Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Dr. E. M. Mills

This is one of two seedlings created by Dr. Walter VanFleet and released after his death. Dr. E. M. Mills is either a hybrid of Radiance X R. Hugonis, or a more complicated hybrid involving Hugonis, Spinosissima and Rugosa. It has been reported as both parentages. The other is the hybrid Rugosa, Sarah VanFleet, which went on to become a well respected garden rose. 

Dr. Mills fell out of the 37 various gardens and nurseries it was distributed to way back in 1926. I'd discovered it in two old ARS annuals from the 1920s and longed to obtain it. I've documented the whole story in an article which is currently in the RHA newsletter as well as in the Gold Coast Roses newsletter. Long story short, I'd found Dr. Mills listed in a Swedish botanical garden. Through Hans van Hage at Bierkreek Nursery in The Netherlands, bud wood was obtained, reintroducing Dr. Mills into European commerce and beginning the long journey of re establishing Dr. VanFleet's rose here in America. It took nearly seven years, but the rose finally arrived in the US, passed its quarantine period and a small, own root plant arrived at my garden July 25, 2013. I didn't even know if it would flower in my mild climate, but either it is more than willing to oblige, or the brief period of cold we experienced several weeks ago helped, as the plant has set nine buds! 

This is what greeted me this morning. There is a very sweet scent when the flower first opens. In the wind and hot sun, it dissipates fairly quickly. I love the crepey texture of the petals and the soft pink and yellow coloring. The buds, sepals and peduncles are softly felted (fuzzy), which is likely part of the suspected Rugosa heritage. All in all, I am definitely satisfied and happy with the rose I waited so many years to obtain. Welcome home, Dr. Mills! 

Monday, February 10, 2014

My Flame of Love

originally published, Akron Rose Rambler, February, 1993 included in A Passion for Roses, 1997

I really love roses - virtually all aspects of growing and appreciating them. I think, though, that my favorite part is the hunt. The roses I enjoy the most are the ones I have read about and then had to search for, and I mean REALLY search! The Coffee Roses were the first hunt, followed by the Striped Hybrid Teas and I have truly delighted in them. Single-petaled Hybrid Teas have been another fun hunt, and that brings us to the point of this story.

Several years ago, I was fortunate to be able to trade plants with one of the most well known rose gardens in Southern California, Rose Hills. Their bed of single-petaleds contained a name plate for a rose called FLAME OF LOVE, but there was no plant and no one could tell me anything about it. Modem Roses wasn't any help as FLAME OF LOVE was never registered. What to do? I asked everyone I could think of if they had ever heard of it. The lone marker remained my only reference.

Then it hit me! Probably the best source of information I could want was already in my possession. I began searching through my back issues of Bev Dobson's Combined Rose List and found that FLAME OF LOVE, a medium red hybrid tea, was offered in 1986 by Rose Acres, Muriel Humenick's wonderful collection of classic and esoteric roses in Diamond Springs, California. I wrote her asking about it and was thrilled when she replied that she did have one plant of it available and just waiting for someone to request it, and now it was mine! She had received hers from Mr. Jim Kirk, who had been the Rosarian at Rose Hills in the early 1970s. All she could relate was that a Mr. Forrest Hieatt had hybridized it in the early 1950s, had given it to Mr. Kirk, and he in turn shared it with her. She sent me the plant and I eagerly awaited the first bloom.

The little plant grew well, but when its first bud appeared and developed into a fragrant, well formed, high-centered, silvery lavender bloom, I was a bit perplexed. Muriel and I conferred and decided it was actually SILVER STAR, a beautiful rose , but not the one which I had sought. She apologized and assured me that my plant was still there and would be dispatched in the spring. I tried not to seem disappointed about having to wait. Muriel obviously understood and said she would mail it out in a day or two. My rose arrived in great shape, as everything I had bought from Rose Acres every year before had, and was potted in a five gallon can to protect it from the rabbits.

Meanwhile, I attempted to learn what I could about the latest addition to my already crowded collection of singlepetaleds. Muriel suggested I write to Jim Kirk, as he would be about the only person who could shed some light on the rose.

Mr. Kirk kindly responded that Forrest Hieatt was indeed the creator of FLAME OF LOVE. He presented ten bushes at the San Diego Rose Society to the person who could give it the best name, that honor going to Mrs. Mabel Pillsbury. Unfortunately, Mr. Hieatt died tragically in 1957 or 1958, when, on his way home from a rose society meeting, he stepped from the bus on El Cajon Boulevard in San Diego, and was accidentally run over by one of the members, who was driving home from the meeting.

Modern Roses 5 shows Forrest Hieatt had registered four roses between 1927 and 1953:

• EDMUND M. MILLS, 1927, a very fragrant, rosy-flame hybrid tea named for the well-known early 20th century American rosarian

• SAN DIEGO, 1937, a very fragrant, apricot and buff hybrid tea

• SWEET MEMORIE, 1937, a pink hybrid tea, again described as very fragrant, and

MISS KATE SESSIONS, 1953, a pink and white large-flowered climber named for the early California plantswoman.
Mr. Kirk isn't able to shed any light on the parentage of FLAME OF LOVE as he says Forrest Hieatt never labeled anything.

FLAME OF LOVE's first year in my garden was a difficult one. It was inundated by nearly three times normal rainfall; stunted by the coldest, wettest spring in memory; blistered by extreme summer temperatures which arrived as suddenly as if they had been turned on by a switch; used as a rabbit smorgasbord; and blown about by the fury of our Santa Ana winds bringing desiccation and now quite low temperatures. It's been a struggle, but it has generously given its nearly five inch, brilliant red, five-petaled blooms with their bright yellow petal bases, red stamen and yellow pollen. I've even noticed it has a sweet fragrance. It's a little sad to have such an enjoyable search come to an end, but this beautiful rose and the making and renewing of old rose friendships all make it great fun. Thank you Bev, Muriel and Jim Kirk!

1997 note: FLAME OF LOVE is still in the garden. It is still every bit as beautiful a rose as I had originally thought. The growth habit, foliage, peduncles, prickles, sepals and the wiry, flexible stems lead me to believe it has a strong dose of CHARLOTTE ARMSTRONG'S genes in it. The brilliance of the flowers softens after a day or so in the hot sun, but the colors remain clean and pleasant until petal drop. It's still a favorite!

Ellen Willmott

Originally published in A Passion for Roses, 1997 

Much has been said and written about that Grand Dame of roses, DAINTY BESS, and with good reason. Her large blooms are delicious in their elegant simplicity, rich coloring and beautiful fragrance. She comes by her good looks naturally. being the daughter of the classic KITCHENER OF KHARTOUM and the legendary OPHELIA. But, she has produced an even lovelier daughter with the help of the great tea or hybrid tea, LADY HILLINGDON.

Ellen Willmott is a name we all know as a great plantswoman, garden designer and for her monumental book, The Genus Rosa. Her rose should be as well known. Her growth is a bit more upright than the fair BESS', being more in the mold of a traditional hybrid tea. Like those of LADY HILLINGDON, the new shoots are a rich plum tinted green that mature a dark, matte green. From these well clothed, straight stems, small clusters of pointed buds are borne.
They begin life as a pale, blush lemon and pink, colors sometimes remaining in the open flower in cooler weather. The blooms flare widely, stretching out their wavy, ruffled ivory-white petals with wine-red brown stamen. There is even fragrance, while not as intense as that of her mother. Due to her coloring, Roses of Yesterday and Today called DAINTY BESS, "a real brunette of a rose". Well, if BESS is a brunette, ELLEN is a brown eyed blond.

As a garden plant, she is an improvement on her mother. She is taller, with much better posture. Her clothes are cut from a finer cloth and are much tougher and impervious to disease and damage. She will even put on as spectacular a show as DAINTY BESS. Her strong, stiff stems make her an easier rose to cut and enjoy. She roots easily and grows very nicely without the aid of artificial vigor.

The only reason I can suggest for her comparative obscurity is the fact she isn't "pink", but please don't let that prevent you from getting to know her. Once introduced, she will be an intimate friend. You'll have to look a little harder to find her as none of the major commercial suppliers has seen fit to offer her for many a year. But she's waiting at four California sources: The Rose Ranch in Salinas, Sequoia Nursery - Moore's Miniature Roses in Visalia, Roses and Wine in Cameron, and Vintage Gardens in Sebastopol.

Eureka! An Update on the Real Irish Fireflame

originally published, American Rose Rambler, March/April, 1997; included in A Passion for Roses, 1997

As I had reported earlier in the Akron Rose Rambler, I had been searching for the 1914 Dickson single-petaled hybrid tea IRISH FIREFLAME. I had exhausted all but two sources and had in each case received Dickson's 1905 offering. IRISH ELEGANCE. While the latter is a wonderful rose, I had several plants of it, mostly sold as the former.

IRISH FIREFLAME was the last single-petaled hybrid tea listed in Combined Rose List as being commercially available in the United States that I needed to complete the single-petaled bed in my garden. My determination grew each time the wrong rose was delivered.

Lowe's Own-Root Roses reportedly offers the proper rose. Efforts to obtain it have not yet been successful. Gregg Lowery insisted that Vintage Gardens had the real IRISH FIREFLAME. The rose sent was, unfortunately, IRISH ELEGANCE.

Each time I found a reference to these two roses in old books, IRISH ELEGANCE was pictured with the comment that the illustration would serve for both. The distinctive difference was said to be IRISH FIREFLAME's deeper color.

Gregg Lowery was most apologetic for the misshipment and assured me that Vintage did offer the correct variety. October 1995 provided the opportunity for Jerri Owens and Ito travel north on a rose vacation. We visited beautiful gardens and met delightful people. Vintage Gardens proved to be a wonderful nursery. The layout was very pleasing, the staff very courteous, pleasant and knowledgeable, and Gregg, a wonderful host.

Gregg extended to us an invitation made by Phillip Robinson to visit the gardens of the Korbel Winery the next day. We were quite excited and quickly accepted. To have two gracious gentlemen, who are both experienced, knowledgeable gardeners and who both possess tremendous rose knowledge provide a tour of the gardens of the Korbel Winery is an experience to remember.

Phillip Robinson is the mastermind behind these beautiful gardens. We were shown glorious borders, filled with rare plants, all combined with imagination and creativity. Phillip is truly an artist with color, texture and design. The highlight for me was the rose garden. It contained mature bushes of such wonderful old hybrid teas as a four foot POLLY, a five foot bush of MRS. SAM MCGREDY....and the illusive IRISH FIREFLAME. The only bloom was well spent, but obviously only five petals. The bush was absolutely not IRISH ELEGANCE. Phillip and Gregg generously cut budwood for me.

One plant has been produced from the Korbel IRISH FIREFLAME budwood. It has now flowered and I can understand the confusion of the IRISH ELEGANCE and IRISH FIREFLAME illustrations in rose books. I can also understand how a harried nursery person could confuse the two for shipping. They are, however, completely distinct roses.

IRISH ELEGANCE grows to an open, airy, tall, wiry bush. The foliage is bronze-plum when new, turning a medium, matte green. The stems are long, usually producing three buds. The peduncle most often is sparsely covered with short, bright red prickles. the blooms are five-petaled, but the petals resemble a diamond shape, with a pointed base resulting in the petals appearing separate and distinct, like the fingers on you hand. the color is luminous orange-salmon-gold-apricot, aging to apricot-fawn. Blooms are normally about 3" in diameter.

By comparison, IRISH FIREFLAME is very much a more refined, modern hybrid tea. The wood is smoother, greener and shinier. The leaves are larger, heavier and dark glossy green, more in the mold of a Pernetiana. The internodal spaces are much longer and smoother. The blooms come mainly one to a stem with quite long, smooth, glossy peduncles. The buds are long, slender and pointed with glossy sepals, darker than its stablemate. Both are richly, brightly colored, but IRISH ELEGANCE is much lighter in color, while IRISH FIREFLAME is typical of the hybrid foetidas of the early part of the century. The flowers show rich, bright orange, strong old-gold and cinnamon veins. The petals are large and shell-shaped, reminiscent of those possessed by DAINTY BESS or VESUVIUS, not separated like those of IRISH ELEGANCE. Its blooms on a two foot tall plant are almost as large as those of IRISH ELEGANCE's on its five foot bush. They will obviously be significantly larger as the plant develops. This would be in line with its description in Modem Roses as having 5' flowers.

The Vintage/Korbel IRISH FIREFLAME fits the descriptions I've been provided by rosarians who grew and loved this rose decades ago. It's also in keeping with those published in catalogs of the 1920s and 1930s. So, the real IRISH FIREFLAME has finally "stood up," thanks to Phillip Robinson, the creative genius responsible for the beauty of the Korbel Winery gardens, and Gregg Lowery of Vintage Gardens. Now I have a lead on IRISH AFTERGLOW, a darker sport of IRISH FIREFLAME, apparently being grown in northern California. I'm off on the next chase!

Single Hybrid Teas

originally published, Potpourri of Roses, February/March, 1993; included in A Passion for Roses, 1997

Gardeners in the early decade of this century were fortunate to have a fair number of these elegant roses from which to choose and enjoy. Too many of them have been lost due to changing fashion and the rush for what's new. Most of us are familiar with DAINTY BESS, daughter of OPHELIA, with her broad, wavy, shell-pink petals, reddish stamen, golden pollen and sweet fragrance. There really isn't anything dainty about DAINTY BESS as she develops into a tall bush literally covered in bloom. The story goes that the hybridizer named the rose to woo his fair maiden. It worked, and this great rose has been gracing gardens the world over since 1925. But, are, you aware of the other singles that aren't quite as well known but are still available?

Some of them are upright and fairly stiff as would be expected from a hybrid tea, while others resemble the growth and habits of the older tea roses, slowly building a twiggy bush fairly smothered in bloom. DAINTY BESS fits well with the hybrid teas, as do the following. FRANCES ASHTON, dating from 1937, is a tall grower, to over five feet, with thick, strong canes. She produces three to five of her slightly fragrant, three and a half to four inch, five petaled carmine blooms on strong, straight stems. The large petals are of good substance and surround wine colored stamen crowned with golden pollen.

CAPTAIN THOMAS, named for Captain George C. Thomas, of BISHOP DARLINGTON, DR. HUEY and the BLOOMFIELD series fame, was released in 1938. It is usually considered a climbing hybrid tea, but can easily be grown as a three to five foot bush with strong, straight canes well clothed in dark, glossy foliage. You can expect profuse production of clusters of lemon buds, maturing to cream colored, single flowers with red stamen and a spicy fragrance. CAPTAIN THOMAS was crossed with CRIMSON GLORY to produce the shrub-climber SUNNY JUNE. The result is of the original but with brighter, stronger coloring.

COLETTE CLEMENT, released in 1929, is a granddaughter of R. Foetida bicolor. It has produced a three foot bush with relatively smooth, yellow-green wood and medium yellow-green, glossy foliage. The foliage, wood, prickly flower stems and general coloring make it fit the description of a Pernetiana pretty well. Its growth isn't quite as stiff as the preceding, but it is every bit as profuse a bloomer. The petal count varies, and the flat, open, four inch flowers have eight to ten, of a bright, reddish, nasturtium-orange with yellow bases. The slightly fragrant blooms soften as they mature and are perfect for the foliage.

KATHLEEN MILLS was introduced in 1934 and is perhaps the stiffest growing of the lot. She is tall, to over four feet, with large, coarse canes. The long, pointed, dark carmine buds spiral open to quite large, very fragrant, silvery satin-pink flowers with two rows of petals, framing red stamen and golden pollen. The reverses of the petals remain a darker carmine-pink, resulting in a bicolor effect.

INNOCENCE arrived in 1921 with its long, spiraled, blush-pink and pale yellow buds on vigorous, two foot high bushes. These open to pure white, five inch blooms of two rows of petals with red stamen. The canes are very strong, very prickly and clad with plentiful, dark leathery foliage.

CECIL has become one of my favorites. It is easy for me to see why it has lasted since its introduction in 1926. The four foot tall, prickly bush is well clothed in glossy, bright yellow-green leaves. Its flawless bright canary-yellow, four inch single flowers develop from long, pointed buds in small clusters, and are constantly produced all summer and into the late fall. The fact I have never seen any disease on this rose is the "icing on the cake", making this one of the most satisfying yellow roses I have ever encountered.

ISOBEL is an oldie, 1916, but a REAL goodie! She is a strong growing bush, easily achieving four by four feet, well clothed in Matte, rich green foliage. The flower stems carry the small, reddish prickles characteristic of the Pernetianas, as do CECIL, IRISH ELEGANCE and I ZINGARI. They vary from three to seven inches long depending on the weather, and usually carry one to three open blooms. The beautiful, long, pointed, bright pink buds spiral open to produce a four to five inch, rose-pink, five petaled, open bloom with yellow petal bases and a spicy fragrance. For anyone who likes FRULINGSMORGEN, but wants a more restrained bush with dependably constant bloom, ISOBEL is the only choice

WHITE WINGS is a seedling of DAINTY BESS introduced in 1947 and is relatively well known. It inherits its mother's wide petals, fragrance and golden pollen, but with chocolate anthers. While not as tall as its seed parent, it can build to a three foot bush and rival the fair BESS in quantity as well as quality of bloom. Well-formed clusters of its large, silvery-white flowers resemble a flock of tropical butterflies or white hibiscus.

ELLEN WILLMOTT is an earlier seedling of DAINTY BESS with LADY HILLINGDON as the pollen parent, introduced in 1939. Its growth is rather like a stiffer, more upright tea rose. The bush has grown to between three and a half and four feet, with plum colored, soft new foliage maturing matte, dark green. The relatively smooth wood also exhibits the plum colorings, and the tea influence is apparent in all plant parts including the smooth necks and the curved prickles. The blooms come singly and In small clusters beginning creamy pale pink with apricot shadings developing into five scalloped petals of pale lemon-apricot and cream with blush-pink, all with a light, sweet fragrance. The stamen bear a strong resemblance to DAINTY BESS', being quite characteristic.

LULU was released in 1919 and is a bit more double than the preceding. It is a shorter bush, under two feet, with thinner, twiggier growth, well-clad with plentiful, rich, bronze-green foliage. The stems are long and thin, with one of the most beautifully formed buds you are likely to find anywhere. The flowers boast eight to ten petals of the same clean, bright, orange-salmon as the buds, maturing a softer salmon with a slight fragrance.

MRS. OAKLEY FISHER is a lovely single introduced in 1921. This is where the older tea-type bush enters the group. It has slowly developed into a four and a half foot plant with dense, twiggy growth. It displays the plum colored new foliage of many of the apricot shaded roses, with plum-green-brown wood, but with rather more prickles than I would expect from a tea. The soft, rich plum new leaves mature a dark, bronzy green. In constant bloom from spring to frost, her luscious apricot-orange blooms appear usually one to the stem with a sweet, clove fragrance.

IRISH ELEGANCE is the oldest of the bunch, dating from 1905. It forms a large, open, airy, rounded bush, well over five feet, if pruned sparingly. The new growth is bronzy red and matures to a matte, medium green. The exquisite pointed, slender buds open to three and a half inch, orangy-apricot blooms of five separated petals with a spicy fragrance. These pale to a soft buff-orange with apricot tints and prominent veins. It is quite decorative and a few of its elegant buds in a vase is a delight.

ORIENTAL CHARM is the most modem of the listing, being introduced in 1960. It has grown into a twiggy mound and gives beautiful long, pointed buds of Oriental red. These traditionally contain two rows of petals, expanding to four inch, rich, bright orange-red blooms showing generous golden pollen. The color remains clean and bright until petal fall.

I ZINGARI is an odd little rose with smallish leaves and thin, twiggy growth. It is the only hybrid tea offering from the Rev. Joseph Pemberton I have been able to find, and for this reason, is significant. I was fortunate to have been able to obtain cuttings of it through the generosity of a friend at Rose Hills. It impresses me as being and "in-between" rose Pemberton developed on his road to the hybrid musks. The bush is just under two feet tall and yields long, pointed buds of a very modem orange-scarlet, much in the mold of COLETTE CLEMENT. The petal bases are a rich yellow showing off the purple-red stamen and golden pollen to good effect when the double row of petals spiral and reflex downward. There is a spicy fragrance when the blooms are fresh.

While not one I would suggest if you were limited to only one or two, it is interesting because of its age, being introduced in 1925, and being possibly the only Pemberton hybrid tea remaining. John Mac Gregor, former Curator of Roses at the Huntington Library, translates the name as "the male gypsy". Modem Roses 1 classifies it as a hybrid Foetida and describes it as an "especially vivid shade, resembling the colors of the I Zingari Cricket Club, for which it is named".

VESUVIUS is a dark, velvety crimson, introduced in 1923 by the house of McGredy. Its stems are long and straight and proudly carry one to three of the four inch, sweetly fragrant blooms. While producing its share of the thinner, twiggier growth characteristic of the type, it will build a frame work of very thick, strong canes. The foliage is a dull, medium green, and remains very clean all year.

A long search has yielded a wonderful single called FLAME OF LOVE. Until spring of 1993, it had simply been a name tag in a bed Rose Hills without a plant. Muriel Humenick at Rose Acres generously supplied this child of hybridizer and former president of the San Diego Rose Society, Forrest Hieatt. Information from Mr. Jim Kirk, formerly of Rose Hills states that Mr. Hieatt presented ten bushes to the member of the San Diego Rose Society who could come up with the best name for the rose. Mrs. Mabel Pillsbury won that honor, and the rose fell into obscurity. I could find no information concerning it as it was never registered, but Bev Dobson's Combined Rose List from 1986 showed Rose Acres as the source. Mr. Kirk confirmed that Mr. Hieatt had given him FLAME OF LOVE. as well as I ZINGARI many years before, and he had brought them from his garden at Poway, California to Rose Hills. Mr. Kirk gave Muriel Humenick a plant of FLAME OF LOVE, and now this beautiful single hybrid tea is back in circulation.

The plant has grown to about three feet, and produces an endless stream of five inch, brilliant red flowers with bright yellow pollen. from very long, shapely buds. There is a prominent bright yellow zone to the base of the petals, surrounding dark red stamen, carrying golden pollen. It is a valuable addition to the single bed.

This year's Heritage Rose Catalog offers a study rose called "SINGLE RED HYBRID TEA", described as "large, velvety red blooms complimented by a vigorous bush and healthy green foliage". It would be great if this proved to be one of the all-too-many singles to have been forgotten. We shall see. The most recent registration I have run across is for DAISY MAE, a yellow single hybrid tea created by Louis Stoddard a few years back, but not available. Too bad, as it may be an interesting addition.

These wonderful roses possess a unique charm, grace and elegance not often encountered today. Jack Harkness states in his great book, Roses, that they have been pretty much superseded by the floribunda class. Yet, few floribundas, if any, combine the beauty of the wild or species roses with the well-behaved plant and continuous bloom of our modern bedding roses. They allow you to enjoy modem versions of Nature's beauty without needing to devote large areas of your garden for a few plants with a short period of bloom. Plus, they represent a time of simpler, more elegant gardening. Treat yourself to an adventure and plant a few. Get acquainted with some "new" old friends.