Tag Archives: Campbell House Museum

Perpetual Petals: A Brief History of Roses

A rose by any other name…might still be a rose! With thousands of varieties and hybrid varieties boasting a spectrum of colors and scents, it is no wonder roses have captivated gardeners and inspired artists for centuries.

According to fossil evidence, roses date back 70 million years in Asia and 35 million years in North America. Garden cultivation of roses began some 5,000 years ago, most likely in China. Native to the Northern Hemisphere, the genus Rosa has species spread from Alaska to Mexico and including northern Africa, Europe, and Asia. During the Roman period, roses were grown extensively in the Middle East and Mediterranean, where it was traded for celebration confetti, medicinal purposes, food, and perfume. Roses have arguably always been the most famous of all plants, but it was not until the Victorian era that rose cultivation and gardening reached an all-time peak.

Partially inspired by Empress Josephine Bonaparte’s extensive collection of 250 species, rose gardens grew in popularity throughout the 19th century, reaching its zenith in Victorian England and the United States in the latter half of the nineteenth century. The oldest single plant horticultural society in America, the American Rose Society was founded during this time in 1892. Out of the nearly 3,000 varieties hybridized during this golden age, we have only about 100 left, and only about 50 varieties are commercially available today.

Rose variety “King’s Ransom”

The term, “rose,” however, is simply an umbrella term describing wild roses, original species of roses, hybrids, and all the other crosses that have occurred in the last few hundred years. Before deliberate hybridization by man, roses grown in cultivation were of two main types: selections of plants either from among natural species grown wild or from natural hybrids occurring due to the pollinating activities of a bee. By the late eighteenth century, artificial hybridization had became possible and only few of the really ancient wild roses were still grown. However, characteristics of these roses can be found in new cultivations. The most important groupings among the ancient roses were the Centifolias and Moss roses, Damasks, Gallicas, Portlands, Albas, Chinas, and the species.

One of the first hybridizations was the hybrid perpetual, which was introduced in France as ‘hybrid remontant’ in 1837and then later referred to as hybrid perpetual. Perpetual was a real misnomer since they bloom twice seasonally, which was still more produced by their genetic ancestors, the damasks, hybrid chinas and bourbons. Another sought after characteristic was their hardiness, which still exceeds the modern hybrid tea roses. Many of our modern roses trace their color and/or form to their hybrid perpetual ancestors.

Rose variety “Octoberfest”

In 1867, Guillot Fils, one of the many gardeners at Guillotière since its opening in 1690, introduced the first hybrid tea, “La France,” which can still be found today. The hybrid tea supplied the abundant, recurrent bloom that had been awaited for so many years in addition to a broader color range, although many petals and fragrance were sacrificed in the process.

The Rose Society considers this the dividing line between old garden roses, which are hybrids developed by cross pollinating, such as the alba, damasks and chinas which are known for their abundant aroma, and modern which include hybrid tea roses, floribundas and grandifloras, which produce many flowers. Today, hybrid teas make up most garden roses. These two groups differ from the oldest- the species roses that developed in nature without any human intervention and basis of all cultivated roses.

Even the Victorians had difficulty remembering all the rose varieties. Books such as The Flower Garden, or Break’s Book of Flowers, published in 1851 by Joseph Breck, simplify roses for the common reader. And excerpt from the book is below:

Rose variety “Neil Diamond”

“It may often be difficult to ascertain whether a Rose is a Damask, a Provence, or a Hybrid China; but there can be no difficult in ascertaining whether it is dwarf or climbing, whether it blooms once or more in the year and whether the leaves are rough as in the Remontants, (perpetual) or smooth as in the Bengals. We have, therefore, endeavored to simplify the old classification, and have placed all Roses under three principal heads:

  1. Those that make distinct and separated periods of bloom through the season, as the Remontant Roses
  2. Those that bloom continually, without any temporary cessation, as the Bourbon, China, etc
  3. Those that bloom only once in the season, as the French and others

Bird’s Eye view of the rose garden.

The first of these includes only the present Damask and Hybrid Perpetuals. Perpetual does not express their true character. The second general head we call Everblooming. This is divided into five classes:

  1. The Bourbon, which are easily known by their luxuriant growth, and think, large leathery leaves. These are, moreover, perfectly hardy.
  2. The China, which includes the present China, Tea, and Noisette Roses, which are now much confused, as there are many among the Teas which are not tea-scented, and among the Noisettes which do not bloom in clusters. There are, moreover, so much alike in their growth and habit, that it is better each should stand upon its own merits, and not on the characteristics of an imaginary class.
  3. Musk, known by its rather rough foliage.
  4. Macartney, known by its very rich, glossy foliage, almost evergreen
  5. Microphylla, easily distinguished by its peculiar foliage and straggling habit.

The third general head we divided into five classes:

  1. Garden roses. This includes all the present French, Provenance, Hybrid Provenance, Hybrid China, Hybrid Bourbon, White, and Damask Roses, many of which, under the old arrangement, differ more from others in their own class than from many in another class.
  2. Moss roses, all of which are easily distinguished.
  3. Brier Roses, which will include the Sweet Brier, Hybrid Sweet Brier, and Austrian Brier.
  4. The Scotch Rose
  5. Climbing Roses; which are again divided into all the distinctive subdivisions.”

A map indicating the location and varieties of roses at Campbell House (prepared by volunteers from the Greater St. Louis Rose Society)

For decades the jewel of the Museum’s gardens has been the rose bed. For almost 50 years the roses were carefully tended by former Campbell House curator Theron Ware and later by Leo and Katie Krobath, members of the Greater St. Louis Rose Society. This summer the Rose Society re-established its commitment to the Campbell House rose garden under the direction of volunteer Bruce Davis. The Rose Society replaced more than 25 damaged or dead plants with a collection of floribundas, grandifloras, and hybrid teas. There are now 50 roses thriving in the garden with evocative names like King’s Ransom, Yellow Brick Road and Sugar Moon.

Next time you visit, don’t forget to stop and smell the roses.

-Jenna, Graduate Research Assistant

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#DrinkupTweetup returns to the Campbell House!

#DrinkupTweetupSTL (1)

What do you get when you combine General Ulysses S. Grant, an awesome local rock band and FREE beer and food from some of St. Louis’ best brewers and restaurants? Why, #DrinkupTweetup of course! We’re putting out the call once again to the St. Louis twitterverse to converge on the garden of the Campbell House Museum on Friday, September 25 starting at 5:00 p.m. for an evening of fun focused on St. Louis history through the lens of beer, wine and spirits. We’re partnering with Distilled History – an award winning and all around excellent blog written by Campbell House docent Cameron Collins to bring you up to speed on the ins and outs of booze’s role in the growth and evolution of St. Louis as a major Midwestern city.


Typhoon Jackson. They’re awesome.

In addition to FREE beer (provided by our pals at Urban Chestnut and Schlafly) and food, we’ll be raffling off a series of great packages including St. Louis brewery tours, six-packs of special edition Campbell House-themed home brew and history-themed outings. The grand prize? A shot of the winner’s choice from a sterling silver cup once owned by General Ulysses S. Grant – PRESENTED to the winner by Grant himself (AKA an excellent historical interpreter who will be attending in full character and costume).

Typhoon Jackson, our resident Americana/folk/blues/rock band will play the entire night, making our little corner in downtown St. Louis the place to be. This is not to be missed – help us spread the word and share your attendance using #DrinkupTweetupSTL on Twitter and “attending” our event on Facebook. Let’s make this the best one yet.

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A Fond Farewell

As you may have read here several weeks ago, we’ve been on the hunt for a new Weekend Manager at the Campbell House. This means two things: 1) we’re really excited to welcome a new face and a fresh perspective to the Campbell House on the weekends (more on that in the coming days…), and 2) we’re saying goodbye to Weekend Manager David.

unnamed-3If you’ve been to CHM on a Saturday or Sunday in the past three years, you’ve probably encountered David. He gives top notch tours on the weekends and displays incredible enthusiasm for the story of the Campbell family, this house and 19th century St. Louis history. As the live-in, on-site groundskeeper for the Museum (his apartment is on the second floor of the Carriage House), he’s also kept our garden looking its best, making sure the grass is cut and plants are debris-free.  Last year his hard work was recognized with a Hospitality Hero award from the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission – a special distinction which recognizes front line employees who best exemplify the St. Louis community’s ongoing commitment to great service. On top of all this, David works as a park guide at the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site at Whitehaven, does Civil War reenacting and is a crazy good musician. You might have seen him and his band Typhoon Jackson at last year’s #DrinkupTweetupSTL (good news! They’re returning to play for the event again in September!)

Basically, David’s an all around great fella and he’ll be very missed, but we’re very excited to follow his career in the years to come and to introduce you to our new Weekend Manager in the coming days (sneak preview: she’s ALSO a history buff). As we gear up for his final weekend here at CHM, we hope you’ll join us in thanking David for his service over the past three years and swing by for one of his last tours. From Robert, Virginia and the whole Campbell House crew – thank you and best wishes, David!

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