About Polyantha Roses
By H. Scott Hansen

People new to roses often ask the question, Just what are Polyantha roses? The typical answer is to refer them to Cecile Brunner, China Doll, Margo Koster, The Fairy, and other roses which have retained their popularity. These are no doubt the reason the Polyantha rose class has persisted and probably will persist. These are very good roses.  I have seen spectacular sprays of different Polyanthas win Best in Show several times.

Traditionally and typically polyantha roses are small bushes with small flowers borne in clusters, recurrent, and hardy. Many folks would be hard put to distinguish between them and a lot of the modern miniature roses.  Most of the polyantha roses were developed before the present day Miniature craze. 

Indeed before the modern miniature roses we must remember that the polyantha roses were the petite roses. With the advent of so many larger miniature roses (the "Patio Roses," "Sweethearts," "In-betweeners," and so on) it is hard to draw a distinction between them and the polyanthas, and indeed, even some floribunda roses.

The polyanthas are generally accepted to have begun with a cross between R. multiflora  and R. chinensis, both species (wild) roses.  The first, polyantha rose, Paquerette, is dated 1875.  After that there were:

     9 introductions in the 1880's,
   13 in the 1890's,
   28 in the 1900's,
   38 in the 1910's,
 129 in the 1920's,
 106 in the 1930's,
   37 in the 1940's,
   40 in the 1950's,
   49 in the 1960's,
   23 in the 1970's, and
   15 in the 1980's.

Although the polyantha rose hey-days were the 1920's and 1930's, they are still being introduced. One (Wee Butterflies) is listed in the 1990 American Rose Society Annual, one (Olden Days) is listed in the 1989 ARS Annual  and two (Gloire du Bourdonnais and Margo's Baby) are listed in the 1988 Annual. 

As of January 1991 there are 500 (actually my count was 499) polyantha roses listed in Modern Roses 8, Modern Roses 9, and the American Rose Society Annuals. There are 119 listed in MR 9 and an additional 10 from the ARS Annuals "New Roses of the World" (1985 thru 1990). The balance is from MR 8.

Not included are 5 which have been declared extinct by the ARS; 10 which have had their classification changed from Polyantha to something else; and one which had its name changed.

The colors of the 500 Polyantha roses are:
11% white, 
29% pink and pink-blend, 
30% red and red-blend, 
10% orange, orange-blend, and orange-red,  
3% yellow, yellow-blend, and apricot blend. 

This adds up somewhat short of 100% because there are some with no color listed and some indeterminate (such as Ambre Solaire, described as red, pink, and yellow). 

Several of the light pastels (pinks, yellows, and apricots) fade rapidly to white.
One (Baby Fauraux) is listed as mauve. A few more could possibly be listed as mauve, (Atro-purpurea, "purple red",  Jolly, "carmine purple", Magenta, "violet-red", and Mme. Francois Graindorge, "reddish pink shaded magenta").
One (Rallye) is listed as russet.
Two have blooms described as "greenish" (Mother Marie and Royal Queen).
There are 16 climbing Polyanthas with a bush counterpart. They are very much less remontant than their bush counterparts.
There are 5 climbing Polyanthas without a bush counter part, (Campfire, Everbloom, Phyllis Bide, Princess van Orange, and Red Explorer). 
There are 2 different climbing sports of Cecile Brunner, Clotilde Soupert, Gloria Mundi, and Orange Triumph  (different. sources and dates).
There are 3 different introductions of a Paul Crampel, Climbing. (Appleton, 1934;  Vially, 1934;  and Tantau, 1937).  
There are 3 listed as thornless, Marie-Jeanne, Marr, and Mauricette Sistau.
Only one, Pinkie, has been named an All American Rose Selection (AARS in 1948).
Though most Polyanthas are recurrent there is one listed as non-recurrent, Dandy, while another one is listed as sometimes recurrent, Helen Leenders.
Orange Triumph is very red.

Some have immense clusters of bloom, (Prince Jean de Luxembourg has 100 to 150.) and many have spectacular sprays of bloom. 

Many polyantha roses have charming names.  Some of our modern hybridizers have noted this and dug into this gold mine of names after the ARS has declared the Polyantha extinct. Topaz was used recently by Warriner, and Tranquility has been used in the last few years. 

Among some of the interesting names are, Adora, Alouette, Bijou, Black Fire, Boquet Rose, Break O'Day, Cameo, Dainty, Dainty Dawn, Dandy, Embrace, Everglow, Fireball, Fireglow, Forum, Gemini, Girlie, Ideal, Jolly, Little Lady, Little Princess, Little Sunshine, Lullaby, Luminous, Miniature, Mothersday, Paris, Perfection, Pinafore, Prevue, Rosette, Rouge, Royal Queen, Ruby, Seduction, Shocking, Sparkler, Summer Dawn, Sunshine, Superb, and Tip Top.

There are several with feminine names like, Baby Betty, Bernice, Carol Ann, Charmaine, Diana, Elizabeth, Enid, Fair Marjorie, and Linette.

There are also names with colors like, Coral Beauty, Coral Cup, Coral Cluster, Crimson Glow, Golden Fairy, Orange Cheer, Orange Glow, Orange King, Orange Perfection, Orange Queen, Orange Rosette, Orange Triumph, Pink Delight, Red Echo, Red Finch, and Red Triumph.

And then there are the Polyanthas named after the seven dwarfs hybridized by de Ruiter.  There is no date or hybridizer listed for Snow White (a white Polyantha sport of Dick Koster).

Bashful (1955) - single, red-pink, white eye; 
Doc (1954) - semi-double, pink;  
Dopey (1954) - semi-double, crimson-red; 
Grumpy (1956) - double, pink; 
Happy (1954) - semi-double, current-red;  
Sleepy (1955) - double, rhodamine-pink; 
Sneezy (1955 - single, Neyron pink.

Parentage of the polyantha rose is very diverse with all sorts of rose type combinations:
Antoinetta Ingegnoli -- R. wichuraiana  x R. chinensis.. (Both parents species.)
Baby Ruth -- Eblouissant (Pol) x Comtesse de Cayla (Ch). (One parent a China.)
Bali -- Masquerade (F) x Golden Rain (F). (Both parents Floribundas; there are several more like this.)
Borderer -- Jersey Beauty (R) seedling.  (Seed parent a Rambler.)
Bresilienne -- Red Favorite (F) x Ena Harkness (HT).  (Floribunda and Hybrid Tea parents; several more like this.)
Chouette -- Atlantic (F) seedling.  (Seed parent a Floribunda.)
Dr. van de Plassche -- Heureux (Gr) x Allotria (F).  (Grandiflora and Floribunda parents.)
Dubonnet -- Stoplite (F) sport.  (A sport of a Floribunda.)
Eugene Lamesch -- Aglaia (R) x Wm. Allen Richardson (N).  (Rambler and Noisette.)
Glory of Hurst -- Charles Lefebre (HP) seedling.  (Seedling of a Hybrid Perpetual.)
Gwyneth --  a sport of [Trier (R) x Rayon d'Or (HT)] x a sport of [Gottfried Keller (HFt) x Entente Cordiale (HT)].  (Parentage includes Rambler, Hybrid Foetida, and Hybrid Teas.)
Helene Videnz -- Euphrosyne (R) x Louis Philippe (Ch).  (Rambler and China parents.)
Helen Leenders -- Orleans Rose (Pol) x R. foetida bicolor.  (Polyantha and species parents)
Jean Mermoz -- R. wichuraiana  x a HT. (Species and Hybrid Tea parents.)
Johanna Tantau -- Dorothy Perkins (R) x Ophelia (HT).  (Rambler and Hybrid Tea parents.)
La Marne -- Blush Noisette (N) x Park's Yellow Tea Scented China. (Noisette and Misc. Old Garden Rose parents.)
Lisbeth Stellmacher -- Aglaia (R) x Marie van Houtte (T).  (Rambler and Tea parents.)
Little Sunshine -- R. multiflora nana  x Soleil d'Or (HFt).  (Species and Hybrid Foetida parents.)
Orange Triumph -- Eva (HMsk) x So¬larium (R).  (Hybrid Musk and Rambler parents.)
Prevue -- [Tausendschon (HMult) x (Perle d'Or (Pol) x Old China)] x Safrano (T). (Hybrid Multiflora, Polyantha, China, and Tea  parentage.) 
Royal Queen -- Queen Elizabeth (Gr) sport.  (A sport of a Grandiflora.)
Schneewittchen -- Aglaia (R) x [Paquerette (Pol) x Souv. de Mme. Levet (T)]. (Rambler, Polyantha, and Tea parentage.)
The Fairy -- Lady Godiva (R) sport. (A  sport of a Rambler.) 
Tip Top -- Trier (R) x R. foetida bicolor  seedling.  (Rambler and species parents.)
Wageningen -- Golden Giant (HT) x Peace (HT).  (Both parents Hybrid Teas.)
Wapex -- Golden Showers (LCl) x Fata Morgana (F).  (Climber and Floribunda parents.)

Several could possibly be classed as Hybrid Multifloras: Brilliant Echo, Director Struve, and Greta Kluis, are all  sports of Echo a Hybrid Multiflora. 

There are several more which could quite possibly by classed as Hybrid Teas, Floribundas, or something else with the parentage they have.

And then we have the sports of the Polyanthas themselves. They are certainly a sporting bunch.  There are a total of 130 Polyanthas which are sports of something and quite often not Polyanthas. 

There are even  sports of sports, Sneprinsesse is a sport of Dick Koster which is a sport of Anneke Koster which is a sport of Greta Kluis which is a sport of Echo (a Hybrid Multiflora).

The Orleans Rose has 22 Polyantha sports and is one parent of 16 more.
The "Kosters" have 13 Polyantha sports and are one parent of 3 more.
The "Poulsens" have 8 Polyantha sports and are one parent of 2 more.

Perhaps our classification people need to take a long look at the Polyantha and Miniature classes (and perhaps even the Floribundas). After all, parentage seems to be no criteria as Miniatures have Hybrid Teas, Floribundas, and others as parents, and we have seen the plethora of types in the parentage of Polyanthas. Maybe classification in general?

However, in my estimation, there are many of the 500 or so Polyanthas which should be classed as something other than Polyanthas.

With many experienced rose people and especially exhibitors the Polyantha rose has almost become the forgotten class of roses.  Too bad because many of them really are good roses.

In 1992, H. Scott Hansen, the author of this article, gave a disk full of his articles to Kitty Belendez with permission to publish them. H. Scott Hansen is now deceased.

© Copyright Estate of H. Scott Hansen. All rights reserved.
Updated January 4, 2016

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