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Welcome to the October 2002 edition of my web site! The roses I write about are the Old Garden Roses and select shrub and miniature roses of the 20th century. For tips on rose culture, pruning, propagation and history, see "Other resources on this site". To return to this page, click on the "thorn icon" in the margin at left. Articles from the previous months are archived and can be viewed by clicking on the listings in the left margin. Oh, and please don't write to me for a catalog or pricelist.....this is an information site only.....not a commercial nursery. If you wish to buy roses, see my sponsor, The Uncommon Rose. Thanks!

History and Nomenclature of the Fairy Roses*
By DR. G. H. M. Lawrence, Director Bailey Hortotium, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.
Reproduced from the 1953 American Rose Annual, thanks to the American Rose Society.

*The term "Fairy Roses" was an early name given to the Miniature Chinas group of roses, and their earliest modern hybrids. We have since come to know them as simply Miniature Roses.

Much painstaking research has gone into this paper which summarizes the history of the Fairy Roses and clarifies much of the confusion that has long existed in the nomenclature of this importance group of roses.

The Fairy Roses are dwarf plants, producing single or double flowers with acute or acuminate petals. There are many kinds, varying in height from two to eighteen inches, and in flower diameter from one half to one and one half inches. The plants are perpetual bloomers. Sometimes confused with them are dwarf variants of the Provence Rose (R. centifolia var. pomponia) but these may be distinguished from the Fairy Roses by their round-tipped petals and their habit of flowering only once a season. The Fairy Roses are unquestionably of Chinese origin, whereas the Provence Roses are natives of Central Europe.

The Fairy Roses include a wide range of variants, propagated commercially as named clones. They have been in cultivation since at least 1810 and probably a decade longer. Any discussion of the taxonomy of these named clones should take into consideration the fact that historically they belong to two more or less well defined periods. Those of the first period (ending about 1920) appear to represent selections of selfed seedlings or chance mutations of original stocks of what is now known as Rosa chinensis var. minima, or of intravarietal crosses between these stocks. Those of the second period include also hybrids with other species, and their derivatives. The second period began with Correvon's introduction in 1922 of what he called Rosa Roulettii, a plant not distinguishable from the rose Pompon de Paris which is believed to be a derivative of R. chinensis var. minima. This derivative, and selfed seedlings of it, have been among the principal progenitors of the score or so of variants now in the trade. They differ from those of the first period in that a majority resulted from crosses between Pompon de Paris [i. e., " Roulettii"] stocks and dwarf floribundas and polyanthas. Horticulturally it is not always possible to differentiate clones of interspecific hybrid origin (most of those now cultivated) from the much earlier ones of infraspecific hybrid origin. For this reason it would seem expedient, if not biologically accurate, to group them as clones of a single taxon (i. e., R. chinensis var. minima).

There are many ideas and some uncertainty current among rosarians as to the correct botanical name for the miniature Fairy Rose. In the first place, one must decide if these plants are to be treated as a species distinct from other rose species, or if they represent a variant of an earlier named species. This decision is a matter of opinion, i. e., an opinion that can most reliably be reached after one has a knowledge of rose species as a whole and an understanding of the range of variation and of the genetic stability (or instability) of these species. This paper does not attempt to answer the question, but rather presents the views of some specialists and points out which name is to be used in either case.

Sims (1815) published the first illustration and description of the Fairy Rose in Curtis' Botanical Magazine, vol. 42, plate 1762. He named it as Rosa semperflorens var. minima and referred to it as Miss Lawrance's Rose. His color plate shows a branch about 6 inches long with two single pale pink flowers about 1 ˝inches across whose 5 petals are darker at the tip. Of it he wrote:

"Our present subject is the most dwarfish Rose that has ever fallen under our notice, rarely producing any branches, so large as represented in our plate. We are inclined to consider it a seminal variety, perhaps of hybrid origin; yet we cannot assert that it is not a distinct species. It is generally known among collectors by the name of Miss Lawrance's Rose."

On "Miss Lawrance," Sims further wrote that the plants " have generally been represented as fresh importations from China; we believe however that most of them have been raised from seed here." The source of the plant figured (a Mr. Hudson, of the war office) did not indicate whether the plants were imported or grown from seed.

Thory in Redoute's Roses (1817) treated the Fairy Rose as R. indica var. pumila. He recognized two forms, a single flowered type [flores simplici, vol. 2, p. 25] and a double flowered type [flores multiplici, vol. 1, p. 115]. He designated them as the Dwarf Bengal rose. Later, in his Prodromus Monographic Generis Rosae (1820), Thory still recognized these two variants, but treated Miss Lawrance's Rose as varietally distinct from both, noting "differe par ses tiges tres aiguillonnees" [differs by the stems very spiny]. This variant he named R. indica Lawrantiana, citing Sims' plate in Botanical Magazine as a basic reference.

Robert Sweet was the first to describe the plant as a species, doing so in his Hortus Suburbanus Londinensis (1818). He published for it the name Rosa Lawranceana, observing that it had been introduced in 1810 from Mauritius, and referring to Sims' plate in Botanical Magazine as representing the species. I find no earlier authority for the Mauritius origin, but several early writers adopted it as true and, if correct, the plant may be presumed to have come from the orient, perhaps by way of Mauritius.

Auguste de Pronville published (1818) an account of the kinds of roses grown in the leading gardens and estates in the environs of Paris. Contrary to all expectation, I failed to find there any mention of an ever-blooming dwarf type identifiable with the Fairy Rose. Likewise, T. P. Vibert six years later, in his catalogue of roses cultivated in the environs of Paris, did not list any identifiable as dwarf Fairy roses, although by a decade later he had introduced at least two named variants.

The treatment in Lindley's monograph of 1820 [Rosarum Monographia] is not much more complete than that of Sims and Sweet. Lindley considered the plant to be a distinct species [R. Lawranceana] pointing out that "the difference in number of ovaries [pistils] . . . appears constant, and therefore impor- tant." This is an erroneous observation—the number of pistils varying from 18 to 60. Lindley also appears to have been in error in stating of the species: "Mr. Sweet introduced it from the Mauritius, some years ago." No statement by Sweet has been found to substantiate this opinion. Sweet merely gave the source as Mauritius, but did not indicate he was the introducer. Lindley mentioned no variants, and there is nothing in the short description to indicate that he knew the plant personally.

Syndham Edwards published a color plate of a single flowered form under the name Rosa Lawranceana in 1822 (in Botanical Register). He too credited Sweet with having introduced the plant from Mauritius, noting that "it may be the Rosa pusilla of the Catalogue of Botanic Garden there [p. 15]." Apparently this is pure conjecture on Edwards' part, as concerns the name Rosa pusilla, in that the name in the catalogue is a nomen nudum and no one knows what rose was intended.

The above recounts the beginnings of the botanical history of the group. Before reviewing the horticultural development of the Fairy Rose, a summary of the nomenclatural situation is in order. In this regard, it must be remembered that the rules of botanical nomenclature prescribe that, barring certain exceptions, one must take up the oldest epithet in the accepted category for a given plant. From the synonymy presented below the oldest species name for the Fairy Rose is seen to be Rosa Lawranceana and the oldest varietal epithet is minima with the correct varietal name, R. chinensis var. minima.

Rosa semperflorens var. minima, Sims in Curtis' Botanical Magazine, 42: pi. 1762, 1815.
Rosa indica pumila, Thory in Redoute, Roses, 1: 115, 1817.
Rosa Lawranceana, Sweet, Hortus Suburbanus Londinensis, p. 119, 1818.
Rosa indica humilis, Seringe, Melanges Botaniques, 1: 44, 1818.
Rosa indica var. Lawrantiana, Thory, Prodromus Monographic Generis Rosae, p. 131, 1820.
Rosa Laurentiae, Trattinnick, Rosacearum mongraphia, 1: 105, 1823.
Rosa Nanula, Hoffmannsegg, Verzeichniss der Pflanzenkulturen etc., p. 108, 1824.
Rosa chinensis var. minima, (Sims) Voss, Vilmorin's Blumengartneri, 1: 257, 1894.
Rosa indica var. minima, (Sims) Bean, Trees and Shrubs of the British Isles, 2: 430, 1914.
Rosa Roulettii, Correvon, in Gardeners' Chronicle, Series 3, 72: 342, 1922.

If the above synonymy appears somewhat confusing because of the attachment of the varietal epithet to different species names by various authors, one should remember that we now consider Rosa chinensis, Jacquin (1768) to be a large and variable species. Rosa semperflorens, Curtis (1794) is accepted as a variety of it [R. chinensis var. semperflorens (Curtis) Koehne]. Rosa indica is a name under which Linnaeus lumped a melange of oriental roses and no one knows just what plant he did mean to designate. For this reason the name has been rejected as a nomen confusum [a confused name]. Since R. semperflorens is a variety of R. chinensis, then plants formerly treated as variants of R. semperflorens become, in turn, varieties of R. chinensis. If the Fairy Rose is not considered to be a distinct species (and no contemporary botanist is known to so treat it), then it too becomes a variant of R. chinensis [R. chinensis var. minima] as it has been treated by Rehder and others for the last 40 years.

It is important to note that probably few or none of the present day Fairy Roses are genetically identical with those on which any of the above names is based. There is ample evidence, presented below, of great variability in early stocks of Fairy Rose. While modern stocks are largely of interspecific hybrid origin, there is no suggestion in the literature that this is true of those of a century and more ago. Nomenclaturally, these modern variants could be handled, like the earlier ones, as clones of R. chinensis minima. "Roulettii" has been identified by Lambert and by Kordes to be identical with Pompon de Paris, a clonal name, on a par with Tom Thumb. By this view, the name is then a synonym of Pompon de Paris. Certainly the plant is not a species. That is, it should be listed as R. chinensis var. minima cl. Pompon de Paris, not under the species name of R. Roulettii.

Miss Mary Lawrance was a botanical artist in London, active during the period of 1790 to 1805. In 1799 she published a folio volume containing 90 of her color plates of cultivated roses. It is presumed that the Fairy Rose was named in her honor and in partial recognition of her folio volume.

It will be noted that early authors spelled Miss Lawrance's name variously, both in latinized and English spellings. I have used the original spellings below in each instance.

The record is not clear as to when members of this complex of dwarf variable plants were first introduced into cultivation. The Fairy Rose was known in England as Miss Lawrance's Rose as early as 1815, yet it was not figured by her in her book of 1799. All are agreed that it, or its ancestral stock, came from the Orient and probably from China. Since, however, it is not known in the wild, it is considered a cultigen, a plant originating in cultivation.

A very full account of Rosa Lawranceana was given in 1829 in the "Catalogue descriptif . . . des especes et sous-varietes du genre Rosier. . . ." cultivated in Rouen at the firm of Prevost et Fils. It was described as the smallest species of the genus, everblooming, and with many variants, some as large as two feet in height. Four varieties were described; two very dwarf variants, one with very small single flowers ["Laurentia simple" offered by M. Noisette of Paris], the second of even smaller size and with double flowers ˝ to .75 inch across ["Laurentia
nain" or "de Chartres" offered by M. Laffay, of Anteuil], and two taller variants growing 1 to 2 feet tall, each double flowered, one with leaves purplish beneath when young, and flowers in clusters of 2 to 5 ["Laurentia double" offered by M. Vibert of St. Denis] and the other with leaves green beneath and the flowers 1 to 1 ˝ inches across, abundant but apparently one on a peduncle [Pompon de Bengale grown by Prevost at Rouen].

Carl Selbstherr of Breslau, published an account of 500 kinds of roses in 1832. In this work he recognized, as a species, Rosa Lauranceana, ascribed its nativity to China, provided a complete description for the species, and recognized 32 variants. It is reasonably clear that he was dealing with segregations from seedlings, which he divided into 2 size-of-plant groups, each of which were subdivided into single and double flowered groups. The divisions subordinate to these were made on the basis of flower color. No fancy names were given nor were earlier names recognized. Each of the variants was given a descriptive Latin name, but without a clear designation of category.

Boitard, in his Manuel Complet de I'amateur de Roses (1836) described 12 variants of Fairy Rose, stating that they originated at the Isle de Bourbon and were of Chinese origin. Variants listed by him included:

Rosier de Lawrence simple (intr. Noisette) : flowers single
Lawrence de Chartres (intr. Laffay)
Bengale laurentia double (intr. Vibert)
Bengale pompon [Nain] (intr. Prevost)
Lawrenceana onguiculee (intr. Noisette)
Laurenceana mouche (intr. Miellez)
Caprice des Dames (intr. Miellez)
Belle Liliputienne (intr. Laffay)
Lawrenceana Blanc (intr. Laffay)
Lawrenceana Bicolor (intr. Laffay)
Lawrenceana Cramoisi (intr. Laffay)
Lawrenceana a rameaux horizonteaux (intr. Laffay)

Biedenfeld, in 1840, published a full account of cultivated rose species and horticultural varieties (pp. 218-219) taking his material on this group direct from Boitard, although scarcely giving credit to his source of information (p. 30). His descriptions were more ample than those of Boitard and indicated the plants to range in stature from 2 to 24 inches. He described the same 12 variants, but under the following names:

Single Lawrence Rose
Dwarf Lawrence Rose [Lawrence de Chartres]
Double Bengal Lawrence
Dwarf China Rose [Bengal Pompon]
Lawrentia unguiculata
Lawrenceana Mouche

The Lady's Whim [Caprice des Dames]
Belle Liliputienne [Lawrenceana pumila, Louis Philippe]
White Lawrence Rose [Lawrenceana alba]
Bi-colored Lawrence Rose [La Gloire]
Crimson Lawrence Rose [var. nigra}
Lawrenceana a rameaux horizonteaux

Biedenfeld's account is almost a direct translation of that of Boitard, but curiously with its being a work written in German but most of the fancy names of varieties in English, a procedure followed throughout most of his book.

The Fairy Rose was known in America at least in the 1830's, and in 1846 William Prince listed 13 varieties in his Manual of Roses (p. 210), all of French or British origin:

Caprice des Dames: vivid rose-colored flowers
Gloire des Lawrenceas: flowers dark crimson [reported to have been grown by Chenault as late as 1911]
Jenny [rubra]: flowers deep crimson
Master Burke
: plants 2" across, flowers double
: flowers darkest crimson
Pallida: flowers white turning salmon
Petite Laponne [La Ponne]
Pompon bijou
Pompone [indica minor] : flowers 1 ˝ in. across
Pretty American: 6-8 in. tall
Retour du Printemps: calyx very large

In his catalogue of that year Prince offered 16 named varieties which included, in addition to most of those cited above:

Blush [Fairy] .
De Chartres [Due de Chartres] : flowers rose, very small
Dieu-Donne: flowers bright purple
La Miniature: flowers crimson, very small
La Mouche: flowers deep rose, very small
Pourpre-brun: flowers brownish-purple, very small

Wilhelm Döll's treatise, "Der Rosen-Garten," published in 1855, accounted for the same varieties as did Prince, plus La Desiree: flowers carmine red and Nemesis: flowers dark carmine, larger than others.

Robert Buist, well-known Philadelphia nurseryman, in his Rose Manual (1844), devoted a chapter to Rosa Lawrenciana, indicating the dwarf habit to be the result of selection and by the rogueing out of larger individuals. He described the imported French varieties La Miniature, Gloire and Bijou and two Amer- ican novelties: Pretty American, a plant 6-7 inches tall and Prince of Dwarf named in 1840 by S. Feasts, of Baltimore, and found as a sport among plants of Master Burke [of British origin]. Of this Buist noted that when 7 years old the plants were only 2 inches tall and 1˝ inches across with very double flowers "about the size of buckshot."

In his book "The Rose," Henry Ellwanger wrote in 1892: "What are called Fairy Roses are miniature Bengals; we do not consider them of any value, the Bengals are small enough." This was the view of one of the country's leading nurserymen, head of the firm of Ellwanger and Barry, Rochester, N. Y.

Simon's Nomenclature de tous les Noms de Roses (ed. 2, 1906) lists 39 fancy-named variants of the Fairy Rose. Of this number five are obviously synonyms or orthographic variants of earlier names. Only eight of the total are assigned dates of introduction, and of these the earliest is 1810 [Le Lawrence, by Swelt] and the latest is 1847 [Blanc, by Laffay]. Of the 31 lacking known dates, all presumed to be of early introduction and representing for the most part names enumerated earlier in this paper, only nine bear names of introducers. This list in- cludes the earliest references seen by me to Pompon de Paris.

'Centennial Miss'At left: 'Centennial Miss'.

For the most part, these early variants of Fairy Rose appear to have been clonal segregations of seedlings. The chance discovery in Switzerland of "Roulettii" [R. Roulettii **] by Dr. Roulet (a major in the Swiss army reserves) as a window pot plant in Onnens [near Geneva], and its introduction to rosarians by Correvon in 1922, opened a new era of popularity in this country for these miniatures. At that time Peter Lambert of Trier, Germany, found it indistinguishable from his old stocks of Pompon de Paris, a view corroborated by Kordes. For this reason, the name Roulettii is treated here as a synonym of Pompon de Paris. Following this, Pompon de Paris was selfed and its seed- lings undoubtedly have contributed to the parentage of many of the 18 variants of Fairy Rose listed in Modkrn Roses IV. One of the latter is Tom Thumb [Peon], and crosses of it and of Pompon de Paris ["Roulettii"] with dwarf floribundas and polyanthas have resulted in such recent introductions as: Bo Peep, Midget, Peria de Alcanada, Peria de Montserrat, Peria Rosa, Pixie, Red Elf, Red Imp, Rosina, and Sweet Fairy. Oakington Ruby, originated in England in 1933 (of parentage unknown to me) and perhaps from Rouletti progeny, is a parent of Centennial Miss and Cutie, both of current introduction. Plants now grown as Pompon de Paris, known on the Paris market as early as 1839, may or may not be that early variant. Certainly they are not much if any different from Roulettii. In this connection, I am disturbed at not finding the name in the rose literature of the last Century. Why is it not cited in the works of the 1830's-1850's?

This paper makes no pretense of completeness: I regret having no cytogenetic data on present day clones for comparison with early and long-established variants, and it is more than likely that more knowledgeable rosarians will be able to correct or amplify some of the information given here regarding introductions and longevity in the trade of variants of the Fairy Rose. Kordes writes [private communication to Dr. R. C. Alien] Pompon de Paris [Roulettii] and Tom Thumb [Peon] are fertile and are diploids and that progeny whose pollen parent is Tom Thumb are always triploid. If others can provide further documentation to this account, I will appreciate having it sent to me.

** It has been alleged that the name " Roulettii " is an erroneous spelling, since it commemorates a Dr. Roulet. The original spelling used by Correvon has two t's and was consistently used by him in his writings. The rules state that the original spelling must be retained unless cor- rected as an orthographic error. There are scores of examples of delib- erate orthographic divergences in botanical literature, as the tree Gleditsia [for Gleditsch], Steviarfia [for John Stuart] or Stillingia [tor Dr. Stillingfleet].

One final note on another topic: Sequoia Nursery is working to obtain many of the older Miniature hybrids they once produced in order to create an archive of all the Ralph Moore Miniatures. They are asking for the public's help in locating a number of these "lost" roses. If you have any of the roses on the list and are willing to share cuttings, please contact Carolyn at Sequoia and let her know. Your assistance will be greatly appreciated. Click here to view the list.

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