Monday, September 23, 2013

Rooting for Grootendorsts

'F. J. Grootendorst'
In normal times I respect and listen to Suzy Verrier on all things Rugosa.  After all, how can the author of Rosa Rugosa and Rosa Gallica possibly be mistaken?  Of the Grootendorst roses, however, she writes:  "I feel little to admire in these shrubs which are peculiarly not rose-like.  The growth is ungraceful..crowded blossoms do not have any particular beauty...all tend to attract pests and lack the disease resistance of most rugosas.....MIGHT BE DESCRIBED AS SOULLESS."

'F. J. Grootendorst' and 'Alchymist'
The past two summers in Kansas, however, have not been normal times.  In my garden during a fine Fall weekend, my three Grootendorsts were providing more than their share of color, perhaps out-classed only by an ambitious 'Earth Song' which seems to be blooming like it was a baseball player on steroids.  I grow the original red  'F. J. Grootendorst', pictured above in the closeup and blooming with 'Alchymist' to the left.  I also grow two of its sports, 'Pink Grootendorst', introduced by the same nursery in 1923 and pictured below at the right in my garden in 2008, and I grow 'Grootendorst Supreme', a deeper red sport introduced in 1936 but just planted into my garden this Summer as an own-root plant from Menard's.  There is a white sport of Pink Grootendorst as well, introduced by Paul Eddy in 1962, that I haven't yet purchased or grown.

'Pink Grootendorst'
The original 'F. J. Grootendorst' was reportedly introduced by F. J. Grootendorst and Sons in 1918, and bred by De Goey in the Netherlands as a cross between R. rugosa rubra and 'Madame Norbert Levavasseur'.  There is some controversy over the provenance of the rose, however, as Robert Osborne suggests, and repeats in his Hardy Roses book, that Dr. Frank L. Skinner may have been the real breeder the rose.  Dr. Skinner sent two packets of a seedling from the same cross, R. Rugosa X 'Madame Norbert Lavavasseur', to two separate locations, one of which never arrived at its intended destination, and then fifteen years later he saw the identical rose introduced from Holland.  Oh the intrigue hidden beneath the simple surface of a rose! 

The Grootendorst sports are all small-blossomed, very double, cluster-flowered roses, with an unusual petal shape that I refer to as "fringed".  These are shrub-type roses with small rugose foliage, in the 5X5' range of size here in Kansas.  The rose doesn't form hips, nor do the blossoms have any perceptible scent.  Yes, these are atypical roses, but unlike Ms. Verrier, I would have rated their disease resistance as outstanding in my garden, and if they do possess a soul, it is one reflected by any number of hardy prairie plants.  Certainly, I welcome both their profuse blooms, drought resistance, and their hardiness in my garden. 

Rosa Rugosa by Suzy Verrier

Times change and classic roses go in and out of style and favor.  All I can suggest for those who are intrigued by the Grootendorst roses is to try them and evaluate their performance in your own garden.  Suzy Verrier seems to be moderating her previous stance, since her North Creek Farm nursery currently sells 'Grootendorst Supreme' and 'White Grootendorst'.  Of the former, she comments that "Old prejudices aside, someone gave me one of these and I must admit Supreme has bloomed itself silly, been extra healthy, and I do like the bright deep saturated crimson-pink color in the garden."  My compliments to Ms. Verrier.  I've always felt that a true expert must be willing, at times, to change their opinions if new evidence seems pertinent.


  1. Maybe one has to actually grow these roses in order to be enamored with them. Although, I must say, your photos of them are pretty enamoring!

    1. Maybe. I certainly recognize they are a matter of taste.

  2. How can they not be rose like? They remind me very much of the roses seen in cottage gardens in England. Lovely.

    1. Well, in truth, they're more like massive thorny bushes...if you planted them in a row they'd make a nice impenetrable hedge


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