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The Yellow Rose of Texas Isn't From Texas

Updated on June 21, 2017
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Caren White is a Master Gardener and longtime volunteer at Rutgers Gardens as well as an instructor at Home Gardeners School.

Everyone knows that the song, The Yellow Rose of Texas, refers to a woman but not everyone knows that there is a rose called The Yellow Rose of Texas. And it's not even from Texas!

Harison's Yellow
Harison's Yellow | Source

What is the Yellow Rose of Texas?

Harison's Yellow is a hybrid offshoot of Rosa foetid, a yellow rose native to the Caucasus mountains whose flowers have only six petals. Harison's Yellow is a double version. It first appeared in the garden of George F. Harison, an attorney in New York City in 1824. William Prince, who had a nursery on Long Island, took cuttings and began to sell it in 1830.

A shrub rose with canes five to six feet tall, Harison's Yellow is extremely hardy, growing almost anywhere. Like other heirloom roses, it blooms once a year in the spring. In my own yard, it is always that first rose to bloom in mid- May. The rest follow suit in late May/early June.

Pruning heirloom roses is easier than pruning modern hybrid tea roses. You prune once a year in the early spring just as the plants break their winter dormancy. Just remove any dead branches or suckers that have developed. You can prune a second time if you like, after the bushes bloom to give them a little shape.

How did it spread across the country?

As people spread across the continent, they brought a few reminders of home with them. They had to be small because there was not much space in the Conestoga wagons. Pioneer women often collected seeds from their favorite flowers, herbs and vegetables and cut canes from their rosebushes .Kept moist during the journey, the canes would have developed roots and been ready to plant when the women reached their new homes.

Propagation

You can do the same thing in your own garden. To propagate your Harison’s Yellow, cut off a branch of your rose that is green and healthy. Strip off all of the leaves from one end and dip that end into rooting hormone. Then you can stick your prepared branch in a container of soil-less mix or directly into the ground in your garden. The rooting hormone will encourage the cutting to develop roots quickly, but you can also do as the pioneer women did and just stick the branch into the ground and keep it moist until it develops new roots.

Taking cuttings in the spring is known as soft wood cuttings because the branches are actively growing. You can also propagate your roses in the late fall or early winter using the same technique. In this case, it’s known as a hard wood cutting because the plant is dormant in the late fall and winter.

Harison's Yellow can be found all over the West. They say that you can trace the Oregon Trail by following the bright yellow flowers of Harison's Yellow. In Oregon, at the end of the trail, it is known as the Logtown Rose because it is found in so many abandoned logging towns.

No matter which part of the country that you live in, you can grow a colorful reminder of our pioneer heritage.

© 2013 Caren White

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      Caren White 3 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      Gary, not all settlers were farmers. Some were merchants who were very interested in settling in frontier towns. Their wives, sisters and mothers would all have brought reminders of home including their beloved roses. Thank you for reading and commenting.

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      GaryS1876 3 years ago

      As the iconic Yellow Rose is found wherever settlers found good soil and put down (their) roots, I doubt that logging towns were very inviting for farmers. -- My understanding is that the so-called Logtown Rose was a local Harisons Yellow growing in Jackson Co., Oregon, for which a local poet/logger wrote a poem extolling its charm. It was later planted near the gates of the Logtown Cemetery near Ruch, Jackson Co., Oregon.