A Rose with an Identity Crisis
'Tea Bag' Di Durston takes an exploration into the elusive history of the beautiful Tea Rose 'Rubens'. Read her journey below.
The first steps to identify the rose that is grown today as ‘Rubens’ began when our Tea Book was being written and at this time the ‘Rubens’ - 'Laurette’ naming issue was being strongly debated. A timeline was compiled for two of the roses that seemed to be identical. I then visited South Africa in search for the third rose ‘Archimede’ that was going through an identity issue as the other Robert/Moreau, Tea Roses.
Research of the three Tea Roses 'Rubens', 'Archimede', 'Laurette' : Bred in France by Robert & Moreau
Description from "The Rose Garden", 3rd Edition, 1872. William Paul.
‘Archimede’: flowers rosy fawn, darker centres, large and full.
‘Laurette’: flowers rosy blush, shaded salmon, large and very double.
‘Rubens’: flowers white shaded with rose, centres bronzy yellow, large and full.
There is mention of ‘Archimede’ in "The Rose" by H. B. Ellwanger, 1882, New York, and described ‘Achimede’ as "Rosy-Fawn, the centre darker, ill-formed flowers are frequent. A good rose when in perfection, and an excellent habit."
I include photos and the name plate from the Paris garden Roseraie de l’Hay, also a chromolithograph of ‘Rubens’ from Rosen-Album, Komlosy and Ferentsel. Vienna. 1868 - 1875
‘Laurette’, 1853, France
‘Archimede’, 1855, France
‘Rubens’, 1859, France
‘Archimede’ in 1858 - found on records at the Botanic Garden of Cape Town, South Africa. ‘Archimede’ regularly appeared in South African, Victorian nursery catalogues.
‘Laurette’ in 1878 - found on records at the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, South Australia.
‘Rubens’ in 1878 - found on records at the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, South Australia.
‘Laurette’ or ‘Rubens’ - in 1961 Walter Duncan (Rose Nurseryman) and his mother took slips from the Adelaide Botanic Gardens of a number of old roses , that were removed soon afterwards. One of the slips was tagged as ‘Laurette’.
Early 1970’s - David Ruston (Rose Nurseryman) acquired this rose from Walter Duncan. David and Walter were lifelong friends.
1981 - Walter Duncan sent the rose named as ‘Laurette’ to Western Australia for the Pinjarra Rose Garden that was being planted around the cottage.
1984 - Walter lists ‘Laurette’ as ‘Mme Laurette Messimy’ in his catalogue of roses after discussing the naming with another researcher. This was the same rose collected from the Botanic Gardens in 1961.
1985- Rubens is not listed in the L. Arthur Whyatt collection in UK, of Lost and Found roses.
1986- Adelaide International Heritage Roses Conference. Clair Martin lll identifies the rose ‘Laurette’ as ‘Rubens’ which he knew because he was growing it at Huntington Gardens in California, Clair was at that time the Director of the Gardens.
Peter Beales who was also at this conference and agreed with Clair, that the name of the rose was ‘Rubens’.
1988 - ‘Rubens’ appears in the catalogue of Rumsey Rose Nursery, it is believed that Heather imported the budwood from California to Australia. I bought the Rumsey catalogues from an antiquarian book seller for the years 1987 and 1988. In the 1987, ‘Rubens’, ‘Laurette’ or ‘Archimede’ are not mentioned, however ‘Rubens’ is listed in 1988.
Early 1990’s - I take slips of the rose that is growing as ‘Laurette’ from the Pinjarra Rose Garden. I also buy ‘Rubens’ from Melville Rose Nursery. At this time David Ruston also has ‘Rubens’ that he acquired from Heather Rumsey. I soon observe that the two roses as ‘Laurette’ and ‘Rubens’ are the same rose.
2006- ‘Laurette’ the rose plant that came from South Australia unfortunately dies at the Pinjarra Rose Garden. There was a difficulty with the watering system at the time. Luckily I still have ‘Laurette’ growing in my garden alongside ‘Rubens’.
2007- I see ‘Rubens’ growing in France at Roseraie de l’Hay - les -Roses, Paris. The blooms were rain damaged after a overnight storm, however I did recognise the rose growing there to be ‘Rubens’, the same rose that is growing in my garden at Mt Nasura.
2007 - I check the rose nursery catalogue dated 2007 from La Roseraie Du Desert, in France and at that time owned by John and Becky Hook, specialists in Tea Roses. ‘Rubens’ is listed. I have checked with John where he imported his ‘Rubens’ from, the answer being Ashdown Roses, South Carolina, USA.
2012 - One of the reasons for me to attend the Roseafrica Conference was to try and find the remaining rose from the trio,’Archimede’ that seemed to be masquerading as ‘Rubens’ and ‘Laurette’. As luck would have it I teamed up with Mike and Jean Shoup and we travelled to the Elgin Valley together. Jessy Walton’s was kind and offered to host the three of us. Jessy is one of Gwen Fagan’s daughters and has an extensive old rose garden at the property in the Elgin Valley and has many of Gwen’s roses. Gwen features ‘Archimede’ in her esteemed book "Roses at The Cape of Good Hope". Both Mike Shoup (Antique Rose Emporium,Texas) and I immediately recognise ‘Archimede’ as the same rose that we grow as ‘Rubens’.
Gwen Fagan wrote in her lecture at the 9th International Heritage Rose Conference, 2001 Charleston, South Carolina, that Henry Flowers showed her a ‘Rubens’ at the Antique Rose Emporium and she thought it to be the same rose as ‘Archimede’.
We are almost to the end of my travels with ‘Rubens’ story with the hope of discovering it’s true name. I now believe that this riddle is impossible to solve at this present time. It is a journey and not a sprint and I hope that someone in the future may have the same interest in ‘Rubens’ and they also has access to references that hold the key to the answer.
We have either lost two of the three roses released or there is a second scenario and that is the possibility that only one rose was released with three different names. Apparently this practice was not uncommon, especially if the rose was to be released into different countries.
I leave the question open and ‘Rubens’ the rose still holds the secret.
To finish off, at the last HRIA Conference, I was asked the question by one of the Tea Lady’s husband “What have you found out about Tea Roses with all your travelling around the world” my answer being “There is still a lot to learn about the naming of Tea Roses and we should not be too quick to put a name to a “found” rose, especially if it is a Tea Rose, they are the most difficult group to identify”.