterward erroneously considered to be native of India and became generally known as the "Bengal Rose." This Rose and its var. semperflorens were introduced by the French to the Isle of Bourbon, doubtless from India, during the eighteenth century.

The Bengal Rose was known to Gronovius in 1704, and came into cultivation in Haarlem in 1781, having probably been introduced by Dutch East-Indiamen. But, preoccupied with their tulips and other bulbous plants the Dutch have done little toward developing the modern Rose. In 1789, Sir Joseph Banks introduced it to England and, chronologically, our story here begins.

*CybeRose note: According to Slater's gardener, James Main (1835), "Mr. Slater, among several other Chinese plants which he introduced, is said to have introduced the Rosa semperflorens; but we have reason to believe that that was received through some other channel. The small red, scentless species, or variety, called by the Chinese, Cha-kune, was received by Mr. Slater in 1790, and flowered, for the first time, in his collection in 1791; but the R. semperflorens was not then among his imported plants.

In 1789, Rosa chinensis var. semperflorens (Crimson Chinese Monthly), through the captain of an English East-Indiaman, came into the possession of Gilbert Slater, Esq.* In 1804, Thomas Evans sent from China to England through the same agency the first Rambler Rose (Rosa multiflora var. carnea). In 1809, Sir Abraham Hume, received from China, through a similar agency, the first Tea-scented Rose which had double pink flowers and was christened Rosa chinensis var. odoratissima. And, to complete the independent activities of the British East-India Company, between 1815 and 1817, Charles Francis Greville, Esq., received from China a Rambler Rose (Rosa multiflora var. platyphylla) which enjoyed lasting popularity under the name of "Seven Sisters" and by which name it will be remembered by many readers of this Magazine.

Meanwhile, in 1792, Lord Macartney brought back with him from China a Rose (R. bracteata) which was styled the Macartney Rose and which is now naturalized in some of our warmer states.

*CybeRose note: Rosa laevigata was introduced to Georgia prior to the American Revolution, but did not become naturalized until the 19th century after it was widely distributed as a hedge plant. Michaux found it growing in gardens in Georgia.

Another Chinese Rose—the Cherokee Rose—the date of whose introduction to this country is unknown, is also naturalized widely in the warmer states and received its earliest name (R. laevigata) in 1803, from Michaux* who firmly believed it to be native of this country.

In 1796, Rosa rugosa, native of Japan, Korea and extreme northeastern Asia, was introduced to England by Messrs. Lee and Kennedy.

*CybeRose note: Parks' Yellow Tea-scented rose was very large, very double, very fragrant, but not very yellow. The semi-double yellow rose Wilson mentions is Knight's Yellow China, a self-seedling of the Blush Tea-scented introduced in 1823.

These new and amazing plants from China quickly attracted the attention of patrons of horticulture in England and men were despatched to China expressly to send home all the novelties they could find; and, intermittently, from the commencement of the nineteenth century down to the present day ardent collectors have been busily employed, but this wonderfully rich country is not yet exhausted of its floral treasures! One of the first of these collectors—William Kerr—sent home in 1807, the double white-flowered Banksian Rose (Rosa Banksiae). In 1824, John Damper Parks sent home the double yellow-flowered Banksian Rose (R. Banksiae var. lutea) and a semi-double yellowish Tea Rose (R. chinensis var. ochroleuca).* In 1825, the Small-leaved Rose (R. Roxburghii, better known as R. microphylla) with double reddish flowers blossomed for the first time in Messrs. Colville's Nursery in London.

We have already mentioned that Chinese Roses were introduced to India in the eighteenth century and that some of them toward the end of that century were introduced to the French Isles of Bourbon, south of the equator, where we learn they thrived amazingly and produced new forms.

From Mauritius in 1810, Sweet introduced to England the Fairy Rose (R. chinensis var. minima); this I consider to be merely a variant of var. semperflorens, the Crimson Monthly Rose. About 1819, from the Isle of Bourbon, the Rose Edward reached France, and crossed with the French Rose (R. gallica) gave rise to the Hybrid Bourbon Roses. This Rose Edward is of much interest; long ago it was cultivated in Calcutta and it is obviously a Hybrid Chinese. The specimen I have seen strongly suggests R. chinensis x R. centifolia as its parentage.

The Chinese Monthly Rose (R. chinensis) crossed with the French Rose (R. gallica) gave rise to the Hybrid Chinese Roses. The Hybrid Chinese and the Hybrid Bourbon crossed with the Damask Rose (R. damascena) gave rise to the Hybrid Perpetual Roses. The Hybrid Perpetual crossed with the Tea Rose (R. chinensis var. odoratissima) gave rise to the Hybrid Tea Roses which today are the dominant class of Roses. Lastly, Rosa chinensis crossed with the Musk Rose (R. moschata) gave rise to the Noisette Roses, a beautiful class which, unfortunately, has gone out of favor.

But to return to the collectors: In 1846, Robert Fortune sent from China to England the yellow-buff Fortune Rose (R. chinensis var. pseudoindica), a tea-scented Rose rather similar to the var. ochroleuca and widely known under the name "Beauty of Glazenwood." In 1850, he sent home from China a Rose with relatively large double white flowers supposed to be cross between the Banksian and Cherokee Roses and which was named Rosa Fortuneana. In 1886, the Wichuraiana Rose (R. Luciae) was introduced to Brussells from Japan. In 1878, Prof. R. Smith sent from Japan to a Mr. Jenner in England a Rose which the recipient named "The Engineer" in compliment to the profession of its donor. In course of time this Rose came into possession of a nurseryman named Gilbert who exhibited some cut flowers of it under the above name in 1890, and received an Award of Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society. Soon afterward Messrs. Turner, of Slough purchased the stock and changed the name to "Crimson Rambler." Now, this Rose is generally assumed to be a hybrid between Rosa multiflora and some Chinese Monthly Rose. To me this view is untenable. I do not think it has any Chinese Monthly blood in it at all. It has long been cultivated in China and I consider that, like the Seven Sisters Rose, it is a sport from the common, wild pink-flowered Chinese Rambler (R. multiflora f. cathayensis). These various Chinese Roses were introduced from Chinese gardens where they have been cultivated from time immemorial and their wild prototypes were not discovered, much less introduced, until comparatively recently.

The true Rambler Rose (R. multiflora) is a native of Japan and has single white flowers in large panicles. This was sent to Lyons, France, from Japan in 1862, by M. Coignet, an engineer. The pink flowered Chinese variety has only just been dignified by a distinctive name. In 1888, General Collett discovered, in the Shaii Hills of Upper Burmah, a Rose with white, pale yellow or buff flowers six inches across and this was named Rosa gigantea. He introduced it to Europe and it thrives wonderfully in the Riviera but in England it flowers sparingly. This Rose is common in Yunnan, southwest China, and has given rise to a race of double flowered Roses which are cultivated for ornament by the Chinese in that region. This Giant Rose is very fragrant and I believe it to be the prototype and parent of the Teascented Roses long cultivated by the Chinese. The prototype of the Chinese Monthly Rose was first found growing wild in 1885, by A. Henry in the province of Hupeh, central China, and in this same region the wild form of the Banksian Rose with single white flowers is extraordinarily abundant; so also is the Cherokee Rose and further west, in Szechuan, the prototype of the Small-leaved Rose (R. Roxburghii) is one of the most common wayside shrubs.


(Introduced from China or India to Holland, 1781)
Derivatives: Cramoisie Supérieure and others.
R. chinensis x R. gallica = HYBRID CHINESE ROSES
Such as General Jacqueminot, Paul Verdier. Fair Rosamund, Souvenir de Pierre Dupuy and others.
R. chinensis x R. centifolia = ROSE EDWARD
(Introduced from Isle of Bourbon to France about 1819.
Rose Edward x R. gallica = HYBRID BOURBON ROSES
Such as Souvenir de la Malmaison, Souvenir de Mme. Auguste Charles, Yellow Malmaison and others.
Hybrid Chinese and, or Hybrid Bourbon x R. damascena = HYBRID PERPETUAL ROSES
Such as Baroness Rothschild, Frau Karl Druschki, Louis Van Houtte, Mrs. John Laing, Victor Verdier, American Beauty, and many others.
R. chinensis var. semperflorens—CRIMSON CHINESE MONTHLY ROSE (Introduced into England from China in 1789)
R. chinensis var. minima—FAIRY ROSE
(Introduced to England from Mauritius in 1810)
Derivatives: alba. Fairy, Red Pet. Rétour du Printemps and others. This Rose is probably only a state of R. chinensis var. semperflorens.
R. chinensis var. odoratissima—TEA ROSE
(Introduced from China to England in 1809)
Derivatives: Niphetos, Catherine Mermet, Safrano Perle des Jardins, Maman Cochet, Rubens, Marechal Niel. Devoniensis, Bon Silene, The Bride, and many others.
Tea Rose x Hybrid Perpetual—HYBRID TEAS
Such as La France. Killarney. Belle Siebrecht. Caroline Testout. Gruss an Teplitz, William F. Bennett, Mrs. Russell. Sunburst. Lady Hillingdon. The Hadley, Ophelia, Mrs. Aaron Ward, and many others.
R. chinensis var. pseuroindica—FORTUNE'S DOUBLE YELLOW OR BEAUTY OF GLAZENWOOD (Introduced from China to England in 1846)
R. chinensis x R. moschata = NOISETTE ROSE
(First cross raised in Charleston. S. C., in 1816)
Derivatives: Lamarque, Aimée Vibert, William Allen Richardson, Solfaterre, Madame Carnot, Bouquet d'Or, and many others.
R. chinensis x R. arvensis = ROSA RUGA
R. chinensis x R. multiflora var. carnea = FELLENBERG
(Raised about 1818 but not distributed until 1857)
R. multiflora var. carnea—RED POLYANTHA ROSE
(Introduced from China to England in 1804)
R. multiflora var. platyphylla—SEVEN SISTERS ROSE
(Introduced from China between 1815 and 1817)
R. multiflora—POLYANTHA ROSE
(Introduced into France about 1862 from Japan)
Crossed with other groups has given rise to Rose Mignonette, Rose Paquerette, and others.
R. multiflora x General Jacqueminot = The DAWSON ROSE
R. multiflora x Noisette = ROSA POLYANTHA GRANDIFLORA
(Introduced to Brussels from Japan about 1886)
Crossed with other Roses has given rise to race known as Wichuraiana Hybrids, such as Dorothy Perkins, Hiawatha, Farquhar Rose, Excelsa, Lady Gay, and many others.
R. Luciae x Rose L'Idéale = ROSE RENI ANDRÉ
(Introduced from China to England in 1844)
(Introduced from China to England in 1792)
Derivatives: Victoire Modeste, Coccinea Rosea, Rubra-duplex. It has also been crossed with R. laevigata.
R. gigantea—GIANT TEA ROSE
(Introduced into England from Upper Burmah in 1888)
(Introduced into England 1796, and has given rise to numerous varieties. Such as R. rugosa var. repens, alba, Blanche de Coubert, and others.
R. rugosa x R. Luciae = ROSA JACKSONI
This was raised by Jackson Dawson and is one of the earliest Wichuraiana crosses.
R. rugosa x R. chinensis = ROSA CALOCARPA
R. pendulina—ALPINE ROSE
R. pendulina x R. chinensis = BOURSAULT ROSES
Such as Old Red Boursault. Amadis, elegans, Blush Boursault, Calypso, inermis, and others raised early in the nineteenth century.
R. laevigata—CHEROKEE ROSE
Native of China but long since naturalized in warmer parts of U.S.A.
R. laevigata x Rosa chinensis = ROSE ANEMONE
(Introduced from China to England in 1807)
R. Banksiae x R. laevigata = ROSA FORTUNIANA
(Introduced from China to England in 1850)
(Introduced into England from China in 1824)
(Introduced to England and flowered for first tune in 1824)
R. Roxburghii x R. rugosa = ROSA MICRUGOSA
Persian Yellow Rose brought from Persia to England in 1838 by Sir Henry Willock is probably a form of this with double flowers.
Rose Persian Yellow x Rose H. P. Jean Ducher = ROSE SOLIEL D'OR AND OTHERS
R. foetida var. bicolor—AUSTRIAN COPPER
R. eglanterla—SWEET BRIAR
R. eglanteria x R. foetida var. bicolor = PENZANCE BRIARS

The genus Rosa is confined to the northern Hemisphere and its members are found scattered over the cool and warm temperate and the subtropic regions of Asia, Europe, and North America, some of them are found in northern Africa but no species is endemic there. It is an exceedingly difficult genus to classify and botanists differ greatly in the estimate of the number of species. One botanist asserts that all may be included under three species; in the "Index Kewensis" more than five hundred species are enumerated. In the Arnold Arboretum Herbarium twenty-six species are recognized as indigenous to North America; and of these virtually only one (R. setigera), the Prairie Rose, has been utilized by the hybridist to date, and this but sparingly. However it is well to mention that a double-flowered form of Rosa virginiana, known as Rose d'Amour, has been known since 1768, and quite recently Rosa humilis has been crossed with Rosa rugosa.

Except in gardens devoted to forming collections of plants, species of Rose, with a few exceptions, are rarely cultivated and it is trite to say that Roses as ordinarily understood are "made," not discovered wild. In other words they are the product of the gardeners' skill. I would l could take the average reader of this magazine to the mountain fastnesses of central and western China, and to certain remote parts of Japan and there introduce him to the wild typesthe raw productsfrom which have been evolved our "Killarneys," "American Beauty," "Mrs. Chas. Russell," "Lady Hillingdon," "Caroline Testout," "Mrs. George Shawyer"; our "Rambler" and "Wichuraiana" Hybrids and innumerable others, and his or her astonishment would be profound. Truly it hardly seems credible that the Roses of today had such a lowly origin.

The French Rose (R. gallica), Provence Rose (R. proviencialis) and Cabbage Rose (R. centifolia) are said to be the only Roses known to Pliny, and it must be confessed that the distinctions between these so-called species are not obvious. From earliest times in the Occident, down to the end of the eighteenth century, the Roses so much extolled by ancient writers and by our ancestors were either wild species native of Persia, Asia Minor, and Europe, or garden forms derived therefrom. These would include, in addition to those aforementioned, the White Rose (R. alba), the Musk Rose (R. moschata), the Damask Rose (R. damascena), the Cinnamon Rose (R. cinnamomea), the Moss Rose (R. centifolia var. muscosa), Sweet Briar (R. eglanteria), Sulphur Rose (R. hemisphaerica), Austrian Briar (R. foetida), and the Austrian Copper (R. foetida var. bicolor).

About the end of the eighteenth century the Ayrshire Roses were originated from R. arvensis, and early in the nineteenth century the Boursault Roses were developed, through crossing the Alpine Rose (R. pendulina) with R. chinensis, and the Scotch Briars from R. spinosissima. Virtually all have disappeared from general cultivation in the gardens of Europe and North America. And all the species of Rose indigenous to North America, Europe and Asia Minor have fallen into disfavor and are no longer used by the Rose hybridist with the exception of those which have yellow flowers.

In Roumelia and other parts of the Balkan peninsula, and on a small scale in parts of India, the French, Cabbage, and Damask Roses are extensively cultivated for the preparation of Attar of Roses. But as garden Roses the old have given place to the new, and the gardens of today are resplendent with the products of the Bengal, Tea, Rambler, and Wichuraiana Roses, natives of China and Japan.

New garden Roses are originated by the hybridizing of different species, varieties, and forms, and as sports from existing forms as in the case of "White Killarney" and many others. They are raised by means of seeds, cuttings, layering, budding, and grafting, but it is no part of my purpose to enter into these details. The object here is to tell of what has been, to show the source of what is, and to hint of what may yet be evolved. In this connection the accompanying synoptical chart illustrates the concrete facts in the evolution of the modern garden Roses.

Of the vast array of Rose species not more than two dozen have in the past history of the Rose been employed in the breeding of garden Roses. Thus, leaving completely aside the innate tendency to variation on the part of Roses of today, it is obvious that Rose breeders and specialists have still a wide untrodden field in which to experiment. It cannot be expected that every species will be found useful in the advancement of the Rose, yet at the same time only experiment, long continued, can decide which are useful or useless. Be it remembered that our present-day Roses owe their principal origin to forms cultivated, we know not how long, by the flower-loving Chinese. The prototypes of the Bengal and Tea Roses have single flowers, and blossom but once a year. When these forms gave rise to "monthly blooming" Roses, or how the latter originated is unknown. Possibly, it was some erratic sport or maybe it was due to a radical change in environment caused by the removal of the parent plants to a region where the seasons were less fixed or winter unknown. However, be this as it may, a Rose with a decided tendency toward perpetual blooming was the most marked advance in the genus, from a garden view point, that had occurred up to that time. How modern hybridists have taken advantage of this variation needs no comment.


All Rose breeders have their ideals but in striving after size, form, color, freedom of blossom and of habit, after good foliage, hardiness, constitution, keeping qualities of the flowers and the like, fragrance should not be lost sight of. We want Roses good in all points. We want fragrant Roses in increasing quantities. We want a Rambler Rose with pure white flowers as large and as freely produced as in the Crimson Rambler. Also we want yellow Ramblers, yellow Hybrid Perpetuals, more yellow Hybrid Teas and Tea Roses.

Where can we look for these yellow Roses? Now, of wild Roses with clear yellow flowers there are only known seven species: the Simple-leaved Rose (R. persica), Austrian Briar (R. foetida), Sulphur Rose (R. hemisphaerica), Mrs. Aitchison's Rose (R. Ecae)—all natives of Asia Minor and Persia to central Asia (Austrian Briar is also found in the Crimea)—Father Hugh's Rose (R. Hugonis) and Lindley's Rose (R. xanthina) natives of northern China. The latter, though named in 1820 from a Chinese drawing and long cultivated in Peking where double and single-flowered forms occur, was only introduced to cultivation a year ago by F. N. Meyer of the U. S. Department of Agriculture. Father Hugh's Rose was raised at Kew in 1899. The others have been known for a long period and some have been and still are being used by Rose breeders. The Double Sulphur or Yellow Provence Rose has been known since the seventeenth century. The Yellow Persian was brought back from Persia in 1838, by Sir Henry Willock and is presumably a form of R. foetida. The Harrison Rose is either a form of this or more probably a hybrid between it and R. spinossisima. All these Roses will doubtless play an important part in the future, but, personally, I am of the opinion that the yellow and buff-colored forms of Rosa gigantea are the Roses that will be found of greatest value in the evolution of the yellow Roses of the future. The rampant growth and sparseness of blossom may be urged against them, but who can say how much these characters may be modified under cultivation and by the hybridist? Forms of the Scotch Rose (R. spinosissima) have nearly yellow flowers but the only other really yellow Roses known are R. Banksiae var. lutea and the single-flowered R. Banksiae var. lutescens, neither yet known in a wild state.

Wild Roses are pretty and charming plants, yet it cannot be claimed that their beauty transcends that of other groups of wild flowers. Nevertheless, the Rose holds a unique place in the thought and estimation of civilized man. In poetry and prose its beauty has been extolled far and wide in many tongues. The old Persian poet, Omar Khayyam, in the eleventh century sang its praises and a Damask Rose now grows on his grave and also on that of his first English translator, Edward Fitzgerald.


The Rose is the one flower whose name is common to the polyglot people of this land. In English, French, German, Danish, and Norwegian its name is Rose; in Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, and Latin it is Rosa; in Swedish it is Ros, in Dutch Roos, in Bohemian Ruze, in Hungarian Rozsa and in Greek Rhodon. Is not this both remarkable and significant? It is the national flower of one great race, but it is loved by all and is the monopoly of no one race nor creed. In one internecine war it was used as an emblem by opposing factions. In this country's Civil War the Cherokee Rose was often planted as a memorial on the graves of fallen heroes by their surviving comrades. And today, the sight of the white flowers of this Rose wells up from the heart of many a veteran scenes of carnage and strife and brings back memories of comrades laid to rest beneath its shade.

In this and other lands the Rose has societies devoted to encouraging its advancement and rightly so. But in some ways the Rose of all flowers least needs the help of special societies. It is the one flower which for some inscrutable reason has never lost its popularity and by this same token never will.

The story of the Modern Rose is a story of progress and as such holds a peculiar fascination over all. The Near East gave the first fruits to the West; the Far East in due course added its bounty. Europe began the improvement, and soon this country took up a share. The peoples of Asia, Europe, and North America have evolved the Modern Rose. With the rapid advance in the science of hybridizing and the introduction of species and forms from far and near new races will be evolved and new eras in the development of the Rose will arise. The story here briefly sketched is but the prelude to the full story of the Rose which the future will gradually unfold.