Amy Corwin




A Brief Historical Look at Roses

'Sydonnie' Hybrid Perpetual, 1846  

There were so many amazing rose developments that grew out of the Regency period that it would be totally unfair of me to focus only on the Regency years. This article highlights some of the developments that came out of the Regency. I've included some of the important growers and tried to set this up in a roughly chronological order. For this all to make sense, however, we have to go back to China...

In 1791, Gilbert Slater of Low Leyton in Essex brought to England a fragile rose with bright red, double flowers. It is called 'Slater's Crimson China' or 'Semperflorens'.

In 1792, Lord Macartney traveled to China with his secretary, Sir George Staunton, a keen gardener. Sir George collected many plants and among them were two roses: Rosa bracteata, which is a single, large-flowered, white climber, now called 'The Macartney Rose' and the other a small, double-flowered pink China rose. This pink China rose had visited Europe before back in 1751 by Peter Osbeck, a pupil of the great Linnaeus.

In England, the rose Sir George collected became known as 'Parson's Pink China'. It was propagated and sold by James Colville in his nursery in the King's Road, London. The rose was sold under the name of 'Pale China Rose', which we grow today as 'Old Blush'.

'Slater's Crimson China' and 'Parson's Pink China' were sent to Paris and by 1798, Thory and Redoute were sewing the seeds to create new hybrids.

In 1809, Sir Abraham Hume of Wormley Bury, Hertfordshire, brought back from China a large-flowered, pale pink, repeat-flowering rose later called 'Hume's Blush Tea-scented China'. This reached the Empress Josephine in 1810.

John Reeves, the chief inspector of tea for the East India Company in Canton from 1812-1831, is probably responsible for two yellow, climbing roses that were finally introduced. In 1823, the Horticultural Society of London sent John Parks to China. He had an introduction to Reeves and Parks brought back a tall, yellow-flowered, climbing Tea Rose called 'Park's Yellow Tea-scented China', as well as the yellow, double Banksian rose.

Other China Roses were introduced at this time and some came through India to England. These are often referred to as the Bengal roses.

-----But, the most important roses, and the ancestors of our modern rose, the Hybrid Tea, are the four stud Chinas: 'Slater's Crimson China', 'Parson's Pink China', 'Hume's Blush Tea-scented China' and 'Parks' Yellow Tea-scented China'.------

Portland Roses: although many were grown at Malmaison, they actually got their name from the English Duchess of Portland. She sent a plant to the chateau and the gardener, Andre Dupont, called this class of rose after the Duchess. The origin of the Portland roses is unknown, but it is suspected that it is a China and Damask cross.

Jean-Pierre Vibert was born in 1777 in Paris. He started collecting roses in 1810. He even fought under Napoleon in the Peninsular War, but was wounded and retired to run a hardware store near St. Germain de Pres, Paris. Andre Dupont, a well-known rose breeder had his rose garden nearby and encouraged Vibert. In 1812, Vibert sold his store and moved to Chennevieres-sur-Marne (outside of Paris) where he began to grow roses. In 1815, he bought the stock of M. Descemet of St. Denis, which had been sacked by the armies after Waterloo. He moved the roses to his nursery in August (amazingly, most survived), but he had to leave Chennevieres-sur-Marne in 1827 because of an infestation of cockchafer grubs. He moved to St. Denis where he grew roses until he retired in 1835. At that time he moved his seedlings and favorites to Longjumeau, but the roses were infested again with cockchafers, so he moved south to Angers where he continued breeding roses until he stopped for the last time in 1851. He sold his business to M. Robert. He passed away in 1866.

After the Opium War, Robert Fortune, a Scottish gardener, was sent to China by the Horticultural Society of London. He arrived in Hong Kong in 1843. He made several trips to China and beginning in 1848, he made three extensive collecting trips through the Chinese countryside. He was looking for the tea plant, Camellia sinensis and managed to obtain premium tea cultivars for Indian plantations, which inaugurated the Indian teat industry. While he was traveling China, he also brought back several roses, including 'Fortune's Double Yellow' and 'Fortune's Five-Coloured Rose'. It is reported that he brought back approximately 120 new species, making him perhaps one of the most important plant collectors of that time.

The middle years of the 19th century centered around the development of the Hybrid Perpetual class of rose. The French back-crossed a few Hybrid China Roses (which were produced by crossing old European Roses including Gallicas and Damasks) to China Roses. During the 1830s, the first class of hybrids that were hardy and repeat-blooming were introduced in France. They were labeled hybrides remontants at the time, which later became Hybrid Perpetual. The Hybrid Perpetual class was supreme until around 1890, and nearly 4,000 different cultivars were introduced. Only a handful survived until today.

The YELLOW ROSE: The 'Persian Yellow' rose was introduced to England by Sir Henry Willock in 1838. It was very much welcomed and was a lovely double rose in creamy yellow. I may have mentioned that this rose was advertised in the GARDENERS' CHRONICAL in 1843 for 15 shillings each, which is very expensive. It was this rose that Pernet-Ducher used in 1883 to eventually raise 'Soleil d'Or', the first of the Pernet race of roses. That class has since been merged into the Hybrid Teas.

Antoine A. Jacques was the head gardener to the Duc d'Orleans at Chateau de Neuilly from 1824-1832 (as you will recall from my earlier email). Jacques raised a number of roses including 'Adelaide d'Orleans' 1826, and others. He is most famous for propagating the first Bourbon class of rose, called 'Bourbon Rose' or 'Rosier Bourbon' or 'Rose Jacques' or Rosa bourboniana. This rose was launched in 1819 and flowers in mid-summer. It is a beautiful, fully double rose in pale, creamy pink.

Philippe-Victor Verdier (1803-1878), nephew of Antoine A. Jacques, collaborated with his uncle in breeding Rosa sempervirens ramblers, including 'Felicite et Perpetue'. He bred many Hybrid Perpetuals, as well as Moss, China, Tea and Noisette Roses. His son, Louis-Eugene-Jules Verdier was a prolific breeder of Hybrid Perpetuals. He died in 1902.

Gilbert Nabonnand of Golfe Juan, France, was born in 1829 and worked until 16 as an agricultural labourer. He was apprenticed to several nurserymen including Guillot, and established his first rose nursery near Avignon, but in 1864 he moved to Golfe Juan. Between 1872 and 1903, he introduced 78 new varieties of Tea Roses. His most famous are: 'General Schablikine,' 1878, and 'Archiduc Joseph' 1892. His Hybrid Tea, 'Lady Waterlow' 1903, is still grown.

In 1829, Jean-Baptiste Guillot founded a nursery outside Lyon. In 1842, he introduced his first rose, 'Lamartine', a Hybrid Perpetual. His son, Jean-Baptiste started work with him at the age of 14 and soon made a significant discovery. The seedling briars or Eglantines or Dog Roses made better stocks than cuttings. While root stock had always been used, this was the first time it was realized that creating root stock from seedlings was better than creating more root stock from cuttings. In 1852, he set up on his own, and his father began a partnership with Joseph Schwartz. Guillot the elder introduced over 80 new roses, mostly Hybrid Perpetuals and Bourbons. His son introduced the Tea, 'Mme Falcot' in 1858, and in 1866 he created one of the most famous roses: 'La France', the first Hybrid Tea.

Henry Bennett who lived at Stapleford in the Wylye Valley near Salisbury, Wiltshire began to breed roses in 1868. His first seedlings were launched in 1879. His roses were not received well because they suffered from mildew, but his systematic methods of keeping track of crosses and breeding was soon adopted, and his new hybrids which were a cross between Teas and Hybrid Perpetuals were called Hybrid Teas. His rose, 'Lady Mary Fitzwilliam', 1882, a Hybrid Tea, is one of the parents of 'Mme Caroline Testout'. His 'Captain Hayward' 1893, and 'Mrs. John Laing' 1887, are popular Hybrid Perpetuals.

Polyantha Roses were formed by crossing a China Rose with a dwarf form of Rosa multiflora. Guillot introduced 'Paquerette' and 'Mignonette' in 1875 and 1881, respectivey.

Tea roses were the result of crosses between the wild Tea Rose, Rosa gigantea, and China Roses, Rosa chinensis. The original "parents" were 'Hume's Blush Tea-scented China' and 'Parks' Yellow Tea-scented China'. These roses were crossed with dwarf China Roses, Bourbons, and Noisette to form an amazingly graceful and delicately scented Tea Rose. The Tea Rose was popular from 1882 through 1910, when it lost out to our modern Hybrid Teas. Soft yellow, pink and pale orange colors predominate this class, although there were a few whites and dark reds. Click on this link for a picture of a typical tea rose, the Duchess de Brabant tea rose.

The first Hybrid Teas were formed by crossing Hybrid Perpetuals with the delicate Teas. Hybrid Teas were first recognized as a class in 1880 thanks to the work of Henry Bennett. The rose 'La France', perhaps a seedling of 'Mme Falcot' (an orange-yellow Tea) is considered to be the first Hybrid Tea.

Two great families married to create the Pernet-Ducher name in 1881. Claude Pernet started a rose nursery in Lyon in 1845 and his son, Joseph, continued the work. Joseph worked with another Lyon breeder, Claude Ducher, who began breeding roses in 1835. Ducher created many roses, including 'Reve d'Or' 1869, a noisette ; 'Bouquet d'Or' 1872; and 'Marie van Houette' 1871, a Tea rose. Claude Ducher died in 1874 and his widow took over the business. Joseph became the foreman at the Ducher nursery by 1880 when he was 22, and he married Ducher's daughter, Marie. A year later, he took the Ducher name and their business. The rose, 'Cecile Brunner' was introduced that year, and in 1890, they introduced 'Mme Caroline Testout', a Hybrid Tea.

Yellow roses were still a goal and Joseph had some good luck here. He preserved some pollen from a 'Persian Yellow' rose and raised a not-very-good seedling by crossing it with a Hybrid Perpetual, 'Antoine Ducher' in 1891. He planted the seedling anyway and in 1893, a chance seedling was found nearby. It was introduced in 1900 as the famous 'Soleil d'Or'. This is the first yellow Hybrid Tea and is also recognized as the first of the Pernetianas, and an important ancestor of the rose 'Peace'.

Adam Paul founded Paul & Son of Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, in 1806. His grandson, George Paul, was the owner and introduced an early Hybrid Tea: 'Cheshunt Hybrid' by 1872. Many important roses were created by this company and are still available, including: 'Paul's Single White' 1883, 'Paul's Lemon Pillar' 1915, and 'Goldfinch' 1907.

Adam's son, William, wrote THE ROSE GARDEN in 1848, and started his own nursery at Waltham Cross. He introduced a number of new varieties including: 'Beauty of Waltham' 1862, a Hybrid Perpetual, 'Ophelia' 1912, 'Paul's Scarlet Climber' 1915, and 'Mermaid' 1917. I grow the wonderful 'Mermaid' in my own garden where its huge single blossoms of pale yellow are produced all summer. It is a glorious rose, but needs a lot of room to sprawl and has wicked, wicked thorns.



"The Old Rose Advisor" by Brent C. Dickerson

"Modern Roses XI, The World Encyclopedia of Roses" from Academic Press

"The Graham Stuart Thomas Rose Book" by Graham Stuart Thomas"

"The Quest for the Rose" by Roger Phillips and Martyn Rix

"Old Roses and English Roses" by David Austin

"100 Old Roses for the American Garden" by Clair G. Martin

"Botanica's Roses" by William A. Grant

"The English Roses" by David Austin

And several "Gardener's Dictionaries" from 1800.



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Amy Corwin

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