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Hardy Climbing Roses

[The Importance Of Climbing Roses]  [Hardy Climbing Roses]  [Less-Hardy Types]  [Obsolete And Undeveloped Strains]  [The Use Of Climbing Roses]  [Supports For Climbing Roses]  [Planting And Care] 

Climbing Roses
The word "hardy," when used in connection with plants, means "able to survive in spite of cold." A "hardy perennial" is an herba ceous plant which comes up from the root in the spring after lying dormant all winter. A "hardy shrub" is a bush, like the lilac, which needs no protection against winter cold, and a "hardy climbing rose" is one that will grow and bloom every year regardless of winter's severities.

With reference to roses, the term "hardy" is only relative. Some climbing roses are entirely able to hold their own against any cold that the weather may produce in the United States or southern Canada. Others are so tender that freezing destroys them utterly. Between the two extremes all degrees of hardiness occur. For convenience' sake we divide all climbing roses into groups based upon relative hardiness-those which are definitely tender to frost and those which can be depended on to survive the ordinary winters of the North.

Hardy climbers are not all equally hardy. Among them will be found varieties whose existence is threatened at temperatures near the zero mark, and others which endure 20 degrees below.

Most of the hardy climbers are descendants of two wild roses-Rosa multiflora and R. wichuraiana. Those which most closely resemble the original species are likely to be the hardiest. Rose-growers soon learn to suspect the hardiness of any roses which differ in certain respects from the type. The most suspicious character which a so-called hardy climber can exhibit is yellow flowers. Until very recently any climbing rose which had even a tinge of yellow in the blooms could be definitely classed as tender, and could not be depended on to live through a winter of ordinary severity without protection. While this sign holds good even now for older varieties, a few newer sorts seem to have overcome that weakness. The second sign of tenderness is large flowers. Species from which these roses were derived bear huge clusters of small blossoms, and the earliest hybrids cling closely to the same habit, but as hybridization broke down the cluster and brought in large blooms, hardiness was diluted and definite tenderness developed.

Hardiness is a difficult term to explain because those who live in moderate climates cannot conceive the extent of damage which severe cold causes. Consequently, contradictory reports from neighboring districts have very much confused the subject.

Thus, while the roses discussed in this chapter may all be grown in the North,-and many thousands of them actually are,-those who want to grow roses where 10 and 20 degrees below zero may be expected in winter should accept no advice from people who have not grown roses under such conditions. It would be better for them to ask experienced rose-growers in their own part of the country what to grow, and in the absence of such advice, be prepared to give careful winter protection to all which produce large or yellow blooms.

MULTIFLORA HYBRIDS (Rosa multiflora X other forms)

The roses commonly called Multiflora Ramblers or Hybrids make a highly complex, badly misunderstood group. To the casual student, Rosa multiflora does not seem to be the name of a species so much as a designation applied to numerous more or less closely related forms of climbing roses from China, Korea, and Japan.

One of the Chinese forms of the species is R. multiflora cathayensis, which, as it grows in America, makes a wiry although sturdy bush with clusters of single pink flowers. It is presumed, upon authority of E. H. Wilson, V.M.H., late keeper of the Arnold Arboretum, that R. multiflora cathayensis is the prototype of a garden variety discovered in China, known as R. multiflora platyphylla, which was brought into Europe early in the last century and introduced under the name of Grevillea or Seven Sisters Rose.

For some reason the old authorities considered the varieties descended from Grevillea as tender, and it is assumed that the Polyantha race dwarf, bushy, bedding, and edging roses which bloom in clusters-is descended from hybrids between descendants of Grevillea and other Multifloras and garden forms of R. chinensis.

At any rate, no Multiflora variety attained distinction until about 1890 when Crimson Rambler was introduced into England from Japan. No one knows definitely what the ancestry of Crimson Rambler is. It is more vigorous and coarser than R. multiflora cathayensis or R. multiflora platyphylla, although it may be descended from them. Its Chinese name is Shi Tz-mei, or Ten Sisters, but it was called The Engineer when first exhibited in England. Later it was put into commerce as Turner's Crimson Rambler. The name was soon clipped, and as Crimson Rambler it captured the fancy of the world in the decade following 1890. Bushes were planted by the thousands everywhere, and no man's home was considered complete without a Crimson Rambler and a Spircea Vanhouttei.

There is nothing tender or delicate about Crimson Rambler. It is one of the hardiest roses, and it quickly swept before it most of the Prairie Roses which had hitherto been relied upon for climbing forms in this country. Closely following Crimson Rambler came its seedlings and hybrids.

There are numerous Multiflora Ramblers still to be purchased from the nurseries, but it is becoming more difficult to distinguish them from Wichuraiana hybrids, and hybrids between Wichuraiana and Multiflora. As a rule, the pure Multiflora climbers are a bit hardier than the Wichuraiana hybrids and succeed farther north. For that reason, perhaps, they have endured longer than they deserve.

Multiflora Ramblers have somewhat large, coarse foliage, not particularly attractive either in shape or texture. The canes are thick, brittle, and inclined to be stubby or blunt, which permits the plants to be grown in bush form 12 to 14 feet high, and that much or more in diameter. They have a slight tendency toward everblooming, and occasional flowers may be produced on almost any Multiflora hybrid at any time. They also tend to produce thornless varieties, of which Tausendschon is, perhaps, the best example.

But the Multiflora race has so far refused to depart from its cluster-blooming habit. All its seedlings and hybrids persist in bearing relatively small flowers in huge bunches. These blooms have a papery, uninteresting texture, and scent is either lacking or faintly disagreeable.

The Multiflora race also enjoys the dubious distinction of producing the only blue roses which have been widely distributed as such. Veilchenblau, a descendant of Crimson Rambler, was the first to attract attention; and it has been followed by several other varieties of varying degrees of "blueness," the best of which is probably Violette. This tendency has been transmitted to the Polyantha race, which is based on R. multiflora. The blueness of these Multiflora roses is very different from the purplish shade common to most red roses, and which is intensified by their fading into the defect known as "blueing." It appears as a sort of turbid blue overlaying a ground-color of purplepink or dull magenta. Most of this muddiness has disappeared from the color of Violette, and its clear shade of violet-purple is not so bad.

The great importance of R. multiflora to American rose-growing is its use as an understock upon which to bud or graft other varieties. The type most favored for this purpose is R. multiflora japonica. Millions of seedlings and cuttings of this rose are budded to Hybrid Teas and other choice varieties every year.

CLIMBING POLYANTHAS (Rosa multiflora X R. chinensis)

Among the numerous offspring of R. multiflora produced during the last half of the nineteenth century appeared the Polyanthas, a race of dwarf, small-flowered, everblooming bedding roses. The word "polyantha" is merely a translation of multiflora into Greek, multiflora being the Latin for manyflowered and polyantha the Greek equivalent. In fact, in Europe today all climbing forms of R. multiflora are frequently called Polyantha roses, and the bedding varieties known in America as Polyanthas are distinguished as Dwarf Polyanthas.

Among these climbing forms of R. multiflora are the climbing sports of Dwarf Polyanthas. They are evidently reversions of the Polyantha race to the habit of its Multiflora ancestors, with the happy accident that most of them retain to some extent the everblooming qualities inherited from R. chinensis.

It is difficult to explain what a sport is, but the word occurs so frequently in horticultural writing that what it means ought to be made clear. If a branch on a plant which normally bears pink flowers should bear a white bloom, it is called a sport or "mutant. " If the branch can be propagated into new plants by cuttings, budding, grafting, or some other method, and if the new plants continue to produce white flowers, the sport is "fixed," and may be introduced as a new variety. In the same way, thornless canes appear on spiny bushes, double flowers on bushes which have produced only single blooms before, and climbing branches may spring from dwarf bushes. No one knows what causes these "sports." We have not yet found out how to induce a plant to sport. All we have learned is to take advantage of a favorable mutation when it appears.

Some curious interchanges have happened in the sports of R. multiflora. For example, the Multiflora rose, Tausendschon, produced a dwarf everblooming sport which was called Echo. In turn, Echo produced a climbing everblooming sport called Climbing Echo, which differs in no way from Tausendschon except that it blooms more frequently. Similarly, other dwarf everblooming sports have been produced from Multiflora climbers which in turn reverted to the climbing habit, taking along with them an everblooming tendency.

Polyantha Climbers resemble Multifloras in all respects except their everblooming habit. The wood is coarse, rather bristly, the foliage very large, and the small flowers are produced in enormous panicles. It is true of all classes of roses that the everblooming trait indicates a weakening of the hardy strain, but in this group of roses the loss of hardiness is not very great. Nobody cares much anyway, because the class as a whole has little popular appeal.

Probably the best-known Climbing Polyantha is Climbing Orleans, which in favorable locations may be considered the equivalent of an everblooming Crimson Rambler. In southern districts, the climbing sport of the tender Polyantha, Cecile Brunner, is useful and attractive, but it can only be grown in the North with careful winter protection.

The traits which prevent the Climbing Polyanthas from being first-class climbing roses are the uninteresting character of the flowers, the coarseness and intractability of the canes, and the tendency of the whole race to cover itself with mildew on the slightest provocation.

THE LAMBERTIANA GROUP (Rosa multiflora X other forms)

The group of roses known as Lambertianas was originated by Peter Lambert, of Trier, Germany, who is famous as the originator of the great white rose, Frau Karl Druschki.

Although they were introduced as everbloorning hardy climbers, the varieties he sent out have proved to- be Multifloras of commonplace appearance, rather less vigorous and less hardy than roses like Tausendschon and Crimson Rambler, but predisposed to bloom more or less continuously.

These roses grow 6 to 7 feet high and as much in diameter. Properly trained and pruned, they produce an enormous mass of bloom in June, followed by an occasional cluster throughout the summer, with a fairly good secondary burst of flowers in late autumn.

They do not differ greatly in general effect from the Hybrid Musks known as Pemberton roses, and have some affinities with them. On the whole, the Lambertianas and other roses of the Multiflora type are much better grown as large shrubs than as climbers. For that purpose they need plenty of room and thorough thinning of the old wood each summer after the first bloom has faded. No doubt, the Lambertianas are promising subjects for further breeding-work.

Besides the Climbing Polyanthas and Lambertianas, various Multiflora hybrids have been made with forms of Wichuraianas, and there are many modern climbing roses whose ancestry is so complex that it is difficult, if not impossible, to assign them either to the Wichuraiana or the Multiflora group. In consequence, division is pretty arbitrary; those which exhibit most Multiflora characteristics are put into the Multiflora class, and those which incline toward Wichuraiana traits are assigned to the Wichuraiana group.

In determining this separation, the chief characteristics considered are the relatively coarse growth of the Multifloras and the numerous bristles on the stems, in addition to the usual thorns. These bristles frequently occur on the pedicels of the flower-cluster. Another Multiflora feature is the fringed appendages on the stipules at the base of the leaves, or an abnormal enlargement of the stipules themselves. Any climbing rose which possesses one or all of these characteristics may be safely classed as a Multiflora hybrid.

This family has been important, and many of its varieties are still grown, but it is a waning race, and unless some favorable new development occurs, it is not likely that Multifloras will maintain a high degree of popularity very much longer, except in northern regions where the large-flowered Wichuraianas are not hardy. But even that last refuge is being vigorously assailed by the new Hybrid Setigeras, or Prairie Roses, which are now appearing.

THE WICHURAIANA HYBRIDS (Rosa wichuraiana X other forms)

Rosa wichuraiana is a creeper with almost evergreen foliage. It is a native of Korea, and therefore hardy. Plants of it were introduced into America about the middle of the nineteenth century, and attracted considerable attention as a ground-cover because of the shiny, leathery foliage and clusters of frilly, fragrant, white flowers. The type is still offered by some nurseries, sometimes under the name of the "Memorial Rose."

The first hybrids of R. wichuraiana were produced at Newport, Rhode Island, by M. H. Horvath, not later than 1896, and probably about 1893. Four were originated, two of which came from pollen of an old Polyantha, thus early beginning the confusion with R. multiflora, and the other two from the China rose, Agrippina. These varieties were Manda's Triumph, Universal Favorite, Pink Roamer, and South Orange Perfection.

Mr. Horvath told the origin of these roses on page 203 of the American Rose Annual for 1930. He stated there that a representative of the Barbier Nursery in France visited his garden a few years later and became interested in his hybrids. As a result, the French firm soon became actively engaged in breeding hybrids with R. wichuraiana, and many of our finest climbing roses come from that nursery. About the same time, the late M. H. Walsh, of Woods Hole, Massachusetts, took up the work, producing a long line of wholly delightful and beautiful climbing roses of a distinct type, such as Evangeline, Hiawatha, Milky Way.

The earliest Wichuraiana hybrids were trailers like the parent, particularly those raised from China and Polyantha blood, but when the pollen of Hybrid Perpetuals, Hybrid Teas, and Teas was used, more or less erect varieties came into existence. The Barbier firm specialized in producing plants with superior foliage and flowers of a creamy or yellowish hue, evidently from Tea rose ancestry, and consequently most of them were a little tender in the coldest parts of this country. Their most popular early varieties of that type were Alberic Barbier and Aviateur Bleriot.

From Walsh came innumerable hardy climbers which produced small, double and single flowers in giant clusters. They are generally believed to be hybrids between R. wichuraiana and Hybrid Perpetuals. Many of Walsh's roses never became popular, but they were all good, and one of them, Excelsa, superseded Crimson Rambler in many American gardens. But the most famous of all the early Wichuraianas was Dorothy Perkins, introduced by the Jackson & Perkins Company in 1901. It is said to be a hybrid between R. wichuraiana and a Hybrid Perpetual, Mme. Gabriel Luizet.

Until the year 1910, all Hybrid Wichuraianas belonged to the cluster-flowering type. That year is notable in the history of roses for the introduction of the famous variety, Dr. W. Van Fleet. The outstanding merit of this rose was its lovely large flowers, comparable in size to those of Teas or Hybrid Teas. It was also relatively hardy and exceedingly vigorous. This rose was originated by Dr. Van Fleet, who later produced many other beautiful climbing roses. Dr. Van Fleet called the rose Daybreak, a much better name than it now has, but it was renamed by the introducers in honor of the Doctor himself making a splendid memorial to his genius, for no better variety of the class has ever been produced. It resulted from two hybridizations and was consequently two generations away from R. wichuraiana. The one parent was a hybrid between R. wichuraiana and Safrano, an old Tea, and the other parent was the Hybrid Tea rose, Souvenir du President Carnot.

Introduced the year before Dr. W. Van' Fleet, although they did not cause as much sensation, were Climbing American Beauty, and Christine Wright, both raised by James A. Farrell in the Hoopes, Bro. & Thomas Company's nurseries near Philadelphia. These roses were also second-generation hybrids. Both of them were good roses and became very popular, but they were not followed by others of equal merit from that firm except Purity in 1917.

As years passed, Dr. Van Fleet continued to send out splendid varieties, including Bess Lovett, Alida Lovett, Mary Lovett, and Mary Wallace which was introduced by the American Rose Society after his death. Two other roses were selected from the seedlings which he left, Glenn Dale and Breeze Hill. The latter seems to introduce into the Wichuraiana strain a wholly new type of growth. So far as known, its ancestry is R. wichuraiuna X Beaute de Lyon, but the rose itself indicates a trace of some other strain, possibly R. soulieana, since it is known that Dr. Van Fleet used that species to some extent.

During the past thirty years a flood of climbing roses of the Wichuraiana type has risen. Hundreds of varieties have come into commerce, many of them quite similar. Dr. Van Fleet wrote in one of the early American Rose Annuals, ' "Ro.ra wichuraiana is exceedingly easy to hybridize, and will, apparently, accept the pollen of a foreign rose more readily than its own." Very few new small-flowered, cluster-type Wichuraianas are coming into commerce at present, and no more are needed except a thoroughly hardy one with fadeless yellow flowers-an unfulfilled desire of more than thirty years' standing.

The outstanding characteristics of the Wichuraianas are-glossy foliage, strong, broad-based thorns on the stems, and rampant growth. Roses displaying these features may be safely classed as Wichuraianas. The trailing habit has been largely overcome, but these roses are never as stiff as Multifloras and lack the coarseness of that type. Large flowers appear frequently in second-generation crosses, sometimes in the first, and rank high in quality. Everblooming varieties are scarce, but several have recently appeared which promise intermittent bloom at least. In respect to hardiness, the early small-flowered types, except those with yellowish flowers, yield nothing to the earlier Multifloras, but in regions of severe winters the large-flowered varieties need some protection.

Undoubtedly, R. wichuraiana has produced more valuable hardy climbing roses than any other wild rose, and modern hybrids embracing many other species of climbers, owe a large part of their value to the strong strain of R. wichuraiana * which underlies them.

*Certain puzzling differences in Wichuraiana types from different sources have led some careful observers to believe that R. lucia, a closely related form or species, may have been used by some hybridists who probably believed it was R. wichuruiana, for R. lucia is not supposed to be in cultivation.