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Climbing Roses: Less-Hardy Types

[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
Throughout the southern states and California, certain kinds of climbing roses can be grown which are impossible elsewhere. The South has been a little backward in making use of these roses, preferring to follow the fashion set in the North by planting the hardy climbers. Hardiness means nothing in a mild climate where roses do not have to contend with frost, consequently the relatively small flowers and once-blooming habit of hardy climbers are definite defects in a land where large, beautiful flowers can be had by growing climbing roses which have not sacrificed their glory to hardiness.

Much propaganda has gone forth in the past few years urging the South to revive the old climbers of Tea and Noisette types, which were widely grown there before Hybrid Multifloras and Wichuraianas came upon the scene. The chief advocate for the tender climbers was the late Captain George C. Thomas, Jr., who had assembled in his great garden at Beverly Hills, California, all the climbing roses of those strains which he could get. He did not collect them for their tenderness, but because of their delicate beauty and continual blooming, characters which seem to be definitely antagonistic to hardiness, only developed to the highest degree in varieties whose parentage is untainted by the rough, wild roses of the North.

For many years the Captain labored to blend those antagonistic strains into a race of Hardy Everblooming Climbers, and at the time of his death it seemed as if he had succeeded. Time alone will tell.

The Captain wrote earnestly in favor of the less hardy or "tender" climbers. In the American Rose Annual for 1927 he said: "I believe that Climbing Teas and Noisettes are of great value, and, further, that some Hybrid Tea Climbers which are not hardy farther north are very valuable in southern districts where there is no frost to fear." He reiterated this conviction in the 1928 Annual, reinforcing his article with a list of almost one hundred tender climbing roses which he considered worth growing in southern districts. Captain Thomas devoted the greater part of his life to an intense study of roses, and his conclusions should carry great authority. Southern rose-growers could do worse than to consult those two articles before making a choice of climbing roses. The American Rose Annual can be found in most public libraries, but membership in the Society is open to everybody and the dues are small. Members can obtain back issues of the Annual from the Secretary.

These "less-hardy" roses include not only the Teas and Noisettes which Captain Thomas commended, and the Climbing Hybrid Teas which he found worthy of greater use, but also the curious group recently originated which, for want of a better name, are called Climbing Hybrid Perpetuals.


The Climbing Tea roses for the most part are sports or mutations from the ordinary bush or bedding Tea roses. The flowers are large, double, generally fragrant, beautifully shaped, and produced with some regularity throughout the entire season. The foliage is glossy, resistant to disease, and although the plants differ somewhat in vigor, they can be depended on to reach almost any height which is desirable. Like Tea roses of bush habit, the Climbing Teas are so tender to frost that they can be grown outdoors only where the temperature does not go far below freezing. In the North, they are too much trouble to protect over winter. The continuous bloom is not sufficient compensation for the extra labor.

The most famous of the Climbing Teas, and the seed-parent of most of them, is Gloire de Dijon. It is also the hardiest of them all. Great specimens have been grown in southern Pennsylvania and along the Atlantic coast as far north as Long Island. Another well-known Tea is Devoniensis, sometimes called "The Magnolia Rose," a fine, sweet-scented white variety, and climbing sports of the usual Tea roses may turn up anywhere.

Perhaps the famous old rose of many names called variously Fortune's Yellow, Fortune's Double Yellow, Gold of Ophir, and Beauty of Glazenwood, belongs to the Climbing Teas. Rehder, a botanical authority, calls it R. odorata pseud-indica, but Father Schoener, in the 1932 American Rose Annual, asserts that it is a variety of R. gigantea, Collett.

The dividing-line between the Climbing Teas and the large-flowered Noisettes is very dim. To modern eyes they seem to belong to the same type, so that varieties of those two classes are easily confused.

NOISETTES AND OTHER MUSK HYBRIDS (R. moschata X R. chinensis X R. odorata)

The Musk rose, R. mooschata, has been used more or less often in the production of climbing roses. Its fragrant, white blooms are borne in big, branching clusters, a characteristic which it has bequeathed to most of its descendants. The original species is none too hardy, but forms of the Musk rose from distant regions differ widely, and closely related forms, particularly R. Brunonii, a Himalayan species, have undoubtedly been used in developing recent Musk hybrids.

The original Noisette rose was not a climber, but an everblooming, pink-flowered, vigorous bush called Champneys' Pink Cluster. It was raised by John Champneys, of Charleston, South Carolina, about 1810 from R. mooschata, crossed with some form of R. chinensis. This rose, or seeds of it, was sent by Philippe Noisette, a florist of Charleston, to his brother in Paris, where it was put into commerce as Le Rosier de Philippe Noisette. Its fragrance and cluster-flowering habit attracted much attention, and hybrids were quickly raised from it.

The original Champneys' Pink Cluster was lost for half a century, but a rose strongly resembling it and which may be the true variety has been discovered recently in a Virginia garden.

The early hybridizers did not content themselves with the relatively hardy bush Noisettes of the original type. Tea roses and Climbing Teas were in process of development at that time, and many hybrids were made between them and the early Noisettes from which were developed large-flowering, fragrant climbers of exquisite golden yellow shades, a color very much desired in roses.

The most famous Noisette climber is Marechal Niel, whose yellow buds and flowers hang in rich profusion from a -well-grown plant. Unfortunately, the Marechal seems to be losing ground and is becoming difficult to keep. It used to abound in the southern states, but nowadays it is rarely met with, although its fame abides.

Other old-time varieties of great beauty are Lamarque, which produces great creamy flowers of magnificent proportions; Chromatella, also pale yellow and at one time very popular; William Allen Richardson, with small, irregular flowers of vivid orange and yellow; Alister Stella Gray, creamy yellow; and occasionally a plant of Isabella Gray, the parent of Marechal Niel, is offered. Nurserymen can supply a fairly wide range of Noisette varieties, but because of their excess Tea blood most of them are far too tender to attempt in the northern states. Throughout the South, no class of roses is more valuable and beautiful.


Within the present century the Musk rose was used again to produce a new race of garden roses different from the Noisettes. The Reverend J. H. Pemberton, in England, originated a group of varieties which he called Hybrid Musks. They are large bushes, in bloom more or less continuously, bearing flowers of varying size and doubleness, mostly white, pale pink, and pale yellow, in gigantic clusters. The strong, basal shoots of most of Pemberton's roses have a way of bursting into great panicles of bloom about 4 to 5 feet from the ground, especially in autumn. The best of them are Ceres, Danae, Moonlight, Prosperity, and Nur Mahal, a curious purple variety.


The Musk strain was perpetuated in the everblooming climbers produced by Captain George C. Thomas, Jr., who used some of Pemberton's roses as parents in his early hybridizing work. His roses, or his earlier varieties at least, are continuous blooming shrubs which are reasonably hardy. The flowers are mostly single, and although he introduced them as hardy everblooming climbers, they never really climb much or bloom freely after the early summer display. When Captain Thomas moved to California he advanced his breeding-work more rapidly, and at the time of his death many hundreds of promising seedlings were being grown which will take some years to study and select. A half-dozen or so, notably Sophie Thomas, Ednah Thomas, Dr. Belville, and two or three others have been introduced. Most of them show little Musk character and bear superficial resembiances to Climbing Hybrid Teas or Climbing Bengals.

Since the original Musk rose is prolific in geographical forms, hardy strains may be developed from it. It takes readily to hybridization and seems to adopt the everblooming character without losing individuality. The original Noisettes were fairly hardy. Who knows whether combinations of R. mo.rchata with some of our hardier roses would not produce roses of value for the North, just as its union with the tender Teas has bequeathed us the loveliest of all climbing roses for the South?

CLIMBING HYBRID TEA ROSES (Rosa odorata X other forms)

The Climbing Hybrid Teas are sports, as a rule, from dwarf Hybrid Tea varieties. They grow with varying degrees of vigor, and require the same care. The hardiness of this class varies considerably, reflecting their parentage to a large extent, and many of them will thrive on a sheltered wall much farther north than climbers of pure Tea ancestry.

Practically every bush Hybrid Tea rose which is grown in quantity sports a climbing variety somewhere or other, so that in time almost all the popular Hybrid Teas may be had in both bush and climbing forms.

Included in this class are climbing sports of the roses known as Pernetianas, distinguished by shades of yellow-orange and coppery pink foreign to the true Teas and Hybrid Teas. Some Climbing Hybrid Teas of the Pernetiana strain are much better varieties than their dwarf prototypes. Climbing Los Angeles is an exceedingly handsome rose and generally a satisfactory plant, whereas the dwarf Los Angeles does not thrive except in a limited district in southern California.

In spite of the fact that the yellow hue of Pernetiana roses is derived from the hardy R. fatida, the mutual antagonism of hardiness and yellowness persists in all their climbing sports, so that one may almost safely say that the yellower they are the tenderer they are. This is doubly true of those which derive part of their golden color from the old yellow Tea roses.

While Climbing Hybrid Teas are less hardy than the large-flowered Wichuraianas, and are much more subject to insect pests and diseases, their popularity is increasing in gardens farther north than might be expected. The flowers are so exquisitely beautiful and are borne in such profusion in early summer that the slight labor necessary to protect them in winter is amply rewarded. Besides, they tend to bloom more or less frequently throughout the summer, thus more nearly fulfilling the grandiose desire for a hardy everblooming climbing rose than any other type yet developed.

Throughout the South, these Climbing Hybrid Teas should be most useful. They offer much more variety and brilliance than the few Climbing Teas which remain from the "grand era" of that race in the middle of the past century. But not all of them can be expected to do equally well. It must be remembered that their ancestry embraces many diverse forms and their behavior in any climate depends upon how well the ancestral strain which happens to be dominant is adapted to the region.

A fault of this class is that some of the so-called climbing sports have an imperfect climbing habit and are only a little more vigorous than the original bush types. Such varieties are adapted to pillar use and for making bold displays of massed plants.

Sometimes this weakness is only a failure of the individual plant and not of the variety. It has been discovered that plants propagated from short, blooming spurs of climbing sports occasionally revert to the bush type, and that buds from vigorous climbing canes must be used to insure the propagation of the climbing habit. Good nurserymen are careful about this, but errors will occur, for rose plants are unstable and sometimes erratic in their ways. So it is unfair to condemn a climbing rose of this class for poor growth on the evidence of one plant. If a favorite Climbing Hybrid Tea does not grow properly, try a new plant. The second may reverse an unfavorable opinion.

This class of climbers and the Climbing Hybrid Perpetuals to be discussed in the next section are the very cream of climbing roses at this period. Developments are proceeding rapidly, and improvements in hardiness, healthiness of foliage, and greater freedom of bloom in the off season may be expected. The South is extremely fortunate to be able to grow all of them, and a broad belt of northern gardens where zero weather seldom occurs can grow them successfully. Where the winters are colder, they need careful protection.

CLIMBING HYBRID PERPETUAL ROSES (Rosa borboniana X other forms)

A shorter and more accurate name is needed for this class of roses. Few, if any of the popular varieties are directly derived from bush Hybrid Perpetuals in the same way that Climbing Hybrid Teas are descended from dwarf Hybrid Teas. Some of them have arisen from crossing Hybrid Perpetuals with Hybrid Teas, some are straight seedlings from Hybrid Teas, others are sports. They are distinguished from Climbing Hybrid Teas by less frequent blooming and more vigorous growth. Their average hardiness is about the same as that of the large-flowered Wichuraianas but their flowers are much handsomer and their foliage is very different.

In some characters this badly named group resembles very much the climbing forms of the practically extinct race of Bourbons. This is not at all astonishing, for the Bourbon strain persisted for many years in a distinct class of Hybrid Perpetuals and was only submerged in an effort to simplify their classification. Its influence is still strong and extends even to the Hybrid Teas, so it may be that these superb modern climbing roses are a reincarnation of the old Bourbon class, bringing it back with a richness of color lacking in the old days.

The best roses of this new group are Kitty Kininmonth, brilliant rosy red; Miss Marion Manifold, with splendid ruby-colored flowers; Black Boy, velvety red; Daydream, dainty pink and white; Scorcher, vivid red. These varieties were raised in Australia and have proved astonishingly hardy in North America. They are vigorous climbers 12 to 15 feet high with flowers of the highest quality. One of the handsomest is Paul's Lemon Pillar, beyond doubt the finest white rose of any class; and Mme. Gregoire Staechelin has made itself famous in spite of its difficult name.

Vigorous work is in progress to develop more climbing roses of this type. The Hybrid Perpetual, Frau Karl Druschki, seems to be a prolific breeder of climbing seedlings, and other vigorous Hybrid Perpetuals may do the same thing. Many varieties may be expected to appear combining the qualities of the Climbing Hybrid Teas and the large-flowered Wichuraianas with this group.

The trend of modern rose-breeding is toward an eventual blending of the good qualities of all distinct forms into one grand super-race. In the meantime, these so-called Climbing Hybrid Perpetuals are the greatest achievement so far attained in the effort to produce a perfect climbing rose. They need only a shade more hardiness for severe climates and a trifle more continuous bloom for the southern states. A very captious critic might complain that there are no really good yellow varieties, but beyond doubt they will come eventually.