The Yellow Rose is published monthly. Carolyn Hayward is the editor.
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Each month the newsletter contains a beautiful full-color print of an antique old garden rose. Betty always include a description of the rose along with a detailed history. The Yellow Rose also includes:
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February 2009 sample of The Yellow Rose
By Dr. William C. Welch and Greg Grant
Editor's note: This is an excerpt from The Southern Heirloom Garden by Dr. William C. Welch and Greg Grant (pp 159-160). This article is reprinted from the February 2009 issue of The Yellow Rose newsletter.
(An) instance of the China rose's durability came to me during an unscheduled visit I made with several Southern Garden History Society members who (like myself) were attending the May 1994 annual meeting in Colonial William:'"burg.
Our stop was at the Dora Armistead garden on Duke of Gloucester Street. According to the present owner, Judge Robert T. Armistead, the home was built in 1890 on the foundation of a 1715 home where, it is said, George Washington once slept. Dora Armistead was a noted gardener in her day and her nephew a botanist. Today, this late Victorian structure, on of only a handful remaining in the historic district, has lost much of its original splendor, but the remnants of the garden included some true gems.
Several roses throughout the property were in full bloom; one of these I considered to be a major find. For years I had searched for the climbing form of, a robust dark red China rose. The bush form is frequently found on old home sites, cemeteries, and similar locations throughout the South. Although I had seen references to the climbing form, it had always eluded me-until now.
Quite often the old roses found at abandoned sites survive in less than ideal conditions. The magnificent specimen I found in the Armistead garden, however, had been carefully trained to shade the large front porch of the house. Judge Armistead testified that this rose is so vigorous, it sometimes climbs well on to the roof of the porch, although a freeze several years ago had cut it back. He speculated that Dora Armistead planted this particular specimen in the 1890s.
Although I had never encountered this rose in the flesh before, I had come across it in print, in an article published in The San Antonio Express (September 2, 1934) and The Dallas Morning News (December 16, 1934) by Adina de Zavala. Miss de Zavala was chair of the Texas Centennial Commission and was encouraging Texans to plant roses to celebrate the state's upcoming centennial celebration in 1936.
In the article, she related her memories of conversations with her grandmother, Emily West de Zavala, and visits to her garden, which dated to the early 1830s. Grandmother Emily had begun her garden shortly after her husband Lorenzo returned to Texas from a stint as ambassador to France-he had also served as vice-president for the newly formed Republic of Texas. While in France, Lorenzo reported receiving gifts of new China roses to take back to this home in Texas.
Of the roses Adina remembered seeing in the garden, she specifically mentioned a climbing form of 'Cramoisi Superieur' that wreathed one of the columns of the plantation house. The curious thing is that her recollections pre-cede the actual introduction of this rose. Greg Grant's files on red China roses include two climbing forms of 'Cramoisi Superieur': 'Rev. James Sprunt', which was introduced by Sprunt in 1858, and 'Climbing Cramoisi Superieur', which was introduced by the Coutourier of France in 1885.
Peter Henderson, a well-known horticultural author and plants man of the period, introduced both roses through his nursery in New York, and they were also listed by two early Texas nurseries: Gilbert Onderdonk's Mission Valley Nurseries in 1888 and William Watson's Rosedale Nurseries of Brenham in 1899. These two forms may be the same, both being climbing sports of the same well-known shrub ('Cramoisi Superieur').
How either climber found its way so early into Emily de Zavala's garden remains a mystery, unless it was that she had a plant of the original shrub form of 'Cramoisi Superieur" which sported for her.
In his book Shrub Roses of Today, Graham Stuart Thomas wrote, "The climbing form 'Cramoisi Superieur Grimpante' is a magnificent plant for a sunny wall." And in his catalogue of 1912, nurseryman Tom Smith noted that he had "seen the whole front of a two-story house completely covered with the Climbing Cramoisi," whose flowers "are continually produced all the season through." But my enthusiasm for this rose goes beyond its unique beauty. There are few truly red heirloom roses and even fewer climbers. Because China roses usually re-bloom profusely, it could be a very useful plant for period or modern gardens. Certainly, it was not difficult to infect Southern Garden History Society members Steve Wheaton, Peggy Newcomb, and Peter Schaar with my enthusiasm for this rose.
Rumor has it that a few carefully selected cuttings may have left Colonial Williamsburg in their luggage. (Rumor also has it that a few snippings might have made it back to Texas.)
As I write this it is mid-July, 1994, and a few cuttings appear to be taking root. With luck, this interesting rose may be available to Southern gardeners again in a couple of years.
There are many useful roses in the China class, most of them being red or pink. Red Chinas are probably the most commonly found old rose in the South. Most appear either to belong to the varieties 'Louis Philippe' or 'Cramoisi Superieur.' 'Louis Philippe' is common in Louisiana, particularly in the New Orleans area, where it is sometimes referred to as the "Creole Rose."