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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 05 Aug 2021.
United States
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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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