By KARL P. JONES, Barrington, Rhode Island
Reprinted from the 1948 American Rose Annual with permission of the American Rose Society
To WALTER D. BROWNELL was given the vision and the persistence to follow the trail blazed by the late Dr. Walter Van Fleet. For nearly 20 years, first as an amateur with a hobby and later as a commercial hybridizer, this rosarian has carried on the work started by the pioneer American hybridist. Strangely, he is one of the few hybridizers to do so. While they were active, the French firm of Barbier & Company introduced nearly 30 Wichuraiana climbers but no Wichuraiana hybrid teas, and only four of the climbers—Albertine, Francois Poisson, Jacotte and Primevere—made any headway in the United States.
Some 20 named roses are credited to Dr. Walter Van Fleet, 12 of which are Wichuraiana hybrids, five Rugosa hybrids, two Centifolias, one a hybrid tea and one a multiflora rambler. All of these are particularly hardy and disease free, the sort of roses the amateur gardener prefers. Five of his Wichuraiana hybrids are generally popular today—American Pillar, Dr. W. Van Fleet, Glenn Dale, Mary Wallace and Silver Moon.
Where Van Fleet left off, Walter Brownell began, and his work and that of his family is giving us a new and continually improved group of hardy, disease-resistant roses that can be grown with a minimum of effort in our queer New England climate.
From the Brownell Rose Gardens in Little Compton, Rhode Island, in 1933 came the famous Golden Climber rose named for Mrs. Arthur Curtiss James. This rose, a cross between Mary Wallace and a Pernetiana seedling, was the first of a series of hybrid Wichuraiana climbers, all of which are capable of withstanding without special protection most of the severe winters of southern New England. Like many of the hardier climbers of its type, it requires two or three summers to get its feet in the ground, but once it gets a toe-hold its growth will rival that of any other climber grown in the eastern part of the United States.
The Brownells have introduced some 20 climbers and several
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dozen hybrids teas, all of which are related to Rosa Wichuraiana. Without exception these roses are directly related to either Dr. W. Van Fleet, Glenn Dale, or Mary Wallace or to two or all three of these climbers. For instance, the beautiful, rich copper-colored climber, Copper Glow, introduced in 1940, had as its parents Golden Glow and Break o'Day; Golden Glow is a descendant of both Glenn Dale and Mary Wallace; Break o'Day is a cross between an unnamed seedling and Glenn Dale. Both the flowers and the foliage are improvements over either of the parents and the rose has lost none of their hardiness.
Another typical instance is the truly magnificent spectrum-yellow climber Elegance, also descended from Glenn Dale and Mary Wallace. No pale yellow hardy climber grown can compare with this rose.
A climber of a different sort, named for the late Frederick S. Peck, a cross between a hybrid creeper and Mrs. Arthur Curtiss James, has large, informal, semi-double flowers. This rose throws out long, slender laterals from the main canes and it is on these that next year's best blooms appear. If pruning is confined to shaping and to the removal of dead wood, this plant will respond with a profusion of delicate flowers of a deep grenadine pink with yellow centers.
A collector's item is the strange Golden Orange Climber, a sport of Mrs. Arthur Curtiss James. It doesn't bloom profusely but its huge blossoms are unlike those of any other rose in the garden. The opened flower is five to six inches across and has about 15 large, crinkly, poppy-like petals, orange and golden yellow with a scarlet tinge at the edges—a delightful but fragile blossom, orientally exotic.
Of the other dozen and a half climbers born in Little Compton the best are Coral Creeper, Golden Glow, Golden Pyramid, Magic Carpet and White Gold, all of which can be grown as vigorous climbers. Orange Everglow will sometimes repeat but it is usually only a much more vigorous Copper Glow.
The Brownells have also created very hardy and disease-resistant hybrid teas, practically every one of which has the blood of one or more of the three Van Fleet Wichuraiana hybrids mentioned before. If these roses are properly cared for and allowed to grow, with only such pruning as is necessary to hold
them to a pleasing shape and to clear out dead wood, then most of these Brownell "sub-zero" hybrid teas will grow to amazing size. Lily Pons has been grown to five feet in diameter and seven feet in height and M. B. to nearly the same size. Lily Pons is a prolific bloomer with a bud as large as Frau Karl Druschki and nearly as perfect as that of its parent, Glenn Dale. M. B. is a vigorous grower and makes a handsome compact bush. In my garden this rose bloomed every month from June to November.
Anne Vanderbilt, a descendant from Mary Wallace through Stargold, is listed as a dwarf. A very strange dwarf indeed, for it "jumps on its horse and rides wildly in all directions." This is literally true, for it shoots out six-foot canes. Here is one rose that takes considerable "whacking" to keep in shape. The flowers are a delightful reddish orange, large petaled and fragrant, and the plant can easily be grown five feet tall or larger.
This strong, clean growth is typical of most of the Brownell roses; they need more breathing space than the more tender hybrid teas. Pink Princess and V for Victory can be grown to five- or six-foot plants and their blooms are the equal of most of their tender rivals but they need to be spaced no closer than four feet apart to grow properly.
With the exception of the species roses, none in my garden get as little winter attention as do these Brownell roses. After the first year none of them are even hilled. During the winter of 1942-43 several of the more exposed climbers were injured but not any were lost. As for disease, they seem to be on a par with the Van Fleet hybrids—less susceptible to mildew and blackspot.
Perhaps some day the Brownells will create new and better sub-zero hybrid teas and an everblooming companion for New Dawn with brighter color.
Reprinted from the American Rose Annual 1948, courtesy of the American Rose Society
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Date last edited: 01/21/10
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