In 1816 James Booth introduced Konigen von Danemarck (Queen of Denmark). It slowly spread across northern Europe, picking up new names as it went along. Among them were “New Maiden’s Blush,” a reference to its kinship with albas, and “Naissance de Venus,” literally, birth of Venus. Because people propagate roses even after forgetting their original names, or because the original name sounds awkward in one’s native tongue, roses accumulate new names. A rose’s popularity is generally related to the number of names it has picked up. And this one has picked up at least seven or eight names. ARS members rate it 8.6, which puts it among the twenty highest rated old garden roses. So it’s popularity seems to be based on merits that are widely evident to rose gardeners in the US.
There are gardeners in bits of the country who find that the air is always so dry and the sun so bright that any rose they plant will thrive and not be touched by any fungal disease. But not all of us can live where the air is dry. After three years of living in the mountains of Arizona, where the relative humidity hovers around 20 percent through most of the growing season, going up to about 60 percent in July and August, I know that even here it is important to be effective at battling fungal disease. Continue reading
Knock Out provides a new punch to the garden. It’s a super-vigorous, disease-resistant, repeat-flowering, cold-hardy rose that grows into a head-high shrub inside of two years. Since its introduction in 1988 it has taken the eastern half of the United States by storm, leading millions of gardeners who had ignored or abandoned them to grow roses. In its first year alone it sold 250,000 units, and it has been about as popular ever since. But for all their popularity, Knock Out and its close kin have been ridiculed by the most serious of the rose faithful. Why? Partly because they are not hybrid tea roses, and as such they don’t conform to our expectations for what a rose ought to be. Partly because they have become common, or faddish. Partly because they are not fragrant.
David Austin’s work revolutionized rose breeding. Even rose breeders who once might have believed that the only rose they could ever sell would be a high-centered hybrid tea style rose came to understand that cold hardiness, vigor in cool summer climates, and resistance to blackspot and mildew had all become necessary qualities in commercially successful roses. The form of the plant became important, too.
With so many new things happening at once near the turn of the twentieth century, it’s very difficult to characterize the progress of rose development or of rose gardening very simply. It was developing on many fronts. Hybrid tea roses were being developed. Hybrid perpetuals still ruled the show benches. Climbers and ramblers were being planted widely in Europe and the US alike. Polyanthas and shrub roses popped up in gardens and parks across Northern Europe.
New Forms, New Colors
As the ninteenth century wore to a close, the destiny of roses had been changing for some time thanks to new forms and colors. One of the early tea roses, Safrano, was blessed with an unusually elegant form in bud. It is the high-centered bud that we associate today with the most photogenic of the cutting roses. Most tea roses have the same form in bud. And most of the hybrid tea roses released into commerce today have that too. For more than two decades around the middle of the ninteenth century tea roses remained distinct from hybrid perpetual roses – partly because interbreeding them is fraught with difficulties. In any case, the breeding of new tea roses would continue along a parallel path through the first several decades of the twentieth century.
“I have loved only Napoleon and roses” Jean Pierre Vibert a French breeder of roses in the month of his death, January1866 at the age of 89. The Quest for the Rose p 105.
The rose has been cultivated in the west at least as far back in time as the Babylonian civilization. At the start of the nineteenth century, China was about as far along in rose breeding as was the west, so it is not unreasonable to believe that the culture of the rose might be at least as old in the far east. There are stories about Romans cultivating great fields of roses and using their petals in imperial celebrations. There are stories of knights returning from the crusades and bringing with them garden roses from Persia and Assyria. There are reasons to believe that the roses painted by Rembrandt’s contemporary Rachel Ruysch were special cultivars of local (Dutch) breeding. Indeed the rose has been entwined with human culture for millennia; but the real start of rose history, of large scale distribution, and of intense rose breeding begins with Empress Josephine’s garden at Malmaison.