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by Brent C. Dickerson, author of 'The Old Rose Advisor' and 'The Old Rose Adventurer'. (copyright Brent C. Dickerson, 1999)

Today, Bourbon roses are much beloved by aficionadoes of old roses, such delights as the Bourbons 'Souvenir de la Malmaison', 'Reine Victoria', and 'mme. Isaac Pereire' being among the best known of any class. As is so often the case in rose history, however, the early days of the group are little known and poorly understood, even by their greatest enthusiasts. We therefore reach into the murk and pull out what we can to gain some greater focus on the early days of the Bourbons.

Various stories about the inception of the Bourbons have circulated since their appearance. The one which has, from the beginning, been given most credence is this: It was, at some time evidently roughly around the year 1800 or 1810, the custom of the inhabitants of the Indian Ocean island of Reunion, then called the Ile Bourbon, to mark off their land with hedges comprised of, as Monsieur Breon, a botanist of the time, put it, "one row of the Common China Rose [presumably "Old Blush"--that is, 'Parsons' Pink China'], the other of the Red Four-Seasons [presumably the red 'Tous-les-Mois' Damask Perpetual, which was common then]." One Monsieur Edouard Perichon found, when planting one of these hedges, a plant which appeared to be a hybrid of the two, and which was subsequently called, after him, 'Rose Edouard'. Here is a description of 'Rose Edouard' written in 1828, translated from Prevost fils' French: "This was the first one brought to France, and can be considered the Type of the species. Canes long and divergent, armed with much-hooked thorns, which are glandular at their base. Leaflets oval, large, cordiform at their base. Ovary oboid-oblong, glabrous and glaucous at the tip. Corolla medium-sized, hypocrateriform [i.e., "like an antique cup"], double or lightly double, intense and bright deep pink."

Evidently in 1819, Monsieur Breon sent to Antoine Jacques, gardener of the Duc d'Orleans at Neuily, near Paris, seed from 'Rose Edouard'. Five of these seeds sprouted in Spring of 1820, and two of these five "bloomed and rebloomed" in 1821. One of these two seedlings was illustrated by Redoute, who, as was his habit, gave it two names, a scholarly-sounding Latinate one ('Burboniana'), and another in the vernacular ('Rosier de l'Isle de Bourbon' [sic]). Here is how Redoute and his collaborator Thory described it in 1824: "Shrub, tall, vigorous, branched, bushy. Prickles large, hooked, wide, reddish. Leaflets 5 or 7, base rounded, acute at the tip, glabrous on both surfaces, simply dentate, glossy green above, paler beneath; petioles villose, with small sessile glands and tiny prickles; stipules decurrent, acute, denticulate. Flowers sweetly scented, many together at the ends of the laterals; pedicels finely glandulose; bracts elongate, ciliate, glandulose; receptacles ovoid, glabrous; sepals pinnatifid with subsetaceous prickles; petals 3-4 seriate, cordately notched, bright pink. Hips somewhat rounded, ovoid, red. According to the Duc d'Orleans, this rose [meaning by "this rose," confusingly, the *parent* of the rose they illustrate, as close reading will show] grows in waste places on Reunion Island. Seeds brought from there some years ago produced the plants in the Neuilly gardens from which our painting was made. It has a good habit, and the abundance of its blooms, sometimes almost single but mostly semi-double, and their fine color and perfume, make it a worthwhile adornment for landscape gardens."

Meantime, Breon also sent, in 1821, cuttings of the original 'Rose Edouard' to the gardener in charge of the hothouses at the Jardin des Plantes in Paris--Monsieur Neumann; and thus 'Rose Edouard' was soon being distributed under the name 'Neumann' or 'Rose Neumann'. About the same time, a nurseryman of Rouen, Dubreuil, evidently obtained a specimen as well (Dubreuil is known to have had business dealings with the Parisian nurseryman Louis Noisette, who would have had early word on Neumann's offering)--and distributed it as 'Rose Dubreuil' or 'Dubreuil'.

We see, then, that, circa 1822-1823-1824, there were three Bourbons existing in Paris: (1) the original 'Rose Edouard' (alias 'Neumann', alias 'Dubreuil'); (2) the Redoute-illustrated seedling which Jacques raised, named 'Burboniana' (alias 'Rosier de l'Isle de Bourbon''); and, (3), the other Jacques-raised seedling for which no one recorded a name (presumably Jacques discarded the non-reblooming other three of his five Bourbon seedlings).

The ever-enthusiastic rose breeders of France set to work sowing seed from these Bourbons; but they were much daunted because, as was reported, "the specimens brought forth had single flowers, or very double blossoms which aborted." No new Bourbons appeared, therefore, until 1825, when, out of the blue--which is to say, from Lyon--a new Bourbon appeared which was not only completely different from the pink 'Rose Edouard' and its descendants, but which was also to become one of the greatest and most influential roses of all time, 'Gloire des Rosomanes'--bred by Plantier in Lyon, and introduced by Vibert in Paris in 1825.

'Gloire des Rosomanes' is still very much among us, its clusters of velvety-maroon semi-double flowers still deepening and enriching the rose palette a century and three-quarters after its birth. Now, I have always had a notion that 'Gloire des Rosomanes' is not from 'Rose Edouard' or its descendants at all. Plantier would barely have had time to receive a specimen of 'Rose Edouard' and grow it to maturity by 1825, let alone breed it, grow crops of seed from it to maturity, choose a good seedling, and propagate that seedling in time for Vibert to release it in 1825. Further, its coloration and growth differ markedly from those of 'Rose Edouard'. I believe that Plantier, having heard reports in 1819 or 1820 of this cross between the "Common China" and the 'Tous-les-Mois', decided to replicate the cross, only using, instead of 'Parsons' Pink China', rather 'Slater's Crimson China' or one of its close congeners--hence the markedly different color of the blossoms of 'Gloire des Rosomanes' and its many descendants. This, however, is speculation. But it should be noted in support that much of the significance of 'Gloire des Rosomanes' has been in its passing on to its descendants--such as the equally significant Hybrid Perpetual 'General Jacqueminot', or its partial descendant, the also important 'Gruss an Teplitz'--its crimson coloration; we do not see pink roses coming from 'Gloire des Rosomanes' as we did immediately from 'Rose Edouard' and its children.

In 1826, Vibert offered a Bourbon by the name of 'A Fleurs Pales' (i.e., "Pale-Blossomed"). Aside from its name, I have been able to find no description of this rose. I wonder if it was the other of Jacques' two seedlings, alongside 'Burboniana' . . . ?

But in 1827, the early efforts of the breeders began to come to fruition. Vibert offered the pink 'A Fleurs Doubles'; but the Parisian firm of Sylvain-Pean, which specialized in the tender roses--Chinas, Teas, Noisettes--scored big by coming out with no fewer than four new Bourbons: 'Aristide', 'Miltiade', 'Socrate', and 'Sylvain-Pean'. We have some short descriptions of these early Bourbons: 'Aristide'. "Pink," writes Vibert in 1831 and Sisley in 1835. "Semi-double," writes Desportes in 1828. "Delicate rose colour," writes Prince in 1846 of what he calls 'Aristides', no doubt the same Bourbon. 'Miltiade'. The only description which has come down to us is Desportes' 'semi-double' in 1828. 'Socrate'. Singer, writing in 1885, gives us a good description: "Vigorous bush, canes not very thorny; leaflets glaucous, oval, and deeply toothed; corymbs terminal, with 8-10 very double medium-sized blossoms of a bright pink." Desportes is a bit at odds with this, having stated his "semi-double" in 1828. 'Sylvain-Pean'. Though Simon in 1906 has it as "bright red," Desportes in 1828 writes of it as "Bright pink; very double." Sisley, writing of a Bourbon 'Sylvain' in 1835--probably the same rose--calls it "lilac-y pink."

Moving forward to 1828, a familiar name comes into the proceedings. Circa 1828, Laffay released two Bourbons: 'Carnee'. Prevost fils, in 1829, gives this description: "Canes bestrewn with glands for their whole length; armed with pale thorns which are slightly hooked for straight and very large. Ovary claviform, entirely covered with pedicellate glands. Corolla medium-sized, flesh-colored, double or lightly double. Petals thick." 'Heterophylle'. In his 1830 supplement to his catalog, Prevost fils describes this as, "Canes flexuose. Leaflets 5 or 7, the lower ones sharp or rounded, regular, nearly flat; the upper ones are usually very thin, long, linear, flat, often with double serration, very fine and very sharp; or irregular in form, undulate and often contorted, with less regular serration. Peduncle glandulose, rough. Ovary thin, oblong or fusiform, glabrous and glaucous. Sepals ordinarily simple and foliaceous, slender, glandulose. Flower small or medium-sized, single or double, pale pink or flesh. This rose has no merit other than the singularity of its foliage."

Turning aside from Laffay and Paris, we go to Lille, France, and the only two roses Monsieur Rameau ever introduced, the Bourbons: 'Double Rose Tendre'--which is to say "double delicate pink," known also as 'A Fleurs Pleines', which Boitard describes in 1836 as, "Bush with slender canes; leaves composed of foliage which is large and irregularly dentate; flowers full, large, a delicate pink, very regular, disposed in corymbs; petals gradually smaller towards the center, which has a little green bud." 'Pompon de Wasemmes', which had several synonyms, of which we have three descriptions: First, Desportes, in 1828--"Lilac pink, double." Second, de Chsnel, writing in 1838: "Flowers very full, small, and a pale pink." Finally, Boitard in 1836: "Bush not growing very high, having pretty much the stature of the ordinary Pompon [probably 'De Meaux' is meant]; canes diffuse, slender; thorns numerous, close-set, equal, curved; bark smooth and glossy, greenish; leaves of a shiny green. Flowers small, globular, very full, perpetual, fragrant, a pale pink." There is much in this description which brings to mind the Bourbon foundling we call 'Huilito'; the possibility that 'Huilito' is a precious survival of 'Pompon de Wasemmes' should be considered. 'Huilito' is certainly, in appearance and habit, the sort of thing one would expect of an 1820s Bourbon tending towards the China side of its heritage; we can see how such a rose would have been outmoded by the still China-like but more robust 'Hermosa' of just a few years later, in 1834.

Then just two more Bourbons for 1828, from unknown breeders this time: 'Simple'--that is, "single"--which Desportes tells us was "pink." 'Viennot', of which no description has come to light.

But we do have good descriptions for the three Bourbons we assign to 1829:

One comes from Vibert: 'Malvina'. W. Paul, in 1848, reports, "Flowers rosy pink, very large and double; form, cupped. Growth, moderate. A fine Rose late in the autumn, of a beautiful colour." Vibert, in the year of its introduction, laconically advises, "deep pink." One is from Laffay: 'Perpetuelle'. Prevost fils, in 1829, differentiates it from 'Rose Edouard' "by the following characteristics: Canes less out-thrust, glandulose all along their length. Leaflets less smooth. Ovary shorter. Corolla less regular, not as intense a pink. Petals more numerous, bullate, undulate." And to finish up our first decade of Bourbons--and this and the above are *all* the Bourbons there were through the end of 1829--we have another from an unknown breeder. We have two descriptions of 'Crenele'. First, from Prevost fils: "Thorns strong, not very numerous, sparse. No bristles or glands. Petiole glandulose, with stickers. Leaflets 5, oval, sub-orbicular, pointed, glabrous, smooth above. Serration simple. Peduncles in paucifloral corymbs, glabrous on the underside of the bracts up to the ovary, bestrewn only [just] above the bracts with several glands. Ovary glabrous, obconical-turbinate. Sepals glandulose and rough; 3 have very small appendages. Flower medium-sized, double or lightly double, light pink. Petals 12 to 20, short, large, undulate, and scalloped at the out edge [sommet]." And then from W. Paul in 1848: "Flowers rose colour, curious."

These, then, were the first Bourbons--and, but for 'Gloire des Rosomanes', they are all in pinkish shades, and seemingly represent offspring of 'Rose Edouard'. The group was still tentative, was still in a state of flux, of experimentation. It would not really make its mark until the 1830s, when, as we shall see another time, the bounty and possibilities of the class finally became apparent. _____

Footnote: It shold be remarked that 'Zulema', the Bourbon which one sees listed as being released by Vibert in the unlikely year of 1820, actually seems to have been introduced between 1836 and 1846. Similarly, the 'Faustine' attributed to "Noisette, circa 1825," seems rather to be Laffay's 'Faustine' of circa 1831. In their own writings and catalogs of those years, neither Monsieur Vibert nor Monsieur Noisette mention either of these roses attributed to them.

Best Wishes, --BCD.

Web Site: The Old Rose Adventurer, by Brent C. Dickerson


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