A Rose at Goethe's
Research on Rosa x francofurtana at Goethe's garden-house in Weimar
Dr. Clemens Alexander Wimmer, Potsdam

This article first was first published in the Verein Deutscher Rosenfreund's Rosen-Jahrbuch of 1996, and was translated and revised for publication here with permission from the author (who is Honorary Secretary of the German Horticultural Library), and the VDR. Marita Protte and I (Daphne Filiberti) translated the article into English. Marlea Graham edited the article for publication in the Quarterly Rose Letter of the Heritage Roses Group, Volume XXIX, Number 2, May 2004.

TapetenroseGerman writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's garden-house in Weimar was presented to him in 1776 by Duke Carl August to encourage Goethe to stay near the summer palace. It was the writer's principal residence until 1782. After 1782 Goethe moved to the larger part of town, but continued to cultivate his Ilm garden. The garden-house has been restored and is now part of the 150-acre Landscape Park on the Ilm River in Weimar.

Rosa x francofurtana before Goethe

As Rosa sine spinis (rose without spines) was first described in Latin by Carolus Clusius in 1583: "The first variety always grows up with a lot of branches from the root, which mostly reach the height of men... The scholars report that they received it from the famous Dr. Johannes Schröter, Primas of the University of Jena in Thüringia and doctor to the most noble Dukes of Saxonia, the Landgraves of Thüringia, and the Princes of Coburg. In 1576 Dr. Schröter very generously sent it to me in Vienna. He had received it from the Prince Earl of Mansfeld."1

A supplement from Melchior Sebitz, in his edition of Hieronymus Bock's Kreuterbuch (Herbal) from 1577 ("Rose without prickles"), points to the existence of the rose in Strasbourg.2 Joachim Camerarius documented the rose in Nürnberg in 1588. Jean Bauhin of Montbéliard received the rose, between the years of 1596 and 1613, from Friedrich Meier in Strasbourg, who had received the rose from Clusius in Vienna.3

In the new edition of his text from 1601, Clusius added: "I saw it several years later in Frankfurt am Main in a lot of gardens belonging to patricians. Some declare that they have seen it with white flowers."4 John Parkinson gave a detailed description of Rosa Francofurtensis, The Franckford Rose, in 1629.5 It was also recorded to have been in Oxford by 1658.

The rose appeared as Rose de Francfort in a French rose-poem, which is thought to date from 1616.6 In France it undoubtedly appeared in 1623 as R. purpurea francofurti in Enchiridion Isagogicum by Jean and Vespasian Robin. In 1665 the rose was referenced in Paris as Rosa inapertis floribus, alabastro crassiore, Francofurtensis quibusdam at the Jardin du Roi (Hortus Regius Parisiensis). This same name was again used later by both Tournefort (1700) and Duhamel (1755).

Linnaeus omitted the rose, as did Johann Philipp Duroi. Philip Miller named it in 1741 as a species, R. francofurtensis Park., that would grow like the Damask and Province roses up to seven or eight feet.7 In 1768 he classified it as a variety only: "The Frankfort Rose is of little Value, except for a Stock to the more tender Sorts of Roses upon, for the Flowers seldom open fair, and have no Scent; but it being a vigorous Shooter, renders it proper for Stocks to bud the yellow and Austrian Roses (R. foetida and R. foetida 'Bicolor'), which will render them stronger than upon their own Stocks."8 John Rea had already given similar advice in 1676.9

In 1770, Otto von Münchhausen referred to the Hortus regius Parisiensis and named it R. francofurtana (inapertis floribus, alabastro crassiore). With the Priority Rights of the International Botanist Convention of 1905, Münchhausen was recognized as the first to describe this variety. He noted the rose was "of low worth because it seldom opens the flowers, and hasn't any scent. The young shoots have countless prickles which are like hair and get lost when the branches age."10

In 1775 Johann Friedrich Gmelin wrote it was "little respected, the flowers rarely open well, they have no scent, which stocks are used for grafting, because they grow strong".11 On the other hand, Charles Malo wrote in 1820 that R. francofurtana was used as a buisson (bush) in jardins paysagers et parterres (informal and formal garden settings).12

Goethe and the Tapetenrose

After the renovation of the garden-house at Stern was completed, Goethe took its possession in 1776 and fixed a trellis there in 1777.13 He had probably already planted R. x francofurtana at that time. The Bohemian scientist Count Caspar von Sternberg reported in 1827 that the rose had climbed on Goethe's garden-house "so that he actually lived in the middle of a rose-bush".14 By 1780, Goethe had already written Mrs. von Stein: "My roses are flowering up to the roof."15 This mention, made in the third year after planting, indicates a strong-growing variety, because only such a rose could have reached the eaves, five meters in height.

What led Goethe think of using R. x francofurtana as a climber? In European countries, they didn't know of true climbing roses at that time. Roses were used to clothe trellises and arbours in the Middle Ages, but before Goethe's time there are neither any hints that R. francofurtana had been used, nor that roses had been grown on the walls of houses. In 1823 Henry Phillips directly warned of woody plants placed next to houses, "as they cause damps, harbour insects, and collect leaves and other substances that become offensive by their putrefaction, whilst the view of the plants themselves cannot be enjoyed from the windows."16 This would hardly have scared off the nature lover Goethe. A special height for R. x francofurtana was not reported before Goethe's time; the rose's strong growth was only mentioned. Perhaps Goethe, himself from Frankfurt, identified with the name and felt a connection to the rose.

Conversation place with TapetenroseGoethe's choice in using this rose seems to have involved a general reevaluation. Christian Cay Laurenz Hirschfeld wrote as early as 1782: "The front of the house was clothed with roses up to the roof, which just at that time were flowering and made the prettiest and most magnificent rose-trellis that could be seen."17 Johann Peter Eckermann mentioned in 1824, that a lot of nests were in the rose plants at the garden-house.18 Aside from the comments of Goethe's visitors, the extraordinary use of the rose became famous in Germany through an article in Allgemeines Teutsches Garten-Magazin, written by Friedrich Justin Bertuch, who had bought a garden in Weimar in the same year as Goethe. In 1804 Bertuch recommended the rose in the article "Der Rosen-Mantel" (The Rose-Coat) for the construction of a "12 to 16 foot high, half-circled rose-espalier, which - like an extended coat - surrounds a nice conversation-place...(see illustration left) You can only use one sort of rose, namely, the high Tapeten-Rose (Rosa turbinata) for such an arbour...because no other variety can be grown as high and would be as rich in its growth. It will climb up to 12, 16 or even 18 feet high on an espalier, if the place, the soil and the care are good. If you put several plants within a distance of three feet, it is possible to clothe a wall in a beautiful way. Therefore I gave the rose in my collection the name Tapeten-Rose. (Wallpaper-Rose or Tapestry-Rose)"19 The subsequent detailed description of the semi-circular espalier lets us assume that it really existed in Weimar. Bertuch closes with the hint that the rose could be bought from the ducal head gardener, Johann Friedrich Reichert, in Weimar.

Reichert's catalogue of 1804 lists:
"R. turbinata Ait. (for William Aiton, see next paragraph) High Tapetenrose 4.9.12, 3 groschen." The code number "4" means the tallest class in a range of height from 5 to 30 feet; the "9" indicates "beautiful blooming, nice foliage or bearing hips" and the "12" represents "able to clothe walls, houses, or arbours." A groschen is an old German coin, 24 groschen equaled 1 taler (dollar). According to Reichert, some other roses having the same quality of height included R. alba, R. majalis plena, R. villosa, R. provincialis, R. centifolia,'York and Lancaster', and R. moschata. Reichert adds a listing for R. turbinata humilis?, "Low Tapetenrose, 6 groschen." The question mark seems to indicate a doubt on Reichert's part as to whether these were two different cultivars.

Tapetenrose at Goethes todayFollowing Reichert, Christian August Breiter, a nurseryman in Leipzig, distinguished in his trade catalogue of 1817 the Tapetenrose R. francofurtana (with synonyms back to Tournefort) from R. turbinata humilis (without synonyms). Gerda Nissen thought the low-growing variety was the younger 'Impératrice Josephine', which - with five other varieties - arose from the primary R. francofurtana and which Redouté painted with the latter name in 1818.20 (see editor's notes)

The renaming of the rose by William Aiton 1789 as R. turbinata,21 by Jakob Friedrich Ehrhart in 1791 as R. campanulata and by Carl Gottlob Rössig in 1799 as R. francofurtensis became void with the set of rules of nomenclature established in 1905. But Aiton, royal head gardener in Kew, (who, by the way referred to Parkinson), had such gravity in the 19th century that the rose has always been named R. turbinata (Rose with heps shaped like a spinning top). According to the Allgemeines Blumen-Lexikon (flower dictionary) published by Theodor Theuss in 1811 in Weimar, this rose is "rather ordinary and available at Wedel etc. for 2 groschen."22

After the first mention of this way of using the rose in Weimar, the recommendation that the rose was suited for clothing walls, arbours and trellises is often found in German garden literature.23 In 1822 a wall in the Wörlitz garden had already been covered with R. turbinata for years when a very cold winter let it freeze to death.24 Jakob Ernst von Reider wrote in 1826 that he "had recently seen high walls and arbours covered with this lovely rose" and quoted the instructions from Allgemeines Teutsches Garden-Magazin. He also added a question mark to the description "faint fragrance" and added: "This rose is growing very fast, spreads quickly and climbs up to 20 feet in some years. It has the trait of bearing a lot of lateral branches of one foot length, from which the lovely double, sweet-scented, somewhat violet-reddish roses spring forth, and make in this way a dense covering on both sides. The foliage as well is perfect; every leaf has five perfect leaflets, which are a nice green above and a matte-green underneath. You can't imagine something more beautiful than such a wall or arbour. Also a hedge of this kind of roses with their lovely scent, fills the whole garden. These beautiful sorts of roses need no cultivation; therefore they should be used in so-called English Gardens much more than before, which we wanted to point out lastly. Such a wonderful rose-coat, standing free in the middle of the garden, could be seen in the garden of Mrs. von Hepp this year. Why do such garden-ornaments lack in most of our gardens? (The roses, which the author saw everywhere, were only 1.5 or 2 inches in diameter and were a violet rose-red or a dark rose-red color.)"25

In 1826 Ferdinand Fintelmann, the royal head gardener from the Berlin Horticulture Society, wrote: "For arbours and rose-coats, we are more likely to chose the so-called Tapeten-Rose (Rosa turbinata), because it excels (over R. majalis) in speedy growth, in flowering-time and in foliage. Its flowers are bigger, more fragrant and, with little care, by far more numerous. Even if this type of rose only scarcely bears flowers again in autumn, you can help it by grafting some branches or shoots from the continuous flowering variety (Rosa semperflorens vel indica), by which you will have the pleasure to sit under flowering roses the whole summer. If you choose the so-called Tea-Rose for grafting some branches - which easily succeed - the fragrance will be intensified."26

The Tapetenrose is mentioned in 1830 as recently known and as reaching 12 to 15 feet high.27 The information about the height differs greatly, but most authors mention six feet or so. After the first colored illustration by Mary Lawrance in 1799, other colored illustrations appeared in Bertuch (1804) (see top illustration), Nikolaus Joseph von Jacquin (1804), Rössig (1812) and Redouté (1818).28 There are no hints about the use of R. turbinata as a Tapetenrose outside of Germany.29 John Claudius Loudon named 53 climbing roses without including it.30

Rosa x francofurtana after Goethe

Carl Lindman's R. cinnamomeaIt didn't take long for the rose to become naturalized. Ambrosius Rau of Würzburg described R. turbinata as "quasi spontanea in Germaniae vineis et dumetis" (somewhat spontaneously seeding in German vineyards and thickets). The botanist Johann Jakob Bernhardi found it growing wild near Erfurt. Christain Gottfried Daniel Nees von Esenbeck also found it in Saxonia. The single-flowered form was also found on the Kahlenberg near Vienna and Wilhelm Daniel Joseph Koch raised it from the seed of the semi-double form. Ernst von Hallier wrote: "here and there in hedges and bushes the single form, also running wild in gardens in the mountains. I found a great number of the single form in the bushes at Granau, also in the wood at Passendorf and in the flora of Halle. Behind Erfurt at Kleinbrembach."31

John Lindley remarked: "yet it is difficult to understand how so very double a flower should ever be propagated by seed, and if not by seed, how it should find its way to such places, except as the outside of gardens."32 In 1876 François Crépin dispelled the legend that the rose had been raised by nature, although he had seen it in a herbarium in Vienna and termed it as a hybrid between R. gallica and R. majalis (see illustration above, left by Carl Lindman) or R. blanda.33 Today it is accepted as a hybrid of R. gallica and R. majalis.

The rose vanished from lists of recommendation after 1840 because there were other climbing roses. Hermann Jäger states in 1865: "The flowers are large, but insufficiently formed and therefore only favourable in peasant-gardens."34 The rose is also missing in the Arboretum Muscaviense in 1864. Theodor Nietner wrote: "Today it is found in peasant-gardens of the (Frankfurt) environs together with the cinnamon-rose (R. majalis), often for the decoration of graves; therefore it is also called churchyard-rose."35 In 1901 Ellen Willmott wrote: "once common in English gardens, is now rarely to be met with."36

Tapetenrose at Goethes todayToday R. x francofurtana is not mentioned in 99 of 100 rose books. According to Anne and Walter Erhardt's Plant Finder of 1995 and 2000, it only is offered by one single German nursery. As a result, the garden curators of the Weimarer Klassik Foundation, who care and preserve the garden monuments in good conscientiousness, had great difficulties finding the right plants for the reconstruction of the rose-coat. The late Hedi Grimm of Kassel informed them that Gerda Nissen had given one specimen found in Mecklenburg to the well-known rose nursery Schütt in D-25554 Vorder-Neuendorf. In the spring of 1996, R. x francofurtana was finally planted at the garden-house again (see photo to the left). Two specimens were from Schütt. It is anticipated that they will develop favourably. Two specimens of the lower form have also been planted under the windows.

(Editor, Marlea Graham's notes: When we wrote Dr. Wimmer about this article, he contacted Dorothee Ahrendt in Weimar, to ask how the roses at Goethe's garden-house were doing now. She replied that the roses planted in 1996 and later do not seem to be the quickly climbing variety described in Goethe's time. The specimens of R. francofurtana and R. francofurtana 'Agatha' planted on the west side are now up to the edges of the windows. The one planted on the north side is higher (see above photo). She has also corresponded with a lady in Bavaria (Maria Protte) who advised that R. francofurtana is still frequently found in Bavarian peasants' gardens.

Disagreement and confusion as to the correct botanical name and identification for the Tapetenrose continues to this day. While François Joyaux (La Rose de France, 1998) favors R. francofurtana, Brent Dickerson (The Old Rose Adventurer, 1999) places it in Turbinata. Each author lists the attendant synonyms mentioned previously, and adds a few new ones: kreisel (whipping top) and R. germanica (Godin). For Ehrhart's R. campanulata, Joyaux adds the translation of 'Rose cloche' (bell rose) and both authors mention the even more evocative 'Rosier à gros cul' (rose with a big bottom - yet another reference to the turbinata hip). Joyaux comments that R. francofurtana may sometimes be offered by nurseries under the name 'Splendens' (see photo below of R. x francofurtana or R. gallica 'Splendens'). He warns, however, that roses listed this way may also turn out to be another variety altogether, the 'Ayrshire Splendens', a hybrid or R. arvensis.

The earliest French sources cited in Dickerson do not seem to be in agreement about the form and color of the flowers: The photograph of Joyaux's R. francofurtana does not match our 1804 illustration, being more gallica-like in both form and color (7-10 petals and magenta pink). This does, however, seem to better fit the rose that Reider described as "violet-red or dark rose-red." Joyaux's photo of the hybrid 'Agatha' rose bears a much closer resemblance to the Tapetenrose illustration, having a greater number of paler pink petals in some disarray. The Combined Rose List 2004 (CRL0 has 'Splendens' with synonyms of 'Frankfurt' and R. gallica splendens, and an estimated date of before 1583. It is described as medium red, and with no mention of fragrance. Hortico of Canada and four continental nurseries carry it, including Rosen Schultheis in Germany.

R. gallica SplendensThere is still some mystery about the 'Empress Josephine' rose as well. Graham Thomas (The Old Shrub Roses, 1957) mentions that he could find no published substantiation for the English name, 'Empress Josephine', though it is given preference over the French. Perhaps publication of the new rose name appeared in an English journal? Joyaux attributes it to Descemet, before 1815, but as 'Impératrice Joséphine'. Whether Descemet simply renamed Reichert's R. turbinata humilis is uncertain. Under R. x francofurtana the CRL refers one back to 'Empress Josephine', with no recognition that it is a hybrid or variant of the parent. Seven U.S. sources are cited. 'Impératrice Joséphine' also refers back to 'Empress Josephine' as the correct listing. The numerous nurseries selling under this name are all out of country (U.S.). R. turbinata is not listed as a synonym nor as itself.

Thomas also says that, while fragrance was "rather lacking" in the low-growing form, the hybrid 'Agatha', has more fragrance, grows to six feet in height, and closely resembles another rose he acquired under the name 'Pope Pius IX'. The CRL agrees, referring one back from 'Agatha' and 'Agatha Francofurtana' to R. gallica agatha, listing these two former names as synonyms and adding another 'Papst Pius IX'. The rose is classified as a Gallica, but a light pink one, fragrant, possibly coming from Loiseleur, with an approximate date of origin, before 1818. Only Vintage Gardens of Sebastopol, CA offers this rose in the US, and then only by special order. Vintage also has the Hybrid Perpetual, 'Pius IX' in their collection, no known relation to the Frankfurt Rose.)


1. Carolus Clusius, Rariorum aliquot stirpium per Pannoniam... observatarum historia, (Antwerp, 1583), 108-9.
2. Hieronymus Bock, Kreuterbuch, ed. Sebitz (Strasbourg,1595), 365r.
3. Jean Bauhin, Historia Plantarum (Yverdun, 1651), 2:35.
4. Carolus Clusius Rariorum Plantarum Historia (1601), 115.
5. John Parkinson, Paradisi in sole terrestris, (London, 1656), 414; this description can also be found in Alexander Macdonald's Complete Dictionary of Practical Gardening of 1807.
6. Le Jardin d'Hyver (Franeau: Doudai, 1616), quoted in Edward A. Bunyard, Old Garden Roses, (London, 1936), 44.
7. Philipp Miller, Gärtnerlexikon, 5th ed. (1741), German trans. 1750, 206-7.
8. Philip Miller, The Gardener's Dictionary, 8th ed. (London, 1768).
9. John Rea, Flora, (London, 1676), 30. ("You shell bud R. hemisphaerica on R. francofurtana with a little piece of R. foetida between, therewith it flowers.")
10. Otto v. Münchhausen, Der Hausvater, (Hannover, 1770), 5:288.
11. (Johann Friedrich Gmelin et al), Onomatologia botanica completa... (Frankfurt, 1772-79).
12. Charles Malo, Histoire des Roses, (Paris, 1820).
13. Dorothee Ahrendt and Gertraud Aepfler, Goethes Gärten in Weimar. (Leipzig, 1994), 21.
14.. Goethes Gespräche (Talks), ed. Wolfgang Herwig, part 2, vol 3:143.
15. Johann Wofgang von Goethe, WerkeWA (Weimarer-Edition), part IV, vol. 4:243.
16. Henry Phillips, Sylva florifera, (London, 1823), 21
17. Ch. C. L. Hirschfeld, Theorie der Gartenkunst , (Leipzig, 1782), 4:236
18. J. P. Eckermann, Gespräche mit Goethe, (1868, reprinted Berlin, 1984), 90-91.
19. Allgemeines Teutsches Gartenmagazin 1 (1804), 17-18. Friendly hints from Jürgen Jäger, Weimar.
20. Gerda Nissen. "Rosenserie, Rosa turbinata, in: Kraut und Rüben", (1994).
21. William Aiton, Hortus Kewensis, 2:206.
22. Theodor Theuss, Allgemeines Blumen-Lexikon, (Weimar, 1811), 2:453
23. Friedrich Gottlieb Dietrich, Vollsändiges Lexikon der Gärtnerei und Botanik. (Berlin, 1808), 8:250 (without height, also varies in size, shape and color of the flowers); J. C. L. Wredow, Gartenfreund, (Berlin, 1818) 484 (without height); Peter F. Bouché, Die Blumenzucht, (Berlin, 1838), 3:289
(8-10 feet); Julius F. W. Bosse, Vollständiges Handbuch d. Blumengärtnerei, (Hannover, 1842), 3:295. (5-6 feet, 3-4 groschen)
24. Schoch, in Verhandlungen des Vereins zur Beförderung des Gartenbaues 10 (1834), 21.
25. Annalen der Blumisterei 2 (1826), 30-32.
26. Verhandungen des Vereins zur Beförderung des Gartenbaues 3 (1827), 138-9.
27. (anonymous) Vollständige, Anweisung schöne Rosen ... zu erziehen (Complete instruction for growing beautiful roses ...), 2nd ed. (Ulm, 1830), 51.
28. Mary Lawrance: A collection of roses from nature, pl. 69; Nicolaus Joseph Jacquin: Plantarum rariorum horticaesari Schoenbrunnensis descriptions et icons, 4, (Vienna, 1804) pl. 418; Jacquin: Fragmenta botanica. (Vienna, 1809), pl. 107, p. 61; Carl Gottlob Rössig, Die Rosen nach der Natur gezeichnet und colorit, fotgesetzt von K. F. Waitz, (Leipzig, 1810-1820), pl. 11 publishedd 1812; Pierre-Joseph Redouté Claude Antoine Thory, Les Roses, (Paris, 1817-1824), 1:127-28, plate published October 1818. The illustrated rose is of course 'Impératrice Joséphine' (see illustration and notes above).
29. Not found in George L. M. DuMont de Courset, Le Botaniste cultivateur, 2nd ed. (Paris, 1811-14).
30 J. C. Loudon, Arboretum et Fruticetum Britannicum, (London, 1838), 762, 755-56.
31. Flora von Deutschland vol. 25, no year given, Nr. 2628.
32. John Lindley, Rosarum Monographia, (London, 1820), 73.
33. François Crépin, Primitiae monopraphiae rosarum, (Geneva, 1869-76), 609-10.
34. Hermann Jäger, Die Ziergehölze (ornamental trees and shrubs), (Weimar, 1865), 473.
35. Theodor Nietner, Die Rose, (Berlin, 1880), 71.
36. Ellen Willmott, The Genus Rosa, (London, 1901), 154.

Further quotes from

Brown, William: Catalogus horti botanici Oxoniensis, (Oxford, 1658)
Robin, Jean; Robin, Vespasian: Enchiridion Isagogicum ad facilem notitiam stirium, tam indigenarum, quam exoticarum, hae coluntur in horto... (Paris, 1665)
(Jonquet, Dionysius:) Hortus regius Parisiensis; 1. TI. (Paris, 1665)
Carl Gottlob Rössig, Öconomisch-botanische Beschreibung der...Rosen (Leipzig, 1799-1803)

Upper two illustrations of the Tapetenrose from Allgemeines Teutsches Garten-Magazin 1804. Photographs Buecherei des Deutschen Gartenbaues, Berlin
Third illustration of the Tapetenrose now growing at Goethe's photographed by Daphne Filiberti
Fourth illustration Rosa cinnamomea or R. majalis by Carl Lindman 1917-1926
Fifth illustration of the Tapetenrose now growing at Goethe's photographed by Daphne Filiberti
Sixth illustration R. x francofurtana or R. gallica 'Splendens' photographed by Daphne Filiberti at Sangerhausen
'Impératrice Joséphine' resembles 'Agatha' but is larger, with more petals.