Roses Popular in California in the 1850s

By: Darrell Schramm

Darrell Schramm is a Master Gardener, a rose historian, author of Rainbow: A History of the Rose in California, and editor…

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Rosa ‘Baltimore Belle’ Photo: Bill Grant

Rosa ‘Baltimore Belle’ Photo: Bill Grant

The three earliest nurseries in California were established by A.P. Smith of Sacramento in 1848, William C. Walker of San Francisco in 1849, and Colonel James Warren first of Sacramento then of San Francisco in 1850. However, A.P. Smith did not begin selling roses until two or three years after he opened his nursery, making Walker the first to sell roses in the new state.

Rosa ‘Baronne Prevost’ Photo: Darrell Schramm

Rosa ‘Baronne Prevost’ Photo: Darrell Schramm

The 1856-57 catalogue from A.P. Smith indicates the nursery sold 83 different rose cultivars including several roses not offered by other nurseries at that time: ‘Blush Boursault’, ‘General Cavaignac’ (a recent 1849 hybrid perpetual  introduction), ‘Lady Alice Peel’, also a hybrid perpetual, and the moss ‘Princesse Adelaide’.

Rosa ‘Cramoisi Superieure’ Photo: Darrell Schramm

Rosa ‘Cramoisi Superieure’ Photo: Darrell Schramm

Rosa ‘Comtesse Cecile de Chabrilliant’ Photo: Darrell Schramm

Rosa ‘Comtesse Cecile de Chabrilliant’ Photo: Darrell Schramm

Rosa ‘Chromatella’ Photo: Bill Grant

Rosa ‘Chromatella’ Photo: Bill Grant

By placing Smith’s list of roses beside other nurseries’ lists from that period, we can discern which roses that were popular in the first several decades of California statehood. Among these were ‘Aimee Vibert’, ‘Baltimore Belle’, ‘Baronne Prevost’, ‘Cloth of Gold’, ‘Cramoisi Superieure’, ‘Comtesse de Murinais’, ‘Fellemberg’, ‘Geant de Batailles’, ‘Hermosa’,  ‘La Reine’, ‘Lamarque’, ‘Le Pactole’, ‘Mme Laffay’, ‘Mrs Bosanquet’, ‘Safrano’, ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’, and ‘Triomphe du Luxembourg’.

Rosa ‘Le Pactole’ Photo: Darrell Schramm

Rosa ‘Le Pactole’ Photo: Darrell Schramm

Rosa 'Harison’s Yellow’ Photo: Bill Grant

Rosa ‘Harison’s Yellow’ Photo: Bill Grant

Between 1855 and 1859, William C. Walker’s catalogue names a number of new roses indicating that he kept abreast of the latest roses on the market. For instance, in 1855 he offered three hybrid perpetuals, ‘Mme Desiree Giraud’, ‘Triomphe d’Avranches’, ‘Souvenir de la Reine d’Angleterre’—the only one that survives today; two moss roses, ‘William Lobb’, and ‘Alfred de Dalmas’; and a Portland, ‘Arthur de Sansal’, all three of the latter roses are still in commerce today. (By the way, William Lobb, the man, moved from England to San Francisco in 1858.) Today, ‘Isabella Gray’ from 1857, is a lost rose. Walker also sold ‘Comtesse Cecile de Chabrillant’ from 1858, a rare hybrid perpetual still available today although somewhat difficult to find and listed a ‘Henry Martin’, but apparently not the ‘Henri Martin’ rose of 1863.

Rosa ‘Russelliana’ Photo: Darrell Schramm

Rosa ‘Russelliana’ Photo: Darrell Schramm

Rosa ‘Lamarque’ Photo: Bill Grant

Rosa ‘Lamarque’ Photo: Bill Grant

Colonel James L.L. Warren’s nursery catalogue of 1853-54 lists 134 roses, many of the same roses that he previously sold in Boston. Some of these were “Archduke Charles’, ‘Cramoisi Superieure’, ‘Fabvier’, ‘Louis Phillippe’, ‘Le Pactole’, ‘Reine Victoria’ (his newest rose, 1850), ‘Mrs. Bosanquet’, ’Souvenir de la Malmaison’, ‘Amie Vibert’, ‘Chromatella’ (another name for ‘Cloth of Gold’), ‘Lamarque’, ‘Solfatare’, ‘Damask Monthly’, ‘Rose du Roi’, ‘Comte de Paris’, ‘Duchess of Sutherland’, ‘Geant des Batailles’, ‘Prince Albert’, ‘Reine de Belgique’, ‘Gloire de Paris’, ‘Laura Davoust’, ‘Russelliana’ ‘Queen of the Prairies’, ‘Baltimore Belle’, ‘Common Moss’, ‘Cristata’, ‘Harison’s Yellow’, ‘Sweet Briar’, and Rosa banksiae, both white and yellow forms. Surprisingly, despite their popularity at the time, Warren’s nursery offered very few hybrid perpetuals,. On the other hand, he offered three American-bred roses: ‘Queen of the Prairies’, ‘Baltimore Belle’, and ‘Harison’s Yellow’.

Rosa ‘William Lobb’ Photo: Bill Grant

Rosa ‘William Lobb’ Photo: Bill Grant

Rosa ‘Le Reine’ Photo: Darrell Schramm

Rosa ‘Le Reine’ Photo: Darrell Schramm

For the next 50 years, most of these roses would gain popularity and be listed in nursery after nursery. But only with the introduction of ‘Sarah Isabella Gill’, ‘Mrs. Cleveland’, and ‘Rainbow’, California’s own first cultivated roses, did catalogues begin to list roses other than those bred abroad. It wasn’t until some time after WWI that California came into its own as a rose industry with hybridizers who claimed California as their home.