Rosa Foetida Bicolor, the Perfect Valentine
One day more than 400 years ago, creation gave the world of roses a perfect valentine. The gift of the color crimson. It took awhile to establish itself in the gene pool, and did so with the assistance of one yellow rose.
In 1590, there was only one yellow rose on earth and it grew in Persia. Westerners eventually named it Rosa foetida.
Here is her story.
In a winter garden in ancient Persia, when this yellow rose was dormant and had no leaves, a growth bud surfaced through an eye on one of her brown, slender canes. As the days warmed, the growth bud swelled, and began to lengthen. Shaggy bits of green emerged that soon became small, serrated leaves. When fully leafed out, flower buds appeared, as they did every year. But on this particular cane when the sepals curled back on the rosebuds, instead of the color yellow, tight scrolls of gold emerged with a blush of red. Five petals slowly unfolded and took shape, each one a perfect heart.
The unexpected gold became the under-lining for cups of glowing crimson.
The pistils formed a heart of garnet encircled by stamens of gold. A new rose species was born.
I like to think of the astonished gardener as he noticed the brilliant flowers and eagerly propagated them into shrubs of a new species rose. The rose became known as Doufrouyeh (two faces) and grew in cultivation from Asia Minor to Afghanistan and Eastern Tibet. Don't you think it's remarkable how the original yellow rose with its unique matching stamens, pistils, and petals changed so dramatically? Definitely one of those cosmic/creation miracles.
EAST MEETS WEST
The two foetidas eventually made it to Europe. An unsympathetic fellow named the roses R. foetida and R. foetida bicolor. In Latin, foetida means fetid or "having a bad smell." It seems unjust to name such stunning roses for their scent. Their fragrance is unusual, more pungent than bad. But aside from that, our roses had big time work to do in the West.
CRIMSON IN THE GENE POOL
Since there continued to be few yellow roses, and they only bloomed once, hybridizers, again and again, tried using the two foetidas and the hybrid *Foetida 'Persiana', to make a yellow Hybrid Tea.
*Below is 'Harison's Yellow,' a hybrid similar to Foetida 'Persiana.' (Both of these once blooming roses were created in the west, crossing the two foetidas with other roses.)
For twenty years, the persistent Frenchman Pernet-Ducher tried to create a reblooming yellow rose without success. Then one day, a visitor in his rose fields pointed out a yellow seedling that must have come from an accidental cross. The plant turned out to possess the genes of a reblooming hybrid! Unknowingly, Pernet-Ducher finally succeeded in creating what is classified as the first yellow Hybrid Tea. He introduced her in 1900 with the name 'Soleil d'Or, meaning "golden sun."
The successful mating of 'Soleil d'Or' brought yellow into the usable gene pool. Now rose breeders would have free reign for unlimited color possibilities. Thanks to the Foetidas, the world has yellow, gold, peach, orange, coral, and multicolored roses, like the famous rose 'Peace' above.
By the way, all these roses have their own special classifications, and are under the umbrella known as "heritage roses".