Gardeners' Chronicle, p. 136 (March 4, 1905)
(See Supplementary Illustration.)
In 1889 we received from Sir George King, then the Director of the Calcutta Botanic Garden, some seeds of this noble Rose, which were distributed among those likely to succeed in its culture. Probably seeds were distributed from other sources also. Mr. George Paul informs us that he raised seedlings from this Rose, but that they damped off; and the same fate befell others raised by Mr. Leach. Some disappointment has been felt at the circumstance that while the Rose grows with the greatest freedom, as at Kew and elsewhere, flowers have only very rarely been produced. Eventually in 1898 Lord Brougham had the satisfaction of flowering the plant in his garden at Cannes. In his "List of Roses now in cultivation at the Château Eléonore at Cannes," published in 1898, his lordship mentions the plant as having flowered in his garden for the first time in Europe last month [April, 1898, presumably]. He gives a photographic representation of it, and describes it as—
"A splendid plant, making growths of 40 feet or more, with rambling branches armed with irregular prickles of moderate size, often in pairs at base of leaves, which are about 3 inches long and glabrous. The flowers are solitary, about 6 inches in diameter—which size will not unlikely be increased when the plant is older and stronger, of a golden-white with yellow centre containing an unusual quantity of pollen. Petals large, broad, imbricated; disc large, styles much exserted, free, villous; stamens long. The most desirable and by far the finest single Rose l have ever seen. It does not seem to be very hardy and is subject to mildew [as it is also here]. The bud is long, larger, but very closely resembles that of Madame Marie Lavallée, and of a pure gold colour. This Rose when in flower should obviously be shaded, as the sun soon extracts the gold from the blooms, leaving behind a substitute of dirty white. At a short distance the flowers bear a close resemblance to a Clematis."
Mr. F. Cant, of Colchester, also succeeded in flowering it, but with such indifferent results that he discarded the Rose as useless for his purposes.
Then came Mr. Leach, the gardener to the Duke of Northumberland at Albury, Surrey, who succeeded in 1903 in inducing the plant to produce two flowers, the first of which was just on 6 inches across. In February, 1904, the same specimen produced about a dozen flowers, and this year Mr. Leach had the satisfaction of seeing twenty-eight blooms on his plant, some of which were exhibited at the Royal Horticultural Society on Tuesday last, and secured for the exhibitor the award of a Cultural Commendation and a Botanical Certificate. Mr. Leach cultivates the plant in a Peach-house, and the shoots are trained down on the wires.
The colour of the flowers exhibited was ivory-white, and the foliage showed one more pair of leaflets to each leaf than is represented in our illustration. A good figure is given in the Botanical Magazine, t. 7972 (September, 1901), where the flowers are shown of a pale-primrose-yellow colour, whilst the bud has the golden colour mentioned in Lord Brougham's description. There is no doubt whatever from the glowing descriptions given by travellers, and such evidence as we now have, that this is indeed a grand Rose and amply deserved the award made to it. In due time we doubt not we shall discover some means of inducing the plant to flower more freely. Up to the present, as Mr. Hemsley says, "every possible method of propagation has been tried ineffectually in order to obtain flowers more freely in this country, yet it flowers profusely on the Riviera."
Sir George Watt was the first to discover this Rose (in Manipur), but the name R. gigantea was first published by the late Sir Henry Collett, who found the plant in the Shan Hills, Upper Burmah. More recently it has been found in Southwestern China by Dr. Henry and others. We may therefore expect considerable variation, whilst the colour of the flowers, about which there has been a diversity of statement, would naturally differ according to varying conditions and diverse stages of growth. Sir George Watt mentions that the fruit is edible, as large as a small Apple, and that it is sold in the bazaars of Manipur State.
Mr. Fitzherbert, in our own columns, May 2, 1903, p. 278, mentions the species as hardy in South Devon; and we have heard of it as grown on an outside wall at Reigate, Surrey.
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Jindsai Botanical Garden, Tokyo, Japan. June 2012
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