Is the Yellow Rose of Texas From Texas?
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!
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, for whom the rose is named. 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. It's rated as hardy through zone 4 but has been observed growing as far south as Texas and as far north as Alaska. It grows in almost any condition from poor soils to very rich soils. Most roses need full sun. In my yard, it grows in partial shade. Like other heirloom roses, it blooms once a year in the spring. My bush is always the first rose to bloom in mid- May. My other heirloom roses follow suit in late May/early June.
How to Prune
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. All you need to do is remove any dead branches or suckers that have developed. Pay especial attention to the bottom of your rosebush. Very often heirloom roses are grafted onto the rootstock of another type of rose. Sometimes the rootstock sprouts and you get branches with different leaves and flowers from the rest of the bush. These are known as suckers. Remove those shoots when you see them start to develop. If you leave them, not only will they detract from the beauty of your rose, but they will also rob your bush of water and nutrients.
You can prune a second time if you like, after the bushes bloom to give them a little shape and to prevent them from sprawling. Heirloom roses can become enormous bushes unlike the well-mannered modern hybrid tea rosebushes.
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. They cut canes (woody cuttings) from trees, shrubs, berry bushes and rosebushes. Kept moist during the journey, the canes would have developed roots and been ready to plant when the women reached their new homes.
How to Propagate
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.
Another easy way to propagate your rose bush is using a technique known as layering. When your rose has finished blooming, bend a couple of branches down until they touch the ground. Anchor the branch to the ground and cover it with soil. Be careful not to cover the end of the branch. It needs those leaves to feed the branch as it develops roots. Keep it watered. You will know that roots have developed under the soil when you see new growth begin on the exposed part of the branch. Now you can sever the branch from the main bush and plant it elsewhere in your garden.
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 this pioneer rose. 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. The buildings may be decaying but the tough roses are still growing heartily.
No matter which part of the country that you live in, you can grow a colorful reminder of our pioneer heritage.
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© 2013 Caren White