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The northern hemisphere of the earth, where all great civilizations arose, abounds in wild roses. Our earliest ancestors selected the roses which they liked from the woods and fields and planted them about the entrances to their caves and in the gardens of their rude houses. Generation after generation of men selected generation after generation of roses, developing in the course of ages many different kinds and types, depending on the tastes and needs of the men who grew them and the species from which they sprang.
There have always been bush roses and climbing roses, and in a scientific sense they do not differ from each other except in their stature. The tiny Rosa rouletti, some plants of which can be covered by a teacup when in bloom, possesses all the essential characteristics of a full-grown climbing rose which may extend 60 feet in each direction and as much or more in height if there is a convenient support. Between these two extremes there is room for a vast aggregation of garden roses roughly divided into two broad classes-the bush and the climbing roses. There is a somewhat indistinct border-line between the two classes because some of the larger bush roses can be made to serve as climbers, and some of the less vigorous climbers may be trained as bushes. This line of confusion is relatively narrow, and it is not difficult to make a separation between them.
In the scientific sense, no rose is a true vine, as most other climbing plants are. Nature failed to provide rose bushes with either the tendrils of the grape, the twining habit of the wisteria, the aerial roots and suction-pads of the ivy and ampelopsis, or the coiling petioles of the clematis. Evidently, nature intended roses to sprawl or clamber over other shrubs, cliffs, and convenient tree-trunks, and for that purpose furnished them, in most cases, strong, sharp prickles which would hook in almost any type of support. Some climbing roses have a slight power of climbing by accidentally encircling their support, but in garden use most of them need to be tied up if they are to make their best display.
Of all kinds of roses the climbers are by far the most spectacular. The quantity of bloom produced by a well-grown climbing rose bush is truly enormous. There is scarcely a plant of any other genus which begins to equal the grace of habit and beauty of foliage which characterize a climbing rose if it is properly cared for. The flowers take various forms and are produced in different ways. As specimen blooms, they have not been very popular until recently, but the quality of flowers has been steadily improved and the range of color has been extended until modern climbing roses of true exhibition form may be had in almost every hue and shade possible to attain in other types.
Because of their vigor and general freedom from pests, climbing roses are easier to grow and less trouble to care for than other forms. They will flourish in sterile soil, sometimes endure half-shade, and exist under other conditions unfavorable to the aristocratic Teas and Hybrid Teas.
Broadly speaking, climbing roses are everybody's roses. They may be used to decorate a doorway or to make a beautiful and defensive hedge. They will drape a sloping bank with beauty and maintain themselves on any support which is provided. A greater variety of usefulness is possible than usually is imagined, and it is perfectly feasible to make a garden devoted entirely to climbing roses, which would be a beautiful spectacle for many months in the summer. Their varying heights and the ornamental shapes in which they may be trained offer a grateful variation from the more or less flat aspect of gardens devoted to low bush or bedding varieties.
Climbing roses are so easy to grow that only a little space is needed for cultivation directions in this book. It is more important to know as many kinds of climbing roses as possible and to understand the purposes for which they may be used.
The very thought of beginning to grow roses is liable to frighten the inexperienced amateur who is overwhelmed by the extent of the subject and the mysterious language which beclouds it. As to its extent, he needs to advance only one step at a time; and the distance he has to travel adds only enchantment to the journey. The nomenclature which seems to be so involved is really no more difficult than the names encountered in ordinary human intercourse. By far its most troublesome aspect is the practice of identifying roses by the names of people whom their originators desire to honor. Similar names are met with at every social function, where the difficulty is made doubly worse by hosts and hostesses who mumble introductions.
In a rose-book or in a rose-catalogue the names are at least spelled out clearly for all to understand. But surely the beginner with roses must start somewhere, and it may happen that his first real rose bush is a climber. Happy is he if this be so, because the climbing rose is the most useful and decorative plant for American gardens, whereas the bush rose is merely a contrivance for producing superb blooms which are usually best enjoyed when cut, and only under unusual conditions and care can effective gardens be made of them alone. Even the most rabid Hybrid Tea enthusiast cannot long resist the stately beauty and infinite variety of climbing roses, and eventually he is compelled to use them to complete his garden picture.
One of the most recent books about roses makes the astonishing statement that "The climbing roses... comprise as many different types as all the other classes of roses combined." If that is true, and there is no reason to doubt it, certainly more different kinds of climbing roses should be grown than are common in American gardens. An automobile journey through the eastern part of the United States in the months of June and July will afford convincing evidence that climbing roses are genuinely popular. Scarcely a dooryard or farmstead of any pretensions is seen without its rose bush, usually a climber, somewhere about the premises. In fact, the continual repetition of this dominant motif has a depressing effect, not because the individual rose plants are unbeautiful, or because each property is not an attractive picture, but because the lack of variety from house to house, from mile to mile, from state to state, becomes steadily more wearisome.
With so many climbing roses to choose from, that monotony should not exist. It can only be blamed upon a lack of knowledge that different kinds of roses can be obtained and to a certain sheep-like tendency in many humans to follow where their neighbors lead. A planting of Dorothy Perkins roses scrambling over a wall, a fence, or a trellis is very beautiful when seen once or twice in a day's journey, but a planting of Dorothy Perkins roses scrambling over a wall, a fence, or a trellis repeated at every other dwelling in a village or along a city street, and bobbing up at intervals along the country highways, becomes exceedingly tiresome. Let us therefore examine the great family of roses to ascertain how variety in plantings may be achieved without sacrificing any of the beauty which we cherish.
Before going on with the subject, two other points must be made clear. The beginner must understand definitely what is meant by a species and what is meant by a variety. A rose species, as far as a gardener is concerned, is a wild rose, a rose which is found growing naturally in some part of the world as creation left it. Upon being discovered by explorers and botanists, these species have been described and named; the names are always in the form of the Latin language because Latin is familiar to educated people of all countries. Latin is the easiest language in the world to pronounce, and no difficulty should be experienced by anybody in pronouncing the name of any rose species if they take the trouble to look at it carefully and separate it into syllables. Rosa wich-u-rai-an-a, for example, leaves no doubt as to its pronunciation, but one never knows the difference, if any, between Smith and Smythe.
A variety, on the other hand, may be a subdivision of a species. Climbing and dwarf varieties may be found in one species, or light- and dark-flowered varieties in another. Varieties have increased enormously in numbers since species were introduced to gardens and hybridized one with another, to such an extent, in fact, that the species have long since been submerged in hybrid groups.
In this book, the names of all true species are printed in italics, and the names of all varieties in ordinary Roman letters.
Almost the only use the gardener has for names of species is to enable him to classify varieties into groups of similar habit. Thus, when the gardener speaks of Wichuraiana roses, he refers to a group of varieties derived from Rosa wichuraiana, and which exhibit characteristics in common with that species.
Since almost half the total number of rose species are more or less climbing in habit, it follows that a great many wild roses have entered, at one time or another, into the production of the present climbing roses of the garden. The modern races of climbers have resulted from more than a century of hybridization and selection from those species. At first, wild climbing roses near at hand were taken into the gardens and developed; later, species from more distant lands were experimented with. In some cases, the older varieties and species were dropped; perhaps without exhausting their possibilities. Thus have arisen numerous groups of climbing roses, of which several continue to be popular, while others have become almost extinct.
But modern climbing roses are still far from perfect, and it may be that in the feverish production of new varieties from new species, some qualities of merit in the older races have been overlooked. To obtain a fair understanding of the subject, it might be well to review the whole field as far as we know it, to discover which species have contributed to making modern climbing roses, and what their contributions have been.