Dr. Merkeley

Has anyone used Dr. Merkeley?

So, What class is Dr merkely? Is this a new rose?

Always curious…


Hi Randy

This is a spinosissima introduced to Canada from Siberia many years ago. It’s currently available from Pickering and I was wondering if anyone had experience with it. I just checked my Modern Roses 10 and it states that it was introduced by Skinner in 1924. It’s described as deep pink, double, fragrant, low to medium growth and non recurrent.

The Modern Roses description of ‘Dr. Merkeley’ is incorrect. It is likely a Rosa majalis hybrid, definitely not R. spinosissima. The shrub suckers profusely. I sent in the correction (as well as several others pertaining to Canadian roses) to the American Rose Society well before the publication of Modern Roses 10, but they pay no attention to you. Arrogant people!

Thanks Paul. Did you grow it? What else can you tell us about it? The majalis connection is interesting.

Paul, I’ve sent corrections to Modern Roses 11 to Marily Young. She was very appreciative of them and encouraged me to send any others I find. She is apparently in charge of making corrections to MR, and I think that she’d be happy to get yours. Her email address is RoseyNut@aol.com

Hello all,

I saw Dr. Merkeley at Skinners Nursery this past summer and picked one up. In my limited experience of rose growing, I had never smelled such a wonderful scent from a hardy rose. It was a big bush, probably at least 6 feet around, but only 4 or so feet tall. It’s a once bloomer and it still had a few blooms on it at the end of July when I was there. If I remember correctly I think it had sort of matte foliage and smallish, 2 inch darker pink blooms. We were quite taken with it (I think our noses were in control) and my Mom bought one too. At the time I reasoned it’d make a good landscape plant for the boulevard, as it had a perfect sort of mound shape to it, much like some honeysuckles. I don’t remember if it had any hips though, sorry. Hope this helps.

Koren in Saskatoon, Sk

Thanks Koren

I think I will order it. I had been thinking about getting a rose with R. majalis in it, and I think that a hardy and fragrant rose such as this will fit the bill. I’m still looking for a spinosissima, but I’m in no hurry.

Last month we visited Cheyenne, Wyoming, at the hort farm where there was a cold hardy breeding program in the 1950s. In their list of roses received was Dr. Merkeley, with the hand written note that it had been brought to Canada by a member of the Canadian Expeditionary forces in WWI.

The farm is now a grasslands research center and has some remnants of the shrub and rose tests that were there. Their records still survive on 3x5cards.

My observations about Dr. Merkeley seem to indicate different parentage for this rose. It is my belief that it is a pentaploid hybrid with an alba as seed parent and quite possibly acicularis as pollen parent. In such a combination acicularis would have little influence on the final appearance of the rose. I believe this is where the ‘Doctor’ got it’s hardiness and possibly the overall size of the blooms, while the general appearance of the rose is very much like that of the albas. I compared the stems and leaves of ‘Merkely’ to other hybrid albas and was struck by the similarity. Compare to ‘Minnette’ and ‘Mme. Plantier’.

Furthermore I have managed to get one or two open pollinated hips from this rose though my efforts at intentionally crossing with it have failed.

Just some observations that may or may not be helpful.

Frank Skinner obtained ‘Dr. Merkeley’ and introduced it in 1924. Ann is correct in stating that it was a Canadian soldier in WWI who brought it to Canada (from Siberia). It was Skinner who described it as probably a Rosa cinnamomea (majalis) hybrid. In the #43 Rosebank Letter, there is an article by Dr. Merkeley’s son (Donald) on how this rose came to Canada. I don’t have this issue on hand, so I can’t give any details.

I’m very surprised that ‘Dr. Merkeley’ has set open pollinated hips. I have never seen that happen. I’m wondering if you have the correct cultivar.

I obtained my stock from Corn Hill Nursery. I assume it is the correct cultivar. It matches descriptions and photos I have found of it. Also its hardiness is extreme in my zone 3 garden. I have had this rose for several years and I have seen but 2 hips. They are small, round and bristly.

Has anyone else in this forum ever seen a hip on ‘Dr. Merkeley’ before, or is this even rarer than I already believed it to be?

As to the the rosa majalis connection. This is of course possible, however I notice little resemblence in leaf, stem etc. For that matter I see little physical resemblence to acicularis as I have hypothisised earlier, aside from the extreme hardiness of this cultivar. But compare it to the alba hybrids (especially ‘Minnette’) I listed above.