Some Guidelines for Hybrid Perpetuals
from a practical gardener's point of view
Pierre Lauwers

Charles LefevreAbout eight years ago, we (I mean my wife, Patricia, and I) began to grow roses in our garden. First came the ones you find in every garden center, that is, plants bred anywhere in the world and sold wherever in the world. The result was poor blooms, black spot galore. We started to try old garden roses, both once-blooming and repeat-flowering, and came to the conclusion that the best roses for our terroir (soil, climate, exposure etc.) were the Gallicas and the Hybrid Perpetuals.

A brief summary about this terroir: Middle temperature in July, 63° F (17° Celsius), January, 37° F (2,5° Celsius) (USDA zone 8). Rainfall approximately 33 inches (830 millimeters) a year, with an even repartition through the year. Heavy soil with a high clay content, PH about 6,5.

In order to stay practical, I won't go too deep in historical or scientific matters. I warmly recommend a look at the page from B. C. Dickerson for those who want to know more about the history of the Hybrid Perpetuals:

What is a Hybrid Perpetual?

This is a question that is open to vast debate. It seems that in the beginning (the 1830's) it was a hotchpotch category where people placed all the repeat-flowering roses that could not be classified with:

-The Portlands and Damask Perpetuals
-The Bourbons
-The Chinas and Teas.

Initially the name, Hybrides Remontants, meant repeat flowering hybrids a vague definition for roses that were repeat-flowering hybrids of whatever possible. This resulted in a lot of confusion, which still exists today. But, by 1842, with the introduction of 'La Reine', there was a redefining of the class. The Hybrid Perpetuals that followed were clearly a rather big family with common characteristics. Looking back, we can see that the first Hybrid Perpetuals were a synthesis of Portlands and reblooming Hybrid Chinas* with some Gallica parentage. For information about this, see another page from B C Dickerson at

By studying the material and observing the Hybrid Perpetuals I grow, I found they could be grouped into five lineages. Maybe there are more. It is difficult to tell because some roses have disappeared or may not have been referenced. Before describing the lineages, let's see what the Hybrid Perpetuals have in common, and why it's worth bothering about them.

They are merely shrubs, and rather cumbersome. Some are bushes, but even these should not be used for group plantings or in mixed-borders (too greedy!). There are a fair number of climbers, too, particularly among the purple colored ones. These roses date back to a period when the breeders began to try and follow scientific methods. Consequently, there were many trial and errors. Their only concern was for the perfection of the bloom, not the value of the rose as a garden plant - this notion did not exist.

Luckily, the parents of the first Hybrid Perpetuals were extremely fine, so they show great qualities and have stood the test of time:

Baron Girod de l'Ain and clematis Margot Koster- They have an exceptional beauty to their flowers, large, very double and scented - with a few exceptions like 'Baroness Rothschild' and its descendants, e.g. 'Frau Karl Druschki'.

- One could say that the Hybrid Perpetuals are Classic, neither old like Gallicas, nor modern like the Hybrid Teas.

- In my climate in Belgium, the Hybrid Perpetuals do better than the Hybrids Teas. This is also possibly true for areas like British Columbia, Washington State, Oregon, and the southern island of New Zealand, among others. In Europe, the Hybrid Perpetuals do not mind cool weather and rain, with the exception of the more delicate blooms that can ball. They suffer when the weather is hot. But there is a mystery here, because in California, South Africa, and Southern and South Western Australia, the same varieties can thrive in cemeteries and without care for a long time. This is perplexing. The heredity of these roses is rather complex, and many environmental factors must be interacting together. Thus, the Hybrid Perpetuals are ideal for cool climates, but if you live in the above mentioned areas, do not hesitate to try them there too. Robert Edberg, who has grown antique roses since 1942, states that he grew the following Hybrid Perpetuals in sunny California, zone 10, with great success: 'Paul Neyron', 'La Reine', 'Anna de Diesbach', 'Baronne Prévost', 'Mrs. R. G. Sharman-Crawford', 'James Bougault', 'Gloire Lyonnaise', 'Mme Verdier', 'Comtesse Cécile de Chabrillant' and 'Gloire de Ducher'. These roses can be recommended for warmer areas, but it is important to remember that there is no guarantee that what does well in your neighbor's garden will do well in yours.

They can be grown successfully in USDA zone 5, some of them could even do zone 4. From a hardiness point of view, they fall just between the Gallicas and the Hybrid Teas. A practical rule of thumb could consist of this: as cold as zone 5 and where the Gallicas do well, you can be successful with Hybrid Perpetuals. In these conditions they are easy to grow, with some attention paid to their needs. Please take the following into account for successful results:

-A rich soil (They're really greedy!)
-Of course, they need sun. Like all roses, but less than the Hybrid Teas. Give them some shade between 12-4 PM. This is even more important for the deep-purples, whose flowers spoil easily from the sun.
-Give them enough room. They fear competition from others plants. Choose companion plants without deep rootings.
-Avoid group plantings. Ideally you should be able to walk around them. They aren't happy in tight or mixed-borders.
-Avoid pruning too severely. Keep relatively long branches and as many as possible. If you prune like you would a Hybrid Tea, you'll end up with a few long branches that have a solitary flower on top.
-They are among the most cold-hardy of all reblooming roses; during the 19th century they survived several Paris winters that reached minus 25° Celsius.

Jules MargottinWhy have the Hybrid Perpetuals been Forgotten?

It is the result of a pendulum effect. From about 1850 to 1900, the Hybrid Perpetuals were in fashion to the point of overshadowing the popularity of other roses. Later, they were themselves obscured by the Hybrids Teas. Even now, many rosarians have no interest in them. But for the gardeners of today, with today's taste, they are the large-flowered-roses par excellence.

What are the Drawbacks of the Hybrid Perpetuals?

1). They are, with exceptions, cumbersome. Nothing for small gardens, unless one or two are grown.

2). They are greedy. To get heavy, large and fully double flowers two times in a season, there is a price to pay. Rich soil, regular applications of organic fertilizers (manure) and watering are necessary.

3). Exercise care when choosing their placement in the garden: some partial shade during the hottest hours, never against walls or in confined places. This is important to avoid mildew and black spot.

4). The purple-colored Hybrid Perpetuals, among the finest of red roses, are susceptible to rust. This does not occur every year, but it is wise to check the undersides of the leaves regularly. So you can immediately dispose of infected ones before getting problems.

5). From a remontancy point of view, the Hybrid Perpetuals are, again, between the once-blooming Gallicas and the modern, everblooming roses like the Floribunda. You'll get a rich blooming in June, and another more timid one from mid-August to mid-September, sometimes a bit later. They tend to do better with age. In countries with short summers, this is not a drawback, though.

General JacqueminotThe Dates and the Lineages

I know this is open to debate, but for practical reasons I think we should consider 'La Reine' (Laffay 1842) as the first Hybrid Perpetual:

-Because of the rare availability of the older Proto-Hybrid Perpetuals.

-Because 'La Reine', or its parent 'William Jesse' that is on sale in the U.S., is the first Hybrid Perpetual known to have a vast documented descent. The 'La Reine' lineage includes, with many others, 'John Hopper', 'Baroness Rothschild', and 'Jules Margottin'. They are all rose-colored, with some white sports.

In 1846, 'Géant des Batailles' (Nérard) appeared as a seedling, from the all-important parent 'Gloire des Rosomanes' (Plantier 1825, marketed by Vibert). Whether 'Gloire des Rosomanes' is a Bourbon or a China Hybrid is uncertain. The fertile triploid looks something like a Multiflora hybrid. (All the Hybrid Perpetuals are supposedly tetraploids) It has been used as a stock in the U.S. under the name 'Ragged Robin'. And ragged it is, for I do not know of a more robust and vigorous rose, virtually budding by itself - a little piece forgotten when pruning can root where it is- a very unusual rose indeed. The other parent is unknown, but I believe it could well have been 'Rose du Roi' (1815) or one of its sports or varieties.

The English rosarian William Paul wrote in The Rose Garden of 1848 that 'Géant des Batailles' was a giant step in the right direction towards combining the wonderful red color of 'Gloire des Rosomanes' with more double flowers. He said he tried with seedlings but was never able to obtain fuller blooms himself. Five years later his opinions on 'Géant des Batailles' would prove correct. For more information, please refer to my article (in French) at Ivan Louette's site.

'Général Jacqueminot' (Roussel 1853) came as seed by crossing 'Géant des Batailles' with 'Gloire des Rosomanes'. A huge number of varieties without any reported exterior influence (Sports and other crosses between these roses only) resulted from this meeting. This series, which I call the Rosomènes, are the roses I prefer between all. Even today they remain unequalled with their deep-purple, maroon, sometimes close to black colors, their amazing scent, and the utmost refinement of the flower. Among many others you'll find here are 'Général Jacqueminot', 'Eugene Fürst', 'Baron Girod de l'Ain', 'Baron de Bonstetten', and 'Fisher Holmes'. These roses must be grown in partial shade, otherwise the sun will burn their blooms and the mildew will eat their foliage! The climbers should never be placed against walls, a tree between three to five meters is by far preferable (not an oak, something like an apple).

In 1859, the French breeder Lacharme united a member of the 'La Reine' lineage with the Tea 'Safrano' as pollen parent. This first Hybrid Perpetual to receive Tea genes was 'Victor Verdier' (not 'Mme 'Victor Verdier'!) Please note 'Safrano' was the pollen parent. When the breeders used the Tea rose as a seed, they obtained the first Hybrids Teas (According to the breeder Peter Lambert) It is so that Bennett bred his 'Lady Mary Fitzwilliam', with the Tea 'Devoniensis' as seed. Examples of the 'Victor Verdier' tribe are 'Paul Neyron', 'Ulrich Brunner', 'Etienne Levet', and 'Captain Christy'. Note that some of these may be classified with the Hybrid Teas by other authors, because certain aspects of the roses belong to the Hybrid Teas. The majority are rose-colored, plus some whites and bright reds. None present the purples tones of the Rosomènes.

In 1861, came 'Charles Lefebvre', again from Lacharme. The cross was 'Général Jacqueminot' by 'Victor Verdier', thus a blend of the 'Victor Verdier' and the 'Gloire des Rosomanes' classes. The result was a new lineage, the 'Charles Lefebvre', which combines a Tea influence with the purple tints. Few of these remain in commerce today, essentially 'Charles Lefebvre' and 'Souvenir du Docteur Jamain'.

The last lineage came later, from the German breeder Peter Lambert. He released 'Frau Karl Druschki' in 1900, the cross being 'Merveille de Lyon' (a white sport of 'Baroness Rothschild') pollinated by one of the firsts Hybrids Teas, 'Mme Caroline Testout'. Even today, 'Frau Karl Druschki' remains among the finest white roses available. And here again, this rose will be used as a seed parent, giving us a new lineage with 'Ruhm von Steinfurth', 'Candeur Lyonnaise', 'Heinrich Münch', 'Georg Arends'. The last Hybrid Perpetual could well be 'Goldene Druschki', which can be seen at l'Haÿ-les-Roses (Lambert 1936).

The story of the Hybrid Perpetuals goes, then, from 1842 to 1936. They were obtained by thousands for nearly a century.

What Remains of them Today?

In the trade, not many, with the exception of the U.S.A. Some very specialized nurseries offer some of them. The best in Europe is the Schultheis nursery in Germany, which sells 70 varieties. The champion worldwide seems to be Vintage Gardens near San Francisco, CA, with 144 varieties. In the public collections, there are 477 of them to be seen at the Roseraie dèpartementale du Val-De-Marne at l'Haÿ-les-Roses near Paris, and 465 in the Rosarium of Sangerhausen in Germany.

I wish everyone good luck growing Hybrids Perpetuals.
Pierre Lauwers.

* I asked Pierre about Hybrid Chinas and whether the class should only contain once-bloomers. This is how he responded:

-By the link I proposed to the text from B. C. Dickerson about the Hybrid Chinas, you can find, near the end of the article: "Some seedlings of new generations of Hybrid Chinas would begin to exhibit an ability to rebloom, remembered from the China ancestor". These roses were, crossed with Portlands/ Damasks Perpetuals, the parents of the first Hybrid Perpetuals. It is well possible that 'Gloire des Rosomanes', itself, belongs to these Reblooming Hybrid Chinas! Why? Well, because the Hybrid Chinas are triploid. That is to say, they were crossings of Diploids -the genuine Chinas- with tetraploids. And these are the old Gallicanae, i.e. Damasks, Damask Perpetuals and Gallicas, as well as Centifolias (not the Albas). As such, they were once-bloomers. And now we have this damned Ragged Robin, that shows a strong R. chinensis semperflorens influence, repeats like a well-fed Floribunda, is very fertile -unlike the vast majority of triploids, which are near sterile - and it is triploid. In fact this rose was a chance cross to be compared with the Kordesii obtained from a very, very rare seed from 'Max Graf'. Plantier should never have sold that, but should have kept it for further work. In short, there is a lot of work to be done before we can have correct classifications.

Please go to Hybrid Perpetuals, Roses to Protect (at the RosaRosam site)
Please email Pierre with your comments and suggestions

photograph of 'Baron Girod de l'Ain' with clematis 'Margot Koster' ©2002 Pierre Lauwers
chromolithographs of 'Charles Lefèvre', 'Jules Margottin', and 'Général Jacqueminot': Les Roses, Jamain et Forney 1873 (courtesy Daphne Filiberti)
All rights reserved. All reproductions, or partial reproductions must be approved by the author
© 2002 Pierre Lauwers