This Was To Be A Rare Old Rose Treat!
Updated: Nov 22, 2022
by Di Durston - on a mission to rescue a rare old rose.
Ferguson Farm ‘A’ Unidentified Found Rose.
An invitation to visit four unidentified old roses came in 2011. There were four Tea Roses growing
in the side garden of the wooden and now wobbly cottage that was built around 1920 in the Ferguson Valley. I needed to act quickly, as a demolition order was in place from the local
government to remove the old building.
I gathered together three extra ‘Tea Bags’ Jenny Jones, Billy West and Hillary Merrifield, Gay Dutton another rose friend joined the drive on a very wet and windy day. The long time owners of the old cottage did not wish interruptions to their quiet country life or their privacy, meaning that we could not publicise widely the reasons for our visit.
What we found were four Tea Roses.
Ferguson Valley ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’, and ‘D’
‘A’ was a cream/apricot colour
‘B’ was White Maman Cochet
‘C’ was a pink/mauve/red
’D’ was Mrs BR Cant
A kind member of the Rose Society, Ross Mandry from the South Western Branch, propagated the roses for me to grow and to study. These roses have been growing in my garden since that time and it is only recently that I have decided to try and identify the two unknowns Tea Roses. Ferguson Valley ‘B’ and ‘D’ are named roses that are still in commerce today.
Scrolling through the Velvet Rose site I noticed a photograph that looked like my rose Ferguson Valley ‘A’ and I began to research with a little excitement.
I then checked HMF and found the same rose photographed on this site. The lady who had posted the photograph on Velvet Rose was Ines Diaz de Licandro from Uruguay. Amazingly we had both found the same old Tea Rose and equally amazingly we lived half a world apart on different continents. My task was to try and discover the real name of the Ferguson Valley ‘A’.
Ines had already researched many catalogue entries from old nursery lists and she kindly allowed
me to read her work. The rose description also seemed to have an entry of Fanny Dupuis - this was to cloud my early research descriptions for a short time.
I then turned to a compiled register of old Australian rose catalogues for Tea Roses, with one rose name in my mind Abricotee 1843, Dupuis. France. The catalogue list document was compiled by Billy West when as authors we were writing the book Tea Roses: Old Roses for Warm Gardens (it was when writing this book we got the name of Tea Bags). I noted that the rose that I was interested in had been sold locally. As it happened it was also within a short drive or perhaps even by mail order to the Ferguson Valley garden. C F Newman and Son of Perth offered the rose in their catalogue list in 1905. This was getting interesting, and so I went on researching.
Checking further I found that Abricotee was listed on a recent calalogue of the website for La Roseraie Du Desert, with the name Abricotee (Mottisfont) next to the listing. My nickname is Miss
Marple and it was given to me by the late Mr David Ruston, my rose mentor and close friend, and amusingly I think that he was right, as I could not give it up.
The beautiful gardens of Mottisfont, with the hallowed Walled Rose Garden that was designed and built by the world famous rosarian Graham Thomas for the National Trust, was the home of my rose. Graham Thomas was invited to build a rose garden where he could keep his vast collection of old world roses and it was his own personal masterpiece.
I also found that the Abricotee rose was growing in Italy at the nursery of Mr Sergio Scudu near
Rome. After checking, I found that this rose came to Mr Scudu’s nursery from La Roseraie Du
Desert nursery in the south of France and owned by my friends John and Becky Hook. A
bricotee (Mottisfont) was the same as my rose and also the same as the rose that Ines’s found growing in Uruguay. I needed more information about the rose growing at the Mottisfont Walled Garden.
Next step was to contact Charles and Brigid Quest-Ritson in UK. Brigid is Chair,
for the World Federation Rose Society Committee for Conservation and Heritage Roses. I had noticed a photograph posted by Charles on HMF and again this was our rose, and the photograph was taken at Mottisfont. Eventually I had found a link for my rose to the Mottisfont Walled Garden.
Initial early inquiries read that Abricotee rose was listed only at Gothenburg, Sweden, WFRS 2000 database, and apparently there had been no contact with Mottisfont. Unfortunately this was a setback. The rose Abricotee was not at that time listed at Sangerhausen, Fineschi’s or L’Hayles-
Roses when this WFRS research was compiled.
Then came a breakthrough, Brigid emailed with positive news. The Mottisfont archival records show that the original budwood came from the gardens of Sangerhausen. James Russell from Castle Howard collected the budwood from Sangerhausen and ‘Abricotee’ was planted in the garden at Mottisfont in 1983. James Russell was an excellent rosarien and his family once owned Sunningdale nursery, the same nursery that Graham Thomas joined as the nursery manager. James Russell was an expert of botany and in 1988 was awarded the highest honour from the Royal Horticultural Society, ‘Victoria Medal of Honour’. This was a good outcome.
Brigid kindly checked for further information with David Stone, ( past Head Gardener of Mottisfont) who confirmed that ‘Abricotee’ came from James Russell who had collected the budwood form Sangerhausen, also this was confirmed at that time by Graham Thomas. Over the years the name ‘Abricotee’ has been spelt with ‘ee’ or ‘e’ - Graham Thomas prefered ‘e' and the rose was also distributed with the name of Fanny Dupuis. This was confirmed in Rudolf Geschwind’s book ‘Die Teerose und ihre Bastarde’ 1884. My thanks go to Brigid’s for checking her copy of the book. The entry, [Abricotee - also distributed as Fanny Dupuis. Flower apricot colour, flesh coloured at edges; large and double, rounded shape; growth vigorous, a lovely rose.]
I accept the identification of any old Tea Rose can be difficult to know for certain because of the
passing of time and also because the roses have not been constantly available commercially.
Whether or not the rose that I grow is the original ‘Abricotee’ remains an open question. I will
happily call my found rose ‘Abricotee Mottisfont’.
I conclude that the found rose ‘Ferguson Valley A’ that is growing in my garden is a very rare old rose and has survived for over 100 years at the garden of an old pioneer mill cottage. Plans are in place to bud the rose and to plant the rose at Araluen Botanical Park, a public garden in Roleystone, Western Australia.