This section is from the book "Handbook Of Hardy Trees, Shrubs, And Herbaceous Plants", by W. Botting Hemsley. Also available from Amazon: Handbook of hardy trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants.
These form the most interesting group in the genus, and contain those races longest in cultivation. Here also, and perhaps more than elsewhere, we find great divergence of opinions among botanists as to the number of species and the characters they should rest upon. For our own part we are inclined to look upon the whole group as one species, which, either by natural variation or hybridisation with other species, has given birth to all these secondary forms. We shall pass in review the principal varieties.
R. centifolia, Hundred-leaved Rose, is the true classical species, one of the most beautiful, the most deliciously scented, the one sung by the poets of all epochs, and the one which held the first rank in our gardens until the arrival of the Perpetual species from China and India, which without sufficient reason have banished it to the second or third place. The attar of Roses of commerce is furnished to a great extent by the varieties of this species. Even in France it is cultivated on a considerable scale for the needs of perfumery.
It is a bush 3 to 6 feet in height, having its stems armed with unequal spines interspersed with bristles and glandular hairs. The leaves consist of five large broadly ovate doubly toothed leaflets with glandular hairs on the margins. The flowers are large and more or less double according to the varieties, solitary or two or three together on the same peduncle, drooping, rose or rosy carmine, with the calyx-tube clothed with glandular viscose odoriferous hairs. The fruit is ovoid-oblong, but never much elongated, of an orange or reddish colour when ripe.
It is not known with certainty whether this species is a native of Southern Europe, although it is found naturalised in many places; but it is probable that it was originally brought from the East at a very remote period.
The Hundred-leaved Rose has varied in all directions through the influence of climates, soils, culture, and above all, we believe, by crossing; but there are three particularly remarkable variations - one affecting the size, another the colour, and a third the hairy clothing of the calyx-tube. To the first modi-fication belong the Miniature Provence or Pompon Roses, exceedingly dwarf bushes, whose flowers, without ceasing to be double, are veritable miniatures. To the second belong those in which the normal rosy carmine is replaced by a more or less pure white; and to the third belong the Moss Roses, already numerous in varieties, which are distinguished by the curious transformation of the hairs of the calyx-tube, and sometimes also those of the peduncles and petioles, into a green wad very similar to moss. This class of Roses is very much prized in England, where, it appears, the first Moss Roses raised from seed were observed.
Nursery catalogues contain the names of several hundreds of varieties of the Centifolia class, either with or without the qualification of hybrid. We have already said that the arbitrary classifications adopted by horticulturists have no scientific value, and we might add that in a gardening point of view they are of very slender utility. The catalogues are filled with names of varieties, many of which it is utterly impossible to distinguish. It would be a great service to amateurs if these catalogues were scrupulously purged, and thenceforward none but varieties of real merit admitted. In this way many of the older varieties, almost abandoned at the present time, would reassert their claims to be placed in the first rank, and this fact induces us to enumerate a few here which already date back many years.
Amongst the common Centifolias or Provence Roses we have the Painters' Rose (fig. 83), very large, very double and rose-coloured; the common Cabbage Rose, very large, double, rosy-pink; the Celery-leaved Rose, medium size, full, and rosecoloured; Triomphe d' Abbeville, very large, double, bright rose; Vilmorin, large, full, flesh-coloured; Kingston, very small, full, rose; Unique blanche, medium size, full, and white.
Fig. 83. Painters' Rose. (1/4 nat. size.)
Fig. 84. Dwarf Pompon. (1/2 nat. size.)
Miniature Provence or Pompon Roses : - Saint Francois or Dwarf Pompon (fig. 84), very small, full, and rose-coloured; the White Pompon or Pompon blanc, very small, full and white. Moss Roses exhibit all shades of colour from pure white to deep crimson : Sage-leaved Moss Rose, medium, double, rose; Shining-leaved Moss Rose, medium, full, delicate rose; Blanche or White, medium, double, white; Carnee, large, full, flesh-coloured; cristata (fig. 85), large, full, rose, with the calyx-lobes mossy; Mousseuse de Metz, medium, full, deep rose; Mousseuse d'Orleans, medium, full, bright purple; Panachee double, medium, full, white or flesh, often striped; Peretuelle Mauget, medium, full, rose, very delicate; Zoe (fig. 86), medium, full, rose, very mossy. There are besides some Moss Roses with a longer flowering season, and thus called perpetual. Madame Ory and Salet are referred to this category.
Fig. 85. Crested Moss Rose. (1/4 nat. size.)
Fig. 86. Moss Rose, Zoe. (1/4 nat. size.)
R. Gallica, the French or Provins Rose, and R. Provincialis (of some authors), the Provence Rose, are merely races of R. centifolia, from which they are with difficulty distinguished. Indeed, it seems probable that they are derived from crosses between this species and another, the differences being too slender to warrant any other assumption. The Provins Rose differs but slightly from the typical Centifolia, and chiefly in having larger clusters of flowers, which are erect instead of drooping. An immense number of varieties of all shades, from white to deep carmine, belong here, and are often confounded with those of the common Centifolia or Provence. We may mention the Rose de Champagne or de Meaux, which is a dwarf variety, and Tricolore de Flandre, which is supposed to be a hybrid between the Provins and some other species. This rose is of medium size, very double, admirably streaked with bright carmine on a white ground. It is perhaps the most beautiful of striped Roses.
R. Damascena, Damask or Monthly Rose, may be nothing more than a tolerably distinct race of R. centifolia, so much does it resemble this species in all its essential characteristics. It is distinguished from it, however, by its longer spines, oblong fruits, flowers in corymbs, and the recurved calyx-leaves at the time of flowering - in the latter character approaching R. alba. The origin of this species is equally obscure with that of the preceding; but according to tradition it comes from Syria, and particularly from the neighbourhood of Damascus, whence it was brought by a certain Comte de Brie on his return from the Crusade. Some authors, among others Lindley and Loiseleur-Deslongsehamps, unite R. Belgica, the Belgian Rose, which differs in its smaller stature and larger clusters of flowers, and R. bifera., remarkable for the long duration of its flowering season, with R. Damascena, as simple varieties.
Horticultural catalogues mention numerous varieties of the Damask Rose, with rose, white or striped flowers. Many of these varieties are indubitably hybrids, and not always recognisable from those issuing from R. Portlandica, which itself may be of hybrid origin. We may cite the following as being some of the best: - Leda or Painted, blush, edged with lake; La Ville de Bruxelles, very large and double, of a rosy salmon colour; Madame Soetmans, creamy white, large and full; Madame Hardy, the most beautiful of the White Roses of this group; and lastly, according to some Rose growers, Gloire des Rosomanes, discovered by M. Vibert, of Angers, amongst his seedlings, and by some without further proof referred to the Tea Rose; but William Paul makes a subordinate group of this and the varieties it has given rise to in the Hybrid Perpetual class.
R. Portlandica, the Portland Rose, so named in honour of the Duchess of Portland, a great admirer of Roses, who had herself a celebrated rosary towards the end of the last century. It is one of the best varieties England has produced. According to Andrews it approaches both R. Gallica and R. Da-mascena, having the foliage of the former and the fruit of the latter. The flowers are almost invariably solitary, large, semi-double, and of the most beautiful bright carmine. The wood is of a paler green, with numerous fine thorns, and the foliage of a lighter green than in most other Roses. But what distinguishes it still better is the long continued succession of flowers, which are produced from early Summer till late in the Autumn; and hence it has become the parent of a multiplicity of new varieties possessing the same advantage of a protracted flowering season. These are known as Hybrid Perpetual or Portland Hybrid varieties. It is almost beyond a doubt that a great number of these are due to fresh crosses, not only between the primitive types, the Damask and Provins, but also with other species, thus offering such a confused mixture of characters as to render satisfactory classification impossible. It is supposed that the beautiful bright crimson Rose du Roi is a descendant of the Portland Rose, the merit of discovering which is attributed to M. Souchet, formerly gardener at the Palace of Fontainebleau. Few Roses enjoy such wide-spread popularity, and are cultivated on so large a scale as this is in Paris and its environs.1
1 Recent investigations have led to these Roses being united as one species under the name of R. Gallica.