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Van Fleet, Dr. Walter
'Van Fleet, Dr. Walter'  photo
Photo courtesy of Rupert, Kim L.
Rose breeder   Listing last updated on 22 Oct 2021.
United States
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[From Rural New Yorker, July 21, 1894, p. 458:] W. V. F., WhstGkovk, Pa. —Last year the writer undertook to hybridize Rosa rugosa, in three varieties, Red, White and Double Red, with an extended series of cultivated roses, in many species and varieties. Over 400 pollenizations were made under all sorts of circumstances, favorable and, apparently, unfavorable. The Rugosas were used in about 90 percent of the crosses as the pistillate or seed parent, as some strong, well-established plants were available. The result netted 230 heps from the Rugosas, and a single one, Henry Plantier-Rugosa rubra, from the 40 or more blooms of various roses on which Rugosa pollen was used. As a change of residence was anticipated, the seed, representing 112 distinct crosses, was placed in packets and allowed to dry up. During the first week in November, all the seeds representing each cross were placed in small muslin bags with a quantity of sand ; the bags, carefully labeled, packed in a box, thoroughly wet, and xposed to the weather until the first of February, when the seeds, numbering many thousands, were all planted in pots and placed under the benches of a greenhouse, in the coolest place where the temperature rarely rose above 60 degrees. Germination has been very tardy, only 80 plants having been potted off up to June 1 , some of which are very defective. The seeds remaining seem, contrary to this season’s experience of Ruralisms, to be sound and well filled with healthy germs, and it is confidently expected that a fair proportion will yet come up. The delay in germination is attributed to the harsh drying of the seeds after harvesting, and to insufficient freezing. In every case so far, the seedlings present evidence, in foliage and habit, of hybridization, all being distinct from the Rugosa. Those seedlings in which the pollen of Tea roses was used, are generally subject to mildew, with the exception of Rugosa crossed on Coquette de Lyon and Rugosa crossed on Mad. Caroline Testout (Hybrid Tea), which appear, so far, remarkably vigorous and healthy. The crosses in which Bourbon, Provence and Moschata blood predominates appear to be very healthy.

From the Journal of Heredity, vol. XI (1920): "The award of the medal in 1919 was made to Dr. Walter Van Fleet of the United States Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C., "for advance in the hybridization of garden plants, especially of the rose." The name "Van Fleet" is synonymous with meritorious climbing roses of American origin."

[From The Book on Roses, by Dr. G. Griffin Lewis, p. 135:] Dr. Walter Van Fleet was born at Piermont on the Hudson on June 18, 1857, and died on January 26, 1922. His forefathers came from Holland. He graduated in medicine, which he practised for a time, but his deeper desire being to hybridize plants, he gave up medicine to undertake his real life's work. ..His rose work began over thirty years ago, and he experiments principally with Rosa Wich. and Rosa Rugosa. His climbers are the best in the world.

[From The Quest for the Rose, by Phillips & Rix, p. 121:] Dr. Walter Van Fleet worked in the US Department of Agriculture Plant Introduction Station at Glenn Dale, Maryland, from 1905 to the 1920s. One of the department's main aims was to raise plants that were hardy enough, and suitable in other ways, for the climate of North America which is, by European standards, very cold in winter and hot and wet in summer… Using Rosa rugosa, Van Fleet raised several very tough hybrids including 'Sarah Van Fleet'. A cross with a Hybrid Tea, it was intoduced in 1926.


[From Climbing Roses, by Stephen Scanniello, p. 7:] [Dr. Van Fleet] frequently wrote about his desire to provide Americans with roses that would flourish without the pampering required by the hybrid teas and the other tender varieties that were being imported from England and the Continent. Using R. setigera, R. wichuraiana, and other wild roses, he created hardy climbers that he called "dooryard roses" -- varieties that he hoped would combine beautiful flowers, luxuriant foliage, disease resistance, and the ability to thrive anywehere in the United States.


[From Roses of America, by Stephen Scanniello and Tania Bayard, p. 138: some excerpts, please see Source for more information] One of America's greatest early rose hybridizers worked in relative obscurity in the Bureau of Plant Industry at the Department of Agriculture. Dr. Walter Van Fleet was a medical doctor, but he gave this up because his real love was plant hybridization... he is best know for his wonderful climbing roses... he worked to create varieties he called "dooryard roses": roses with beautiful flowers, luxuriant foliage, colorful hips, resistance to disease, and the ability to thrive in [America's] harshest climates... When Van Fleet died suddenly in 1922, he left behind a great many seedlings of new roses. Others ar the Department of Agriculture carried on his work, and some of his finest roses were made available years after his death. Specimens of two of them, 'Sarah Van Fleet' and 'Dr. E.M. Mills', were given to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and became part of the original planting in the Cranford Rose Garden in 1927.


Among the people who carried on his work is J.A. Kemp.

 
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