Rose Season Begins: Father Hugo

Welcome to the first installment of A Rose a Week, a blog dedicated to the roses of Elizabeth Park in Hartford, Connecticut.

What better way to mark the occasion than to start with the park’s earliest bloomer? Rosa Hugonis–known colloquially as Father Hugo’s Rose–marks the unofficial beginning of rose season here at Elizabeth Park when it opens its first yellow blooms in early- to mid-May (this year the first blossom appeared May 8th). Located on the north fence of the Heritage Rose Garden, Father Hugo is surrounded by fragrant lilac blooms, lingering daffodils, and a host of heritage rose varieties. In May, Hugo’s large, bushy frame bursts in a flush of mild honey-scented blooms about 2 inches in diameter, each bearing 4-8 pale yellow petals.

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Father Hugo is a species rose, meaning the variety is unchanged from its original form in the wild (as opposed to most garden rose cultivars, which are the result of hybridizing and generations of breeding). The rose gets its name from Father Hugh Scallan, a Catholic missionary from Wales. During the 19th century, as the Qing Dynasty waned and the British East India Company came to dominate China’s ports, Christian missionaries were among the first westerners to penetrate inland China. Many of them, including Father Scallan, were also amateur botanists who collected local flora in their travels. Scallan first observed R. Hugonis in north-central China and sent seeds back to London’s Kew Gardens in 1899. The Conard-Pyle company introduced Father Hugo to the U.S. in 1917 as the “Golden Rose of China.”

 

Sources

Brenner, D., & Scanniello, S. (2009). A rose by any name: the little-known lore and deep-rooted history of rose names. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: Algonquin Books.

Father Hugo’s Rose. Retrieved from http://www.helpmefind.com/gardening/l.php?l=2.16807.1

Krussmann, G. (1981) The complete book of roses. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press.

Missionaries in China. Retrieved from http://www.bris.ac.uk/Depts/History/Projects/Missions/Intro.htm

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