There are odd, crotchety persons among horticulturists, who correspond to old bachelors in society, that are never satisfied to love any thing in particular, because they have really no affections of their own to fix upon any object, and who are always, for instance, excusing their want of devotion to the rose, under the pretence that among so many beautiful varieties it is impossible to choose.
Undoubtedly there is an embarras de richesses in the multitude of beautiful varieties that compose the groups and subdivisions of the rose family. So many lovely forms and colors are there, dazzling the eye, and attracting the senses, that it requires a man or woman of nerve as well as taste, to decide and select. Some of the great rose-growers continually try to confuse the poor amateur by their long catalogues, and by their advertisements about "acres of roses." (Mr. Paul, an English nurseryman, published, in June last, that he had 70,000 plants in bloom at once 1) This is puzzling enough, even to one that has his eyes wide open, and the sorts in full blaze of beauty before them. What, then, must be the quandary in which the novice, not yet introduced into the aristocracy of roses, whose knowledge only goes up to a "cabbage-rose," or a "maiden's blush," and who has in his hand a long list of some great collector - what, we say, must be his perplexity, when he suddenly finds amidst all the renowned names of old and new world's history, all the aristocrats and republicans, heroes and heroines of past and present times - Napoleon, Prince Ester-hazy, Tippoo Saib, Semiramis, Duchess of Sutherland, Princesse Clementine, with occasionally such touches of sentiment from the French rose-growers, as Souvenir d'un Ami, or Nid d' Amour (nest of love!) etc., etc.
In this whirlpool of rank, fashion, and sentiment, the poor novitiate rose-hunter is likely enough to be quite wrecked; and instead of looking out for a perfect rose, it is a thousand to one that he finds himself confused amid the names of princes, princesses, and lovely duchesses, a vivid picture of whose charms rises to his imagination as he reads the brief words "pale flesh, wax-like, superb," or "large, perfect form, beautiful," or "pale blush, very pretty;" so that it is ten to one that Duchesses, not Roses, are all the while at the bottom of his imagination!
Now, the only way to help the rose novices out of this difficulty, is for all the initiated to confess their favorites. No doubt it will be a hard task for those who have had butterfly fancies, - coquetting first with one family and then with another. But we trust these horticultural flirts are rare among the more experienced of our gardening readers, - persons of sense, who have laid aside such follies, as only becoming to youthful and inexperienced amateurs.
We have long ago invited our correspondents to send us their "confessions," which, if not as mysterious and fascinating as those of Rousseau, would be found far more innocent and wholesome to our readers. Mr. Buist (whose new nursery grounds, near Philadelphia, have, we learn, been a paradise of roses this season), has already sent us his list of favorites, which we have before made public, to the great satisfaction of many about to form little rose-gardens. Dr. Valk, also, has indicated his preferences. And to encourage other devotees - more experienced than ourselves - we give our own list of favorites, as follows:
First of all roses, then, in our estimation, stands the Bourbons (the only branch of the family, not repudiated by republicans). The most perpetual of all perpetuals, the most lovely in form, of all colors, and many of them of the richest fragrance; and, for us northerners, most of all, hardy and easily cultivated, we cannot but give them the first rank. Let us, then, say:
Souvenir de Malmaison, pale flesh color.
Paul Joseph, purplish crimson.
Hermosa, deep rose.
Queen, delicate fawn color.
Dupetit Thouars, changeable carmine.
Souvenir de Malmaison is, take it altogether, - its constant blooming habit, its large size, hardiness, beautiful form, exquisite color, and charming fragrance, - our favorite rose; the rose which, if we should be condemned to that hard penance of cultivating but one variety, our choice would immediately settle upon. Its beauty suggests a blending of the finest sculpture and the loveliest feminine complexion.
Second to the Bourbons, we rank the Remontantes, as the French term them; a better name than the English one - perpetuals; for they are by no means perpetual in their blooming habit, when compared with the Bourbons, China, or tea roses. They are, in fact, June roses, that bloom two or three times in the season, whenever strong new shoots spring up; hence, no name so appropriate as Remontante, - sending up new flower shoots. We think this class of roses has been a little overrated by rose-growers. Its great merit is the true, old-fashioned rose character of the blossoms, - large and fragrant as a damask or Provence rose. But in this climate, Remontantes cannot be depended on for a constant supply of flowers, like Bourbon roses. Here are our favorites:
* It has seemed best to keep this chapter intact as first written by Mr. Downing. So many new roses have been introduced since his day, however, that his recommendations of particular varieties cannot be expected to cover the field at this time. In an appendix there has been given therefore a modern list of the best varieties now available in American nurseries. - F. A. W.