The Gardeners’ Chronicle p. 811 (Dec. 11, 1841)

The Double Yellow Rose

If the Rose is the fairest of all flowers, the Double Yellow is the fairest of all Roses, in the opinion of many. Although we do not agree in this estimate of the Double Yellow Rose, believing that much of its attraction consists in its rarity and the difficulty of making it flower, yet we have always regarded this very difficulty as something which gives the plant strong claims to the attention of all lovers of flowers; and with a view to assist in removing it, we some months ago begged our correspondents to favour us with the result of their experience upon its cultivation. We hoped by this means to arrive at some positive conclusion as to the circumstances which are most favourable to the blossoming of this universal favourite; and although we have not, perhaps, succeeded so fully as we anticipated, yet, thanks to the intelligence of our correspondents, we have collected together a considerable amount of valuable information, the substance of which we now proceed to place before our readers.

One of the most common statements is, that the Double Yellow Rose is impatient of low, confined, or smoky situations. This, it may be presumed, is true; for in all cases open situations, often exposed to violent winds, are spoken of, and we have not a single letter from towns or cities.

In what aspect it most flourishes may perhaps be gathered from this, that in ten cases success is connected with an east aspect, in eight with a north, in seven with a west, in six with full exposure all round, and in only one case is the south spoken of: this, however, is by W. Leveson Gower, Esq., whose Roses, at Titsey, near Godstone, are well known for their beauty; and this gentleman finds them do better there than on a north or west wall. On the other hand, some writers assert that a south wall should never be chosen. It is, however, to be observed that many cases of success are connected with a south-west aspect; and Mr. Rivers, in his Rose Catalogue, states that he has this year seen it blooming freely in Suffolk, in northern, eastern, and southern aspects.

Nothing can be more conflicting than the evidence about soil. The majority of cases of success occur in light land, gravelly, sandy, loamy, and even marly; and Mr. Rivers speaks of the sandy and gravelly districts of Norfolk and Suffolk as being generally favourable to the blossoming. But, on the other hand, we have some instances of success in the stiffest land: Mr. Bowers, of Laleham, grew it in Northamptonshire in cold clay, 20 inches deep; an anonymous correspondent asserts that he has had it in the greatest perfection in the blue clay of Essex, and that he has never known it to fail when it was put into clay in a north aspect; and another writer testifies to success in strong wet, undrained clay in the same county. We confess, however, that upon carefully examining the statements last adverted to, they do not appear to be so satisfactory as the others, and that the flowering in heavy land seems to be rather of occasional than general occurrence. Upon attempting to connect the soil with particular aspects, as, for example, stiff land with the east or west, and light land with the north, we have met with no success.

Manure appears to be always necessary. Mrs. Lawrence mentions a case in Buckinghamshire, at Broughton-Hall. "The tree was planted when a sucker, against an east wall almost entirely shaded from the south; the soil was a rich loam, and her father (who was a great sportsman) buried a fox at the roots of it when about three years old; an old woman, who worked in the garden, used to dash large basins of soap-suds against it during the months of April and March, two or three times a week." Mr. Rivers mentions the advantage of watering the plants with liquid manure a week or two before flowering; and leaf-mould, decayed manure, and even peat, are named very generally as substances employed to enrich the sod.

In regard to pruning there seems to be no agreement whatever: in some places success is attended with close pruning and laying in the shoots like those of a Peach-tree; others say, prune not at all; and several state that if they do prune, it is in the smallest possible degree, and only for the sake of thinning the wood. The latter is the practice of Mr. Hugh Scott, of Farnham, near Cavan; of Mr. Cowie, gardener to S. Forster, Esq., of Southend, near Sydenham, and of many others.

The only conclusion we can draw from all this, is that it is climate much more than anything else that determines the blooming of the Double Yellow Rose; an opinion which is strengthened by several considerations. It is evident that it is neither aspect, nor soil, nor pruning, to which we must look for success; upon all these points the evidence is more or less conflicting. It is also plain that the circumstance concerning which there is least dispute, is the necessity for the situation being exposed, and neither close nor low. We also remark that none of our letters are from places more to the north than Cheshire, with the solitary exception of Biel, in East Lothian, where, in a warm dry soil, inclined to be gravelly, against the parapet of an old-fashioned terraced garden, the rose is represented as being healthy, but not vigorous. Ireland and the southern counties of England have produced the principal part of our correspondence. A hedge of bushes is stated to flower near Arundel every year; in the market of Boulogne you may always purchase, in the season, large bunches of the flowers for a few pence; and, finally, in Italy these Roses appear in far greater profusion than elsewhere. In this opinion we find the most intelligent of our correspondents agreeing with us. A case named by a clergyman in Wiltshire illustrates this: he says, "In my own parish, situate on the verge of Salisbury Plain, there are two Double Yellow Roses, which produce a profusion of blossoms annually: one is trained against a cottage in the street of a village, in a south-western aspect; soil — sandy loam: subject to no peculiar treatment; the village in a valley. The other is against a wall, in an open high situation; eastern aspect, sheltered from the north; the soil rather stiff upon chalk; it has no care taken of it in the way of manure. But though the bloom on each plant is abundant every year, the one on the hill is more subject to burst when opening than the other."

Another correspondent, whose interesting communications under the signature of "S." have doubtless been remarked on other occasions, has sent us the following remarks, which express our ideas much better than any language of our own:—

"The gardens in which the finest and most perfect Yellow Roses are produced, are those of the villas on the hills around Florence; while in the gardens in the town the flowers of this Rose are not more certain or more perfect than in England. The reason appears to depend on the following circumstances:—The valley of the Arno, in which Florence lies, is a deep trough, bounded on either hand by continuous ranges of lofty bills, of rather abrupt ascent, and of a dry and not very rich soil. The lower part of the valley is subject, at most seasons, to be loaded with a perceptible and heavy mist in the mornings and evenings, which envelops the town and rises to a considerable height on the sides of the hills, where it suddenly ceases, being bounded by a strongly-defined line above which the atmosphere is perfectly clear. The height of this mass of vapour, locally termed "la nebbia," may vary, the temperature and other circumstances may vary, but the most important point is represented by the Florentines to be constant, and that is, that the gardens, placed at such a height above the Arno as to be generally free from the "nebbia," produce perfect Yellow Roses in abundance, while those below its influence do not. The writer has seen bushes covered with Double Yellow Roses on the hills, every flower perfect, while in the town they were neither worse nor better than in the gardens of England. This seems to point to damp and heavy air as the probable cause of the imperfection of these flowers, which not one bud in a hundred has sufficient strength of vegetation to overcome in its development.

"This species, Rosa sulphurea, is said to be a native of Persia, where the single variety, not yet in European gardens, is reported to exist. The climate of Persia is, perhaps, the driest in the world, not absolutely desert. Yet the plant lives, though, as we see, not in a state of perfection, in the north of Germany.

"It would be an interesting experiment were some one living in the valley of the Severn or Avon, at Malvern or Clifton, or in any parts of Wales or Scotland, where the valleys are deep enough to afford hills rising above the usual mists of their respective rivers, to try a few plants of Yellow Roses on the high ground and on the low. Should those on the high ground produce in any degree better Roses than those on the low, we shall have advanced a step in our knowledge of the cause.

"It must be understood that absolute or relative height does not affect the case; the point is, to be above or below the vapour. The general dampness of our soil and climate, the different temperature, and other causes, will make the experiment less certain and less perfect than in Italy or Persia, but still something may be learned where anything is tried."

That the Double Yellow Rose is of Eastern origin is certain; and that it is Persian is probable, for Sir Henry Willock found, in that country, it, or a variety of it, which is now growing in the Garden of the Horticultural Society. The first notice we had of it in Europe is thus stated by Clusius, who eventually introduced it to Austria, through a lady residing in that country.

"I also learn," he says, "that there are such things as Yellow Roses with many rows of petals. For lately a noble lady has written to me from Vienna that she and others expect to receive some. I remember, indeed, to have seen somewhere little paper gardens, brought from Constantinople, which were adorned with many kinds of plants. These were admirable for the skill with which they were cut, and for each plant being painted in its natural colours, so that they excited the delight of the beholders. Among these plants were Double Yellow Roses, and many other rare and beautiful plants." It was imported into England direct from Constantinople, having, as was reported, been brought thither out of Syria. No doubt, therefore, can exist of its being a native of a country hot and dry during summer, but cold like England in winter. Phillips, indeed, the author of the "Sylva Florifera," ignorantly supposes it was brought by the Turks from Calicut, in Malabar, because one Ludovico Berthema tells us he saw great quantities of Yellow Roses there; but it is not necessary seriously to refute this absurdity. There is no doubt that the plant is, as we have already stated, from some Eastern country, cold in winter, and hot and dry in summer. If so, it must be obvious that low situations, where the soil is cold, cannot be well suited to it; and that if it succeeds in low valleys, it will only be where the soil is light and warm.

CybeRose note: In fairness to Berthema, it is possible that he saw some of the yellow Indian roses allied with Rosa gigantea.