Rosa foetida as a garden plant

I know that most of the black spot susceptibility in modern roses seems to be attributed to Rosa foetida (not asking whether this is right or wrong… not wanting to get into that here… actually I am a bit interested in this because ‘Harrison’s Yellow’ is another rose I have been looking at and HMF states it is relatively disease free so I am interested to experiment to see if disease susceptibility is something that depends more on what it is mated with as it seems to be in this case), however, I have just, for the first time seen it offered for sale here. I was wondering what kind of a garden plant it was (health-wise) and if it is as big a black spot disaster as a lot of its progeny seem to be.

On another note, in the archives I found this quote on foetida:

"Posted by Karl [email] on Thu, Nov 2, 2006

My take on the Foetida-Blackspot connection is that the species is summer dormant. The leaves aren’t built for long-term survival. They are produced with enough nutrients (protein, etc.) to last a few months. But when the species is crossed with a non-summer-dormant relative, the hybrids usually don’t go dormant, and the leaves run out of supplies before the end of the growing season – leaving them very susceptible to infection. "

There was never much discussion about it at the time. I was wondering what the feeling was about this?

I have yet to see a Harrison’s Yellow here – ever. Any of the foetida relations literally melt here. Thats what the leaves look like by July. The stems seem to do similar during out very wet winters. The wood on the older yellows like Golden Masterpiece and King’s Ransom do the same thing – massive winter (not from freezing) die-back.

However, any of the R15 hybrids Ive had have had zero issues here.

The theory from your quote coud be possible.

Mine was strongly prone to BS. It died after two years (I blame the nursery for severely pruning it- it’s one of those that resent it).

R. hugonis & Golden Chersonese do well here.

R. foetida, R. foetida bicolor, and Harrison’s Yellow makes huge bushes here. They are some of the best roses you can grow in this area. They are winter hardy. They do well in the dry climate. These roses tend to be planted and forgotten about until they bloom then they are spectacular. And for the most part we do not know what black spot is. There lies the problem.

I have done a number of crosses with both foetida and I plan on doing some with Harrison’s Yellow. I do not know if they will translate into a plant that is good else where, but if I got something with that color that is just good around here that would be good enough for me. My biggest concern about these is that they are monster plants. Hopefully the seedlings do not get that big until I can get into a house. I would think in a lot of Australia they would be valuable to use because they like dry climates.

I firmly believe it’s a double edged sword. In the proper environment, Foetida is as clean as a whistle. In the San Fernando Valley, in bad years (such as this one), it can experience some foliage problems, but usually, it’s healthy.

The second edge, I do believe is what it’s mated with. It’s the only thing which has any logic to it. I don’t blame Foetida personally, but believe it is more of the confused information which occurs when you mate deciduous and evergreen roses. Soliel d’Or is healthy in dry climates. Grow it in humidity and it’s a mess. Grow it in too long of a season area, and it is as bad as humid areas. Hyrid Rugosas in this area are horrible, for the most part. The only exceptions I’ve encountered have been Ralph’s mini-rugosa crosses, and not all of them have been good. Linda Campbell is known to suffer slight mildew and blackspot in bad areas or bad years. Otherwise, in most of the drier climates she is spotless. Topaz Jewel got slight mildew for me, but resisted all else. There were several rugosa hybrids I grew here which rusted as badly as Roserie d’lHay and C.F. Meyer. Sir Thomas Lipton I couldn’t keep foliage on. Rose a Parfum de L’Hay was a train wreck in the foliage department.

Ralph’s Star Magic was bullet proof here, but most of the other Bracteata hybrids rusted like an old nail. Out of the Night and Out of Yesteryear are clean here, just as Bracteata is.

That’s been one of my main worries about the Fedtschenkoana crosses. Unfortunately, I had to use Orangeade just to get the line started as it resisted everything else. The initial crosses remain clean here, but I haven’t taken that line further because the Dottie Louise line incorporates Basye’s Legacy, which has even cleaned up Playboy’s rust, at least in the first generation. Taking the Dottie Louise X Fedtschenkoanas further has produced quite a few mildewy seedlings with 1-72-1 and a few with Cherry Parfait. The most vigorous Cherry Parfait seedling black spots like crazy, or has until it has grown larger. Now, it seems to be settling in and not spotting as it did, even though the conditions are still ripe for the fungus.

Unless the other parent has sufficiently great disease resistance, such as Basye’s Legacy, and even that isn’t perfect, but probably the best we have at the moment, the plants contain mixed messages which result in too rapidly used up foliage on plants which refuse to drop it.

Harison’s Yellow (that’s right–it should be spelled with only one r because it was originated by George Folliott Harison) is very much an unknown quantity as a parent, but not because people have not used it in breeding.

  1. We have no record of the actual parentage, so you don’t know what you’re getting when you use it. When it was put into commerce (1825 or so), it was rumored to be a seedling of R. spin. altaica x R. foetida (what is sometimes called Austrian Yellow). This parentage is more likely than what has been widely published in recent years. In the early decades of the past century, Persian Yellow was substituted for the R. foetida. To increase the level of magic required, Persian Yellow was said to be the seed parent. Altaica sets seed reasonably well; Persian Yellow (itself almost certainly a hybrid rather than a true species), hardly ever.

  2. There are two genotypes available under the name of Harison’s Yellow, so–again–you don’t know what you’re getting when you use it. One genotype is tetraploid, and one is triploid. You may wish to think of these as two different varieties. If you know which is the real one, you may wish to speak of mislabeling. Regardless of your wish, one of these will form and ripen hips pretty well; the other, hardly ever. The triploid will be usable almost entirely as a pollen parent, and seedlings derived from it will have some fertility problems. The triploid seems to be much more commonly available because it seems to sucker more, and the suckers are easily sold or distributed as gifts. If you know where there is a planting of HY that has been where it is since sometime in the 1830-1850 range, I want to know about it. For that matter, anything before 1900 might be good. If you have access to such a planting, I’d very much like to have pictures of the leaves and the flower, especially the back of the flower, and the peduncle, and any hips that may have formed.

In addition to the various unknowns, HY offers the usual difficulties of transitioning from a once-bloomer to a recurrent bloomer–first-generation seedlings may take years to bloom for the first time and probably will be once-blooming. And the seeds have a very thick coat and are very difficult to germinate by traditional methods. Walter van Fleet sowed many hundreds of seeds and was very excited 2-3 years before his death to get three germinations. Your luck may be better, but you should know that working with Harison’s Yellow probably will not lead to instant gratification.


Could some of the Harison’s Yellow in commerce be William’s Yellow? Also, one would think that if Persian Yellow was a sport of R. foetida then there would be a double bicolored sport (which sounds kinda cool lol).

As for the plants as garden specimens, Rosa primula is probably one of the best species garden specimens in roses I have ever seen in Western Oregon/Washington. Ive already said what I could on foetida.

Williams’ Double Yellow is sometimes called Lutea plena, and it is similar to Harison’s Yellow, but WDY is less vigorous and has a green button in the center where the disk is fused. This difference is distinctive enough to make mislabeling likely if people are paying any attention to the flowers. In spite of the unusual arrangement of the pistils, WDY does set some hips, but usually with fewer than 5 seeds per hip. You can see a really impressive display of these green buttons from a distance in the picture at "Namdalsrosen" Rose Photo and a close-up view at 'Williams' Double Yellow' Rose Photo.

From The Graham Stuart Thomas Rose Book ('Williams' Double Yellow' rose references):

"‘Williams’ Double Yellow’. Rosa pimpinellifolia lutea plena. . . . the same parentage as R. x harisonii, but . . . much nearer to the Burnet Roses than to R. x harisonii, making a freely suckering, branching, prickly bush about 4 feet high, with neat leaves and loosely double, bright yellow flowers. These have a bunch of green carpels in the centre; ‘Harison’s Yellow’ has yellow stamens, and this at once distinguishes them, apart from other characters. The heavy scent of R. foetida pervades them both."

Because of these distinctive characteristics, it’s unlikely that WDY is in commerce as Harison’s Yellow.

In my zone 3 garden Harison’s yellow is not hardy to the tips so the flowers are under the snow line. The flowers are ragged and unattractive up close. If you can find it Hazeldean (Rosa spinosissima altaica X Persian Yellow) is much superior, hardier, lovely shaped blooms, nice scent. After getting this plant Persian Yellow and Harison’s Yellow were shovel pruned.

…Hazeldean being, of course, a parent of R15-01…

Anyone currently working with Hazeldean?

I’ve been working to develop a ‘Prairie Youth’ x ‘Hazeldean’ breeding line. I also want to develop a ‘Red Dawn’ x ‘Hazeldean’ one. It’s unfortunate this wasn’t done many years ago that perhaps could have been used by Dr. Svejda to incorporate in her Rosa kordesii breeding program that led to the development of the Explorer roses. We might now have a wider range of colours in this series.

Paul, do you anticipate the yellow might prevail in these?


No, but I should be able to obtain pastel colours.