During the Regency, the French and most importantly the Empress Josephine
had a significant impact on the development of the rose garden.
The Empress Josephine collected roses for her gardens at the Chateau de
la Malmaison from 1805 to 1810. This collection gave the French an
interest in the culture of roses in the vicinity of Paris that lead to
some of the most important work in rose hybridization during the early
years of the 19th century.
The French writer, De Pronville, stated
that in 1814, there were only about 182 varieties of roses, but by
mid-century due the keen interest in the rose and hybridization, there
were 6,000 varieties--most created by cross-pollination and the resultant
seed production. The gardener of the Empress Josephine was a Frenchman
named Dupont and he, along with
Vilmorin and Descement
were among the earliest cultivators of roses from seed.
The Empress Josephine had over 150 different Gallica cultivars in her
collection, and as you may guess, the Gallica was the 'darling' of the
When the allied armies entered Paris in 1815,
Descement's garden contained 10,000 seedling roses which
Vibert, succeeded in saving and carrying to
his garden on the Marne in the countryside of France.
The Empress Josephine's goal with Malmaison was to obtain every species
of rose then known. Napoleon instructed the French Navy to seize any
plants or rose seeds they found when they
searched ships at sea. In just one year, Josephine spent close to 2,600
pounds with the English nursery of Kennedy and
Lee, despite the war with Britain. Despite the naval blockade, the
British Admiralty granted a safe-conduct pass
to the Kennedy and Lee firm to deliver the new China Roses to Malmaison.
The Englishman Kennedy was employed by the Empress to assist them in
laying out her rose garden and interestingly enough, there was one plan
(never used) that laid out a rose garden in a design close to the Union
Josephine set the standard for rose gardening for a very long time.
All the wealthy French followed her lead and many joined in the
competition to see who could amass the largest collection. Her influence
was felt across the Channel, in England, as well. The English, anxious to
keep up with social fashion, made concerted efforts to collect roses, just
like the French.
Her biggest rival was the Countess of Bougainville, who tried to amass
as many new roses as possible. It is no surprise that economically, the
rose became the most important flower in France.
After her death, the gardeners who helped create Malmaison went to
other positions throughout France and established gardens and nurseries
which still have an impact on the rose industry today.
After her death in 1814, Malmaison quickie fell into neglect, but roses
still passed from Britain to France.
Many of the men who trained at Malmaison went on to become rose
hybridizers and they established France as the premiere country in
rose-breeding. During Josephine's residence at Malmaison,
Dupont amassed nearly 260 rose species and
cultivars. Dupont passed on this legacy to
Alexandre Hardy, who took over the Luxembourg
Garden and raised many roses we still grow today, including 'Mme. Hardy'
and 'Safrano'. Hardy took on a young
assistant at the Luxembourg Garden, Jacques-Julien
Margottin, who also founded his own rose
nursery. He and his son Jules kept alive Josephine's dream and continued
to grow and hybridize roses.
These gardens were probably the most important factor in establishing
the popularity of the rose in the 19th century. Part of Josephine's
efforts at Malmaison included commissioning the painter, Pierre-Joseph
Redoute to paint the roses in her collection.
He had been the court painter to Queen Marie-Antoinette, but despite the
revolution, he managed to survive and become the court rose painter.
work, Les Roses, was completed after Josephine's death, the three volumes,
issued between 1817 and 1824 is one of the most beautiful and important
books ever published on roses. Botanist Claude-Antoine
Thory provided the commentary for the book and
these volumes became the standard reference work on roses for quite some
time. It is still used as a reference work to identify older varieties of
roses. Thory made the first serious attempt
to untangle the genealogy of roses. Much of his work has proven to be
accurate and still stands up today.
Many of the 170 roses illustrated by Redoute
are still grown in garden today. Many consider his painting of 'Blush
Noisette' to be the all-time masterpiece of botanical illustration.
Even after the exile and death of Napoleon,
Redoute continued to paint for Louise-Philippe, the new Bourbon
king, in 1830. Redoute died in 1840 at 81
years old. He was painting a lily at the time.
Others carried on the work of cataloguing and growing roses. Prevost,
Pepinieriste a Rouen wrote "Catalogue
et raisonne de
et sous-varietes du
genre rosier', which listed 880 names of roses.
There were two very famous Englishmen who specialized in roses: Thomas
Rivers and William Paul. Rovers wrote: Rivers's
Rose Amateur's Guide in 1837, which lists current varieties and
cultivation methods. Paul's The Rose Garden was written in 1848 which
included a rather pompous essay about the rose in Art, as well as how to
cultivate the rose. He describes 87 Damask, 76
Provence (Centifolia), 84 Moss and 471 French (Gallica) roses. As
I mentioned earlier, the Gallica rose was really the darling of the 1st
half of the 19th century.
But, sadly, tastes changed rapidly. By 1896, George Paul (a nephew to
William Paul) wrote in RHS Journal, "Wanted: a refuge for the old roses
where they may be found gain when tastes change." There were many
wonderful, sumptuous, hardy Old Roses roses
raised during the early years of the 19th century, including: 'Mme Hardy'
- 1832; 'Felicite
Parmentier' - 1836; 'Cardinal de Richelieu' - 1840; 'La Ville de
Bruxelles' - 1849; and 'Tour de Malakoff' -
1856. Their heyday of popularity was around 1810 to 1830 and had they not
been so vigorous and simply gorgeous, they might have perished with the
emergence in mid-century of the remontant varieties.