RoseFile Database

Dorothy Perkins - Rambler Rose

Dorothy Perkins

Rambler. Bred by Miller in in 1902.
Foil, Breeding Stock
Bloom Size:
Modest (2-4 in)
Cold Hardiness:
Zone 4 -
Height & Width:
15 ft x 10 ft
Extra Care Required

Comments A rambler with pink flowers useful primarily as a case study of certain historical developments in rose breeding, culture, and distribution.

BTW: Nearly a century ago Dorothy Perkins was popping up everywhere and the rose company that bred it was building an empire on the basis of its reputation. People designed and built large pergolas just so they could cover them with this rose. Dorothy Perkins was the rage in all anglophone gardens. But within twenty years two things happened. The first was that Dorothy Perkins had become a magnet for mildew. Powdery mildew magificently subverted Dorothy Perkins' own considerable vigor, turning plants into great, towering heaps of disease. Then WWI hit and it suddenly became too expensive for anyone to maintain a gardener. The market for ramblers collapsed in such a profound way that it would take almost 75 years before rose and climber were considered to ever refer to the same plant. There are many lessons in this story about monopoly power and monoculture that we have yet to truly incorporate into our culture.

The tragedy is that much of this never would have had to happen. There were good wichurana hybrids out there. Newport Fairy is one example of a wichurana rambler with an excellent health rating that existed in Dorothy Perkins' time. Blushing Lucy is another pink rambler with the ability to repeat. Barbier and Van Fleet both bred some excellent wichurana climbers and ramblers including the once-blooming pink bearing Van Fleet's own name that went on to produce New Dawn. We note in passing that there is now an "improved" Dorothy Perkins named "Super Dorothy," which is reputed to be free of fungal disease. Perhaps it does well in good conditions, but in poor, dryish soil and insufficient sun it's lack of vigor overbalances its increased resistance to disease: it's completely hopeless.