There is also the issue of how plants are held in storage between harvest and shipping. A semi professional nurseryman here in California promoted for years the issue with strongly Foetida types was the long, dry, cold storage there were subjected to. Cultivars such as Peace, Sterling Silver, Angel Face, among others, which were known for being vigorous initially but have “lost vigor” over the decades. Foetida does not do well being held under cold, dry conditions. Plants of Angel Face, Peace, Sterling Silver, even other Pernetiana types budded in the fields demonstrate performance approaching that originally described in the introductory literature. After harvest and storage, many hit the market as devitalized, weak, runt plants which often never recover and regain their original vigor. I have seen five foot Sterling Silver bushes in Wasco and I have seen many dozens of 18", weak bud and bloom canned plants in retail and wholesale nursery outlets. It’s possible to bud your own from these types to regain more of the original performance.
There is also the issue with Angel Face of a “brutus gene degenerative mutation” having made it into the market place. The plant is more vigorous with degenerated flowers of a muddy color. Similar degeneration occurred with French Lace, Circus and perhaps others, where the plants grew more vigorously though flowered less with muddy color. I heard years ago it cost J&P many thousands of dollars to replace the French Lace sent out and their stock in the fields of that degenerative sport.
And, as Larry wrote, originally budded types now offered only as own root can frequently under perform their original descriptions. Betty Uprichard was originally described as having vigor like Frau Karl Druschki, yet no own root plant I have ever encountered approached anything resembling that. Until relatively recently, health and vigor weren’t major characteristics considered in the selection of new varieties. The ability of the plant to root and grow well own root wasn’t even considered in the selection process for major commercial introduction during the last three-quarters of the last century. The assumption was made that if a plant grew, it would probably work own root. J&P announced Henry Fonda would become part of their New Generation (own root) selection the next year, until they discovered that even though it WOULD root, it wouldn’t grow well own root, so it continued being available only budded. The same thing occurred at Week’s with Midnight Blue. They announced it would be offered as a “Shrublet”, their own root shrub rose selection. It didn’t happen. Midnight Blue isn’t good own root, so it remained available as a budded plant.
It seems logical that plant architecture is selectable. Isn’t that what is done when isolating a climbing mutation? It’s what is accomplished when selecting for more ground cover-like growth, weeping architecture, even upright, columnar growth such as the Colonnade Apples. I would offer the wide range of plant habit encountered in Iceberg roses is a demonstration of lack of selection. Some remain shorter, bushier, while others grow into large, almost semi climbing types. The climbing mutation expresses itself to a very wide degree of change resulting the wide range of performance. Had more attention been paid to actual selection for architecture, perhaps it would be possible to state the variety grows to a more uniform size.