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Outdoor Roses in Canada
'Outdoor Roses in Canada'  photo
Photo courtesy of Margit Schowalter
Book published Jan 1946.

Authored by M. B. Davis, R. W. Oliver
7 favorite votes.  


The history of the rose in Canada is almost as old as the settlement of the country and closely corresponds with the contemporaneous history of the rose in the various countries from which the settlers came.

The old French roses gallica, damask, centifolia and cinnamon were brought to Canada by the early French settlers. There were roses in the garden of the General Hospital in Quebec as early as 1690.

In the early eighteenth century the red damask, York and Lancaster, sweetbrier and Burnet roses were all popular in the State of Massachusetts, and were in all probability the roses brought to Nova Scotia in the early settlements of 1750 and 1760. Later these same roses were brought into Ontario by the United Empire Loyalists.

Apparently roses were taken for granted in the early days and though references to them are found in diaries of early settlers, no one seems to have thought it worth while to discuss varieties or mention the origination. Roses were known by the name of the seigneury in which they grew or the family to which they belonged. As gallica roses cross and seed freely a great variety of them sprang up so that these old roses escaped from cultivation, or growing in old neglected gardens, show a great deal of variation.

The rose of the old homestead was carried afield by each daughter who went out into a new home of her own. Sometimes it retained the old name but if the new owner was generous with cuttings it took on the name of the younger generation so that the same rose may be found growing under several family or district names. This is particularly common in the Province of Quebec.

After the middle of the last century, with the improvement in transportation, and the increasing leisure that came with the pushing back of the forests, rose growing became a hobby. The old rose beside the door of the log house was given a special bed, or garden, and varieties were carefully collected and recorded, as they are with rosarians today. The stimulus to rose growing in Europe given by the introduction of "monthly" roses (Hybrid China and others) and Hybrid Perpetuals was felt in Canada, and in old articles we find that varieties appeared in Canada very soon after their introduction in France or England.

The earliest list of "best varieties for Canada" which the author has found was published with an article on roses in the Canadian Horticulturist for July, 1878. Even at the time there were so many varieties of "monthly" and Hybrid Perpetual roses that it was difficult to choose between them. It is interesting to note that two of these, John Hopper and Fisher Holmes, are still among the best Hybrid Perpetuals, but sad to see the names of grand old roses which have since passed into oblivion and remain only in memory. It is also interesting to note that Cheshunt Hybrid, the English forerunner of the Hybrid Teas, appears in this list of "monthly" roses so soon after its introduction.

The climbers on the list were Prairie Queen and Baltimore Belle. Queen of the Belgians (Ayrshire) was also recommended where it could be protected. The writer must have possessed keen enthusiasm as none but the most ardent would attempt to grow such tender though glorious old roses as Gloire de Dijon, Marechal Niel and Souvenir d’Uni Ami in the Ontario climate.

From Miss Margaret Eakins of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, was obtained a list of the aristocrats of the Eakins’ garden in the gay nineties. Among them the following still popular varieties occur:

Alfred Colomb,  John Hopper, American Beauty,  Mme. Eugene Verdier, Capt. Christy, *Meteor, Duke of Edinburgh,  Kaiserin Victoria, Fisher Holmes,  Mme. De Watteville, Gen’l Jacqueminot,   Maman Cochet Gloire de Dijon,  Paul Neyron, Mrs. John Laing, Ulrich Brunner

*Meteor, though not grown now, was heralded as the star of old rose collections in many catalogues. Many of its contemporaries have long outlived its popularity.

At the same time, 1895, we have our first list from the West from Mr. R. Layritz of Sardis, B.C.

Frau Karl Druschki,  Marechal Niel, Mrs. John Laing,  Gloire De Dijon, Paul Neyron,  Maman Cochet, Juliet,  Marie Van Houtte, Ulrich Brunner,  Wm R. Smith, Duchess of Wellington,  Papa Gontier, La France, Gruss an Teplitz

So the rose in Canada has kept pace with the rose elsewhere due to the fickleness of rose fanciers who have always been willing to cast off old loves for new. Thanks to them our gardens are full of the newest and best that modern hybridizers have to offer. But, in our enthusiasm for newer shades and continued bloom we must not forget to be grateful for the constant love of the habitant farmer, and the descendents of the United Empire Loyalists, that has treasured and preserved the old hardy June blooming roses which so admirably suit our traditional types of colonial architecture. Because they fit our climate and tradition these old roses will always have a place in Canadian gardens.

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