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Welcome to the September 2005 edition of my web site! The roses I write about are the Old Garden Roses and select shrub and miniature roses of the 20th century. For tips on rose culture, pruning, propagation and history, see the "Site Resources Guide" box in the navigation panel at left. To return to this page, click on the "thorn icon" in the margin at left. Articles from the previous months are archived and can be viewed by clicking on the listings in the left margin. Oh, and please don't write to me for a catalog or pricelist.....this is an information site only, not a commercial nursery. If you wish to buy roses, see my sponsor, The Uncommon Rose.

My List of Favorite Older Hybrid Teas
by Paul Barden

'Grey Pearl'
With a reputation as a “trouble child”, this strange rose is certainly not for everyone. I have grown 'Grey Pearl' for four years now and have found that with a little extra care it is no more difficult to grow than most any other early Hybrid Tea. It is true that this rose is nearly impossible to grow on its own roots, and that it must not be allowed to bloom freely until it is at least 2 years old, and that it lacks vigor when compared to modern roses, but it has much to offer in spite of that. No other rose has quite the same haunted grey coloring with the occasional hint of camel hair tan at the heart of the blooms. This rose in full flush is one of the most bizarre and spectacular flowers I have ever seen and is one of my most treasured varieties.
'Grey Pearl' is quite unlike many Hybrid Teas in its growth habit, rarely exceeding 3 X 3 feet and always remaining somewhat angular and awkward looking due in part to its habit of adding new growth on top of each previous growth, rather than sending up long upright shoots from below. It won't ever give long stems for cutting purposes, but occasionally you will get a bloom on a 12” stem and it does last well as a cut flower. Blooms are quite large; up to 5 inches across at times, each fully packed with up to 65 petals of soft grey. There is a pleasant Tea fragrance that is strong at times and elusive at others. The foliage is a dark greyish green color and quite matte, with relatively poor resistance to Mildew and Blackspot. The trick to growing a good specimen of 'Grey Pearl' is to make sure you get it grafted onto a good root stock, give it the best soil and light conditions and do not allow it to bloom at all the first year and only a little the second. It must be allowed to build up significant growth before it is allowed to bloom with abandon or it will never amount to much. It should also be spared hard pruning or it will have trouble recovering. So, why grow such a problem child? When it is doing well, the blooms are the most peculiar beauties the rose world has to offer.

'Tiffany'
In 1954 a man named Lindquist bred a pink Hybrid Tea for the Howard Rose Company that was to become a landmark in the evolution of the modern rose. 'Tiffany' is that rose, and it happens to have been one of the very first roses I ever grew. Although it often struggled to survive the cold Winters where I grew up, it did manage to live for several years in my garden and was always a pleasure when in bloom. 'Tiffany' was the rose that taught me just how wonderfully intoxicating rose fragrances could be. Although I came to tire of the sameness of the Hybrid Tea bloom form and their lack of Winter hardiness and disease resistance, I have come to appreciate this beautiful rose once again in my forties. I find that a well-established plant of 'Tiffany' has very good disease resistance and stays quite clean even without fungicide applications. Its fragrance is still among the very best of the Hybrid Teas, and the clear pink blooms with the soft yellow hearts are as sculpted as one could possibly desire. I find that it performs best if allowed to build up to a fairly large shrub rather than forcing it to stay short by hard pruning. (In cold climates this is not an option, of course) Although I also grew the lovely 'Peace' when I was a teenager also, 'Tiffany' made a bigger impression on me for its superior fragrance and so it will always hold a special place in my memory and my garden.

'September Morn'
If it weren't for serendipity and the eagle eye of one Tom Liggett, this special rose would probably have been lost to the world forever. Tom discovered it years ago in the garden of a California woman whose roses he was called upon to prune. The woman remembers purchasing the rose in 1920 at Woolworths for five cents, and she still knew its name: 'September Morn', named after a scandalous painting of a nude girl bathing by a lakeside in the early dawn light. No doubt the selection of the name was an opportunistic choice, the introducers hoping to ride on the publicity of the “lewd” painting! Even after nearly a century the rose and the painting are inextricably connected, so we must view it as having been a wise choice for a name.
Some rosarians who have grown 'September Morn' have said that it rivals the best of the pink Austin roses for both fragrance, bloom form and shrub habit. I would have to agree with this sentiment; I find this beautiful rose to build up into a very shapely bush of about 4 x 4 feet, well-rounded, fully foliated and producing generous quantities of the most wonderful, petal-packed 4 inch blooms. Blooms are not typical HT form, but are very double and flattish, with a somewhat muddled center that gives the impression of a button eye at times. It is much more like the modern English rose in form. The color is a pure rose pink and the fragrance is of the highest quality; sweet and intense. I have found it more inclined to Mildew than Blackspot, but fungicides easily control the problem. I am deeply enamored of this rose and encourage every collector of early Hybrid Teas to include it in their garden.

'Harry Wheatcroft'
When I was a teenager in the 1970's, I remember receiving mail order catalogs that featured 'Harry Wheatcroft', a new introduction of spectacular coloring; a bicolor red and yellow with bold stripes. I had never seen such a thing and was sorely tempted to order one. However, I was leery about ordering rose bushes by mail and so I never did. For several years it was a featured rose in many catalogs, but after 10 years or so, it seemed to have disappeared from commerce. I hadn't given it a thought in years and then in 2003 my friend Carolyn Supinger offered me two plants of 'Harry Wheatcroft', growing on its own roots. After nearly 30 years, I finally had an opportunity to grow this rose. Now two years old, this rose has not disappointed me. Both plants are four feet tall and bloom often with generous numbers of outrageously large and colorful blooms. The basic color of 'Harry Wheatcroft' is a deep orange red on the petal surface with a soft yellow reverse. This is a color sport of the then-famous florists rose 'Picadilly', the mutation taking the form of broken stripes of yellow on the upper petal surfaces. It is nothing if not dramatic, and surely as colorful as the man it is named for. (Harry Wheatcroft was an English rose grower who ran a successful nursery for many years and wrote a wonderful book on roses called simply “Harry Wheatcroft on Roses”. It is a wonderful read and I recommend it if you can find a copy.) I find this rose to be a sturdy grower that is reliable, easy to grow and quite generous with bloom. If I could fault it for any reason it would be its tendency to produce blooms of somewhat flat coloring during cool, wet weather, especially in Spring. Otherwise a fine rose from its time period.

'Smoky'
I seriously doubt that anyone who sees a vase full of 'Smoky' blooms could be anything but transfixed by their peculiar beauty. Although some proclaim its odd coloring to be “muddy” or even “dirty”, its the kind of “muddy” that could only arise from some act of alchemy blending oxblood and cinnamon and indigo into a color not before described. Strange, yes. But hypnotically beautiful at all times, in all its stages. Oxblood buds unfold into large blooms of a hazy cinnamon color with a heavy overlay of eggplant. Introduced in France in 1968, I have a hard time believing that it was met with great enthusiasm when the breeders of Hybrid Teas were pursuing clearer, unsullied colors; brighter reds, more electric oranges and purer yellows. Still, 'Smoky' has apparently had a dedicated audience for over 35 years, sufficient to have kept it alive in commerce, although barely so: there are but a handful of nurseries in North America that grow this rose, and it seems that all of these grow very limited numbers each year and in fact often have a waiting list for it. Perhaps now that we are enjoying a renaissance of unusually pigmented roses, (a phenomenon that I consider Kim Rupert to have been the instigator of, since it was he who imported many of these “coffee” roses twenty odd years ago.) the growers will increase numbers to meet the demand? We can hope so. With the likes of 'Brown Velvet' enjoying renewed popularity and the introduction of new varieties like Tom Carruth's 'Hot Cocoa', the appreciation of offbeat colors will surely gain momentum. This is a beauty that should never be allowed to drift into obscurity.

'Hinrich Gaede'
Two years ago I purchased a plant labeled “Heinrich Gade” from Carolyn Supinger at Sequoia Nursery. At this point I cannot recall why I chose it, since I could find no documentation for such a rose in any writings. Carolyn tells me that she discovered it growing neglected in a pot at the back of one of their old greenhouses, with one or two brilliant red and yellow blend blooms poking out of the overgrowth. Alive with brilliant colors like a flickering flame, this rose could not be missed, not even hidden at the back of an overgrown, somewhat neglected greenhouse. After some investigation, my friend Mel Hulse suggested that its correct name was likely 'Hinrich Gaede', an early Hybrid Tea from Kordes of Germany. (Carolyn had done her best to make out the name on the faded tag, but had ultimately gotten the spelling slightly off.)
'Hinrich Gaede', introduced in 1938 is a remarkable Hybid Tea and is the lest like any of the HT's on my Top Ten list. How is it different? The bloom form is loose and muddled, often showing “keeled” petals like those seen on many of the Teas, the petals folded down the midrib. The bloom is very full and fairly large, up to 4.5 inches across. In a way it resembles the Teas most of all in form, and at times it makes one think of the David Austin hybrids. The color of the blooms is an ever-shifting riot of hues, from deep carmine overlaying deep chrome yellow, to paler buff tones underneath Chinese reds and a flame picotee. The weather and season plays a big role in the color of the bloom, and the clearest, most riotous colors are generally found in early Summer. As Fall temperatures cool, 'Hinrich Gaede' takes on smokier pinkish rust tints.
This rose is a bit slow to develop on its own roots and is absolutely terrible to root from cuttings. I have budded it onto R. multiflora as well, with the hopes that this may enhance its vigor and performance. It is well worth the care needed to grow it to maturity and I can think of no other Hybrid Tea that does what this one does.

'Mme. Caroline Testout'
Bred by Pernet-Ducher in 1890 'Mme. Caroline Testout' was as popular and widely grown in its time as 'Peace' was in the mid to late 1900's. Many seasoned rose growers consider this to be one of the finest pink Hybrid Teas ever created and I'm inclined to agree. Shortly before World War One, the city of Portland, Oregon planted 10,000 bushes of 'Mme. Caroline Testout' along its streets, thus earning the city its nickname of “The City Of Roses”. Many of those plants survive in the city and you cannot travel far without spotting a fine specimen growing in someone's yard, no doubt grown from a cutting of one of the original bushes. It wants to survive, and to its breeder's credit, people want it to survive as well!
I came by my plant of 'Mme. Caroline Testout' by accident, finding it growing on my farm when I moved there eight years ago. It grew on the north side of a garage, in shade for most of the day. It was never watered or sprayed and yet it had clearly survived and done quite well for decades, maintaining an average size of 7 feet tall and not quite as wide. Certainly it would do better if it got regular waterings and protection from disease, but in spite of such harsh conditions, it blooms on. It only ever gets a bit of Rust some years, never Blackspot. Remarkable, I say. Since then I have budded a new plant onto R. multiflora and placed it out in the rest of the garden where it gets considerably better treatment, performing much better as a result.
'Mme. Caroline Testout' is a lovely thing, but a rose whose subtle beauty can only truly be appreciated when one lives with the rose for a time. It is a soft pink unsullied by any other hue, often described as a “silvery pink” color. It is always a bright and cheerful pink, contrasted beautifully by its slightly bluish-green, matte foliage. The merits of this rose are to be found in the effect of the entire shrub; its graceful growth, beautiful healthy foliage topped off by those voluptuous globes of gently scrolled clear pink petals. The fragrance is light and of the phenolic Tea variety. Bloom is generous in both quantity and regularity; an unfailing delight. Wilhelm Kordes was quite smitten by this rose, which was, in his opinion, the best rose in the world. His wish was to breed from it a deep red with all the same qualities, but the Madame never obliged. However, in 1969 David Austin introduced 'The Wife of Bath', which used 'Mme. Caroline Testout' as the seed parent, thus contributing significantly to Austin's pink breeding line. No less than twelve of Mr. Austin's roses are descended directly from 'The Wife of Bath' and there is no doubt in my mind that 'Mme. Caroline Testout' made a significant contribution to this line of breeding. 'Mme. Caroline Testout' belongs in any serious collection of Hybrid Teas, especially if one wishes to gather together a representative group of historically important Hybrid Teas.

'Mrs. Sam McGredy'
What a remarkable rose, this! The first time I saw mine bloom three years ago I was smitten by the bloom's luminous, fire-kissed blend of fiery salmon, burnished gold and soft coppery-orange. A friend recently came to visit my greenhouse and there were three blooms on 'Mrs. Sam McGredy' at the peak of perfection and my friend remarked that he had never seen such a perfect rose. There are indeed times when I feel the same way, gazing into the folds and undulations of the remarkably beautiful blooms of 'Mrs. Sam McGredy. This rose was introduced in 1929 when the McGredy nursery was still operating in Ireland. The popular mythology tells us that when Sam McGredy III presented his wife with a rose to be named for her, she rejected his selection and chose this rose instead. (Clever woman!) Apparently this seedling was not among those being considered for introduction. In the end, 'Mrs. Sam McGredy' is regarded as one of the finest roses Sam III ever introduced.
This rose is sometimes classed as a Pernetiana, a class originally described to include all roses descended from Pernet's remarkable 'Soleil d'Or', the first of a line of roses bred from R. foetida persica. As the Pernetiana roses were increasingly merged with the fast evolving Hybrid Tea, the Pernetiana name was abandoned and these roses were absorbed into the HT class, no longer recognized for their distinctness. And yet many of them are distinct! Many of them possess unique colors in flame and fruit colored notes, many of them a dazzling blend of hues not to be found in modern HT's. The plants themselves are different as well, generally more twiggy and much less upright than their modern counterparts, and also less vigorous. While the best varieties were considered to be vigorous for their breed, they cannot be compared to our most recent Hybrid Teas; the Pernetianas are slow to build up size, requiring three years or more to make a significant specimen. These are not instant gratification roses and care and good culture must be provided if the best results are to be had. In the instance of 'Mrs. Sam McGredy', the extra effort is worthwhile. If at all possible, obtain a plant that is growing on the roots of a vigorous understock, for it is a much better grower than on its own roots in my experience. I would not trade a single perfect bloom of 'Mrs Sam McGredy' for a dozen of the finest blooms of 'Double Delight'.

'Verschuren'
Bred in the Netherlands by Verschuren, 1904. Here we have one of the only truly variegated roses ever introduced, and whose variegation is not the result of viral infection. (Virus in roses often creates a “pseudo-variegation” pattern on the foliage known as “watermarking”, which should not be confused with the true variegation of 'Verschuren'.) The soft silvery-pink loosely double blooms are a perfect match for the handsome cream and white streaked foliage they rise above. They are shapely, beautifully perfumed, quite large and produced with great regularity regardless of weather conditions. This is in many ways more of a novelty hybrid than something truly outstanding, and yet I feel the desire to draw some attention to its existence. There are only a handful of genuinely variegated roses, one of the other most well-known cultivars being the variegated form of R. wichuraiana, aka 'Curiosity'. Unfortunately another rose with beautiful variegated foliage also goes by the name 'Curiosity' as well; a red-yellow bicolor Hybrid Tea registered in 1971 by Cocker (Scotland) as a sport of Kordes' 'Kleopatra'.

'Helen Traubel'
Its no secret that I am easily seduced by Apricot roses with clarity of color. 'Helen Traubel' is one such rose. Bred by Herb Swim of California and introduced by Armstrong Roses in 1951. Its seed parent is the famous 'Charlotte Armstrong', possibly Walter Lammerts' best rose and parent to many excellent roses, including 'Tiffany', 'Queen Elizabeth', 'Sutter's Gold', and 'Chrysler Imperial'. Although 'Helen Traubel's bloom quality varies considerably from climate to climate, I have been more than satisfied with what I get each year from my two plants. Flower size averages four inches and petals count rarely exceeds 25, but at their peak of opening, half a dozen blooms of “Hell 'n' Trouble” (a nickname coined no doubt by rosarians who have had a less than favorable experience with this one!) are a grand vision even compared to more modern HT's of a similar style. It grows well on its own roots or grafted to a foreign rootstock and has good disease resistance for its era. (Which is to say that under most circumstances it will benefit from fungicides to keep foliage healthy) Rebloom is pretty good, even when the hot weather comes on, and there is often a very pleasant Tea fragrance. Certainly not a rose that will show up on everyone's list of older favorites, but I wish to include it on mine.

'Souvenir de Claudius Denoyel'
I wish I could recommend the climbing Hybrid Tea 'Guinee' on this list, but since it is such a sparsely foliated plant with rangy, open growth and no rebloom during the middle of Summer, I must leave it off. (Mind you, its blooms are exquisite, its fragrance heady and rich and its color something to be celebrated!) Instead I choose a less well known climbing HT; 'Souvenir de Claudius Denoyel'. In my garden it has superior vigor, better foliage (and more of it) and offers very good rebloom in the Summer compared to many other climbing HT's. Individual blooms are about 4 inches in diameter, well-shaped with about 25 petals of very rich crimson. In the heat of Summer the color can be a lighter Fuchsia-red, but it is an attractive color at all times, fading very little from start to finish. It makes stems just long enough for cutting and the blooms last well in a vase. Once indoors, a vaseful of blooms generate lots of superb fragrance to enjoy. A beautiful yet obscure rose that deserves greater attention.

'Soleil d'Or'
This is sometimes classed as a Hybrid Tea and sometimes as a Hybrid Foetida, and it can be thought of as either/both. Introduced in 1900 by Joseph Pernet-Ducher, it is most often reported to be an F2 seedling: ('Antoine Ducher' x R. foetida persiana) X self. In appearance it is about as far from what we think of as a Hybrid Tea as you might imagine; heavy, awkward growth thick with nasty thorns, small ferny foliage that most closely resembles R. foetida persiana. Blooms rarely exceed three inches in diameter and are borne in small clusters, occasionally one on a stem. The coloring was considered to be a most remarkable invention in 1900, and is nothing less than delicious over 100 years later; a blend of orange, buff, yellows of various hues and occasionally a hint of flame. The occasional blooms of Summer are most often a solid rich orange hue with few other tints. Yes, it is remontant, but marginally so. The older the plant, the more likely you are to see a few blooms here and there through till frost, but the big display is the Spring flush.
This rose was heralded as being a true breakthrough in rose breeding, finally achieving what others had only dreamed of: bringing the bright yellow-orange of R. foetida persiana into the new Hybrid Tea breeding. Mind you, it took several generations of breeding before true remontancy of any reliability was accomplished, and clarity of color was undoubtedly not easily achieved either. Legend suggests that this new breeding with R. foetida persiana brought with it one other thing as well: a severe tendency to Blackspot disease. While this may have been a factor in the creation of the problem, I seriously doubt that it was the sole source of the issue. By now we know that any time you make a cross that introduces a disease free species to the genes of a rose not from its own species, disease-prone offspring will result, to some degree or another. Still, it has taken decade upon decade of hard work to get to the point where we can enjoy relatively disease free roses in a variety of colors, including the magnificent yellow of R. foetida persiana that Pernet-Ducher gave us.

Honorable mentions also go to 'Chateau de Clos Veugeot', 'Comtesse Vandal' and 'La France', which all make very nice shrubs with excellent fragrances, as long as exceptional care is provided. This is by no means intended as a definitive list of the best Hybrid Teas from earlier years, but it is my list of favorites. There are no doubt scores of other very worthwhile HT's still in commerce that are equally deserving of a place in this selection. Keep in mind that may of these early hybrids were bred to be grown on a foreign rootstock and so, many of these may or may not prosper sufficiently on their own roots. The vast majority of old HT's are only available from "boutique" nurseries which supply only own-root (cutting grown) plants, so you may choose to purchase one and then bud the variety on to a sturdy rootstock, like R. multiflora. For warm climate growers, like those pesky Californians, this is much less of an issue, since they can grow anything! ;-)

Copyright © 2005 Paul Barden, All Rights Reserved.


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