Breeders of Note: Dr. Walter Lammerts

Ed Cunningham


Dr. Walter Lammerts introduced 46 roses between 1940 and 1981. This is a small number, compared to the giants of the field, like Harkness, Kordes, McGredy, Meilland, et al. It seems particularly small when you consider the resources available to him as the first leader of the Armstrong Nurseries' Rose Research & Development Unit (he was later succeeded by the likes of Herb Swim, Dr. David Armstrong, Jack Christenson, and Tom Carruth). Such limited production might seem to indicate that he was a failure, and to consign him to the dust bin of rose history.

This is seemingly confirmed by a review of the seed and pollen parents he selected. Many were solid, but also stolid and uninspired, choices: Mrs. Sam McGredy, Crimson Glory, Golden Rapture, Captain Thomas, Joanna Hill, Sensation, and President Herbert Hoover.

But, the reality of Dr. Walter Lammerts' rose career is quite discrepant from what it appears at first blush.

His work caused the A.R.S. to create an entirely new class of rose, the Grandiflora !

He introduced roses that spanned many categories: Hybrid Teas & their climbers, Floribundas & their climbers, Grandifloras, Large flowered Climbers, Polyanthas, and a "florist/greenhouse" "cut" rose. He was certainly more diverse than his seed and pollen selections would have indicated.

Another "discrepancy" is the proportion of AARS winners among his introductions - almost 25% Unheard of ! (And also pretty darn good considering the relatively small gene pool he chose to work with).

Also, he gave intellectual & moral support to other toilers in the rose fields. Noted mini breeder Ralph Moore has stated that Dr. Lammerts was of considerable support to him in his early, and unproductive, work inter-breeding mini's with mossed roses. In his 1966 book, "All About Miniature Roses," Moore wrote "The work and writings of Dr. Walter Lammerts have greatly contributed to my success in breeding miniatures, even though he is known in rose circles for his development of large flowered varieties....... His discovery and formulation of the principle laws governing inheritance of red/yellow bicolor, bud length and other traits have helped to make these qualities available in my miniatures." (It is evident that in addition to his work in breeding, Lammerts did some serious research too).

So, what AARS winners did this breeder of a paltry 46 roses introduce anyway? Queen Elizabeth, Charlotte Armstrong, Chrysler Imperial, Bewitched, Mirandy, Golden Showers, High Noon (similar, to & perhaps better than, Golden Showers), American Heritage, Bahia, Starfire, Taffetta, and The Chief.

What impact did his work have on the rose world? First generation offspring of his introductions by other breeders include: Aquarius, Century II, 49'er, Garden Party, Sutters Gold, and Tiffany. Second generation offspring include Broadway, Circus, Frontenac, Galway Bay, Granada, Hawkeye Belle, Oklahoma, Pascali, Polka, Touch of Class, and Yves Piaget. Third generation includes: Double Delight, Joseph's Coat, Lynn Anderson, St.Patrick, & the McCartney Rose. Later generations include Crystalline, Distant Drums, Moonstone, New Zealand, Secret, Blueberry Hill, & Miss Flippins.

A lesson we can take from his work is that even a "tyro" in his/her own back yard, working with limited genetic diversity, can reasonably hope to breed something good & interesting. A review of his introductions shows that they generally had good size, fragrance, health, and interesting color. (I was struck with the high proportion of fragrant & strongly fragrant roses).

Primary sources for this article were: the "Help Me Find" web site and Paul Borden's "Old Garden Roses and Beyond" website which provided material by Ralph Moore.





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Date last edited: 01/21/10
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