Differences between the early yellows

oath5(z6b/7a MD)February 27, 2012

I want to add hugonis, primula and the other early yellows, but is there any defining differences between those derived from hugonis? I had bought a 'Canary Bird' but my dad ended up pruning it thinking it was a weed. What should I get

I have yet to replace it and I'm debating which I should get first. It's so humid here during the summer I was thinking primula would perfume the yard with it's foliage all summer so primula is a must. Unfortunately it looks like no one has it in stock anywhere

What are the key differences between the following?:


Golden Chersonese


Canary Bird

Also anyone grow 'Albert Edward' the spinossima x hugonis cross?

I'm noticing some variances in yellow saturation and flower size but wondered what people had to say bout them.

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Tessiess, SoCal Inland, 9b, 1272' elev

Of the yellow species/species crosses, I have R. primula, R. foetida 'Persiana', R. xanthina, William's Double Yellow, R. alabukensis, and Harison's Yellow. As you can see, I like yellow.;)

R. primula came as a bareroot from Pickering in December. It has already bloomed! The flowers were small and pale "primrose" yellow. The foliage is scented too! R. foetida 'Persiana' is the most saturated yellow among the ones I have, it repeats some for me, and it's flowers are double and globular in shape. Mine came from Eurodesert (now closed) but High Country Roses in Colorado has it in stock. R. alabukensis is a short-growing plant with single pale yellow flowers. A nursery in Canada (Brentwood Bay may be the name or close to it) sometimes has it, but I don't think they ship. My xanthina came from Eurodesert last year (a BIG plant cut back for the move). I saw it flower there and these were large singles, light to medium yellow in color. The plant is forming buds now and should be blooming within a week or two. Harison's Yellow arrived about a week ago from Greenmantle Nursery (northern California, and when I ordered she still had some in stock) and it has just started to leaf out. Pictures on the web and in books indicate a very-saturated yellow, semi-double. William's Double Yellow I got in December 2011 from Pickering. It is the result of the same cross of parents as Harison's Yellow except the mother and father are reversed. Mine is leafing out and no blooms yet, but pics of it online/in books also depict an intense yellow semi-double flower. This is the final season for William's Double Yellow at Pickering, and it was harder to find than Harison's Yellow.

High Country Roses in Colorado, species page:
(looks as if they have Persiana, hugonis, xanthina spontanea, plus Harison's Yellow on a different page)
Harison's Yellow:

Pickering (grafted only) in Canada species page:
(hugonis sold out, still show primula and cantabrigiensis, with Harison's Yellow and William's Double Yellow on different pages)

Spinosissima page for William's Double Yellow:

Hybrid foetida page for Harison's Yellow:

High Country Gardens in New Mexico has Hugonis:

Greenmantle Nursery in California may have Harison's Yellow (they don't show online availability, you must call to find out what is in stock):


    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 12:14AM
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Unfortunately, there is MUCH confusion among them and there is little guaranty what you think you're getting is what you'll actually receive. What is reported as differences between them appears to be climatic variation. As for Primula scenting the air with its foliage, or wood or whatever, none of the variations of it I've ever encountered were sufficiently scented to perfume the air, even when there were the right amounts of humidity and heat present. Fedtschenkoana and Eglantine both scented the air, but none of the Primulas I've had did.

Whichever you finally receive, I'm sure you'll love it. What I grow as Hugonis is on HMF at this link. It's been flowering here for the past few weeks. Kim

Here is a link that might be useful: Hugonis

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 12:17AM
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Campanula UK Z8

I too must concur with Kim that the scent of R.Primula will not likely scent anything very much unless you brush against it after rainfall - although this is not a reason to not get this rose. The differences between them tends to be very small - the shade of yellow (much more golden in anything from R.Ecae), the shape and size of flower - whether slightly cupped or flatter and the general shape of the shrub. Can you actually get your hands on Albert Edwards? My college used to have it but I have never managed to strike a cutting from it and am not sure that it can still be got from Hilliers. If you do see it, then get it - it was a hugely graceful and vigorous plant in West Anglia college. To confuse matters further, there are numerous Hugonis hybrids such as R.Headleyensis and R.Earldomensis.
Hugonis - the most upright, slightly cupped flowers, good autumn colouring, dark red hips
Cantabridgiensis - paler and flatter flowers than hugonis.
Headleyensis - a bit more sprawly but smaller than Hugonis
Earldomensis - a more golden yellow with red thorns, possibly due to R.sericea
Golden Chersonese (and Helen Knight and R.Ecae) - a bit trickier than the above, much more golden yellow. Smaller than hugonis hybrids. Good in heat.
Albert Edwards - taller than most, very good rose and a lovely scent.
R.Dunwich - I include this as it is a sweetie - small and neat and grows in sand and dust!
In truth, be guided by what you can get and don't sweat it too much about minuscule differences - they are, one and all, good roses (although Canary Bird will get bigger than most). Do you have very specific requirements?

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 5:20AM
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Tessiess, SoCal Inland, 9b, 1272' elev

Climatic variation? I saw R. xanthina, R. cantabrigiensis, R. alabukensis, and R. foetida 'Persiana' all at Eurodesert in May of 2011 and they all looked quite different. It would be hard for climatic variation to explain that when they were all in the same garden (but I doubt you meant to include alabukensis and Persiana in the identification issues with the others). I brought those plants of xanthina, alabukensis, and Persiana to my garden. Xanthina and cantabrigiensis looked more similar to each other than the other 2, but still I noticed they were not the same plant. As I recall cantabrigiensis had a deeper yellow and smaller flower than xanthina and the thorns were not the same. I didn't get pictures of cantabrigiensis up close unfortunately as that plant was sold to someone else and shipped before I took closeups in that area.

I bought primula from Pickering and planted it about 20 feet from xanthina. Xanthina's flowers are much bigger and the thorns are differently shaped, with primulas being "winged" basically from tip to base, whereas xanthina's are narrow and pointed but flare out at the base. Primula's foliage is strongly scented, but xanthina's have no detectible scent to me. Now, looking at your plant of hugonis on HMF, I checked several of the shots you have posted there, and compared them to my primula and xanthina. Your plant has bristles on some of the canes. But neither of my plants have any bristley canes at all.

I'll post some shots here of both primula and xanthina.

Primula, newly-arrived from Pickering, in December 2011--primula has the red winged thorns (the prickly canes belong to William's Double Yellow, the others being Rene d'Anjou and Soupert et Notting)

R. primula on January 5, 2012

R. xanthina in May 2011 (the next 4 shots):

It was raining but I went out in the garden and looked at William's Double Yellow and Harison's Yellow. Both have quite bristley canes. No pictures yet to post, but although the canes had similar look to them, they did not look identical. It will be interesting to see how much alike they look once both are leafed-out. I have planned to grow them almost side-by-side to see just how closely they resemble one another because of the parentage being like a mirror image.


    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 5:51AM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

There really isn't much similarity between Harison's Yellow and William's Double Yellow.

This is William's Double Yellow

Of the roses mentioned, it is by far the smallest plant.

This is what I am growing as R. hugonis. I got it as a sucker from a local historic estate. They had had their roses IDed by Peter Beales at some point, so he was the one who made the determination that it was Hugonis. The flowers are noticably less cupped than some Hugonii I've seen.

R. primula looks like a lighter colored form of hugonis to me. I don't remember ever smelling the foliage scent it is supposed to have. It definitely isn't in the same league as eglanteria.

Harison's Yellow is by far my least favorite of the yellows. It's an awkward shrub unless it's allowed to become quite large. The foliage often has issues. It's popularity has to be solely due to the perception that double flowers are 'better' than singles.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 8:58AM
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I have experience with two hugonis roses, which are very different.
I LOVE hugonis from High Country Roses much more than Pickering Hugonis. The HCR hugonis has much much more flowers per each branch and they are more fragrant. Almost like a ribbon of flowers. The bush is also much more graceful and the flower form is better (to my taste). I eventually gave away Pickering hugonis to my friends. They are very happy with it.
My primula is from Pickering and I love it. It is very different from hugonis. The folwers are bigger, whiter and the bush is much more vigorous than HCR hugonis. It would be difficult for me to say which one of these two HCR hugonis or primula I like more. They are different and you need both:
Canary Bird is much more yellow. It is very cheerful and makes a statement. You can see it from big distance, when it is covered in blooms. I love a lot, but hugonis and primula are my favorites.
Harisson's Yellow, R xanthina and Golden Chersonese got a lot of BS here for me. So they are in different category. They also bloom much later, which is important. I have plenty of blooms in may anyway, but to have roses in April is much more rewarding.
W Dowuble Yellow is nice, but it is in different category too. It is small, similar to spinisissimas in growth habit, blooms later than Primula, hugonis, etc. together with other spinosissimas and does not make such a statement as big bushes discussed above. I like it, but it is not so special in my opinion, there are spinosissimas that I like much more.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 10:16AM
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How good are these in warm to hot springs with humidity? I see that some of Tessie's take heat, but Olga can't grow them well in her humid conditions. Do they like long cool dry springs? I've been reading of Canary Bird and found it favors cool moist areas...just how adaptable are these various yellows?

I'd like to find some medium and larger shrubs that look beautiful cheerful yellows spring and have good fall color, and have decent foliage in 110F temperatures.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 10:50AM
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anntn6b(z6b TN)

IS there a change that the rose with the winged red thorns is pteragonis? At least when I bought pteragonis from Pickering several years ago, the red thorns (that darken with age) came with it.

I had four of the early yellows at one time, and I became convinced that I didn't know which was which. One survives vigorously in acidic red clay. Now if there were a key to these similar yet different roses, I'd be interesting in it.

Even more years ago I received a sucker from Montana (hi, Deb) that was probably not Harrisons, but which I think may be primula. Drop dead fragrant and I liked it a lot. A friend who had grown up Catholic was visiting and I was gushing about the fragrance of this rose and as we approached it (about 100' away) she said what is that horrible smell? It smells like we are in church at mass. The smell of that rose strongly reminded her of the scents used in the church she grew up in. For her, not a good thing. I'm having trouble keeping that 'primula' alive because the voles seem to seek it out whereever I move it and they are addicted to the roots.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 10:53AM
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I think these post have demonstrated my point. Some people raised their plants from seed, or collected from stands which may well have originated as seedlings. I'm sure some sources may have, also. Accidentally mixing them up when collecting them from gardens or stock plants occur happens more often than you'd suspect, especially if the collector isn't quite familiar with the differentiating characteristics. As I said, though, they're all gorgeous and you'll enjoy whichever comes your way. Kim

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 11:55AM
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Hugonis, Primula and Canary Bird are all quite happy in my MD, zone 6b/7A. We have summer temperatures in mid nineties for weeks with occasional 100. High humidity too. They are always healthy, not a spec of BS for me. Lori was mentioning here several times that Cantabrigiensis is healthy here too. I just don't have this one.
As I mentioned, HY, GC and xanthina were not healthy for me.


    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 12:23PM
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Campanula UK Z8

You know what, Ann, I thought exactly the same, regarding R,primula being more like R x pteragonis. Also, I find Cantabridgiensis to be paler and larger than hugonis. This is our own rose (Cambridge), bred a mile away from where I live and is probably the only one I can be certain of its provenance and ID. At any rate, I could not tell 4 of them apart unless I could actually compare them together (I have (hugonis, cantab, primula, 'helen Knight', Earldomensis) and Helen Knight is a much deeper, almost Austrian Briar sort of yellow - talking of which...

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 1:51PM
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vettin(z6b Northern VA)

Too late to plant these in the northern va area? Should be close to the Maryland 6b/7a.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2012 at 4:23AM
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Not too late, perfect time for grafted roses now aand probaly a little too early for own root small bands.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2012 at 8:06AM
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lori_elf z6b MD

I grow Cantab, Primula, and Hugonis and love all three of them. They are BS proof in my no-spray garden and I love the ferny foliage. Primula is my favorite, I got it from Pickering. It does have nice scented foliage when the foliage gets wet. It may not perfume the air across the garden, but I can smell it when I'm nearby or brush the leaves. Cantab is my second favorite, nice big flat light yellow flowers. I got my hugonis from Hortico and it is nice too, mine is young and the bush is not established yet.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2012 at 3:50PM
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oath5(z6b/7a MD)

Thanks for all the info! Very interested in using these roses for breeding. I think they hold a lot of potential and are sorely underutilized (as most once bloomers are)

    Bookmark   March 2, 2012 at 12:38AM
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Recently, a link to early ARS magazines was posted in these forums. I found this article in the November - December, 1933 ARS magazine and thought some might enjoy reading it. The author was R. Marion Hatton, a dedicated ARS board member and the breeder of the marvelous old white HT, Snowbird, and the red large flowered climber, Flash.

Here is what Mr. Hatton had to say about, "Shrub Roses". I apologize for any strange breaks in the script. I copied from a PDF file and have attempted to correct any script recognition errors. Kim

Shrub Roses

The wild roses of the world have among
their number some of the finest flowering
shrubs in existence. Nature does not offer
anything more beautiful than a mature
plant of Rosa Hugonis in full bloom.

If you have never seen Hugonis in
bloom, try to visualize a 6-foot shrub,
composed of many red canes, gracefully
arched and covering an area greater than
its height, and literally covered with soft
yellow flowers from one and a half to two and a half
inches in diameter. These flowers are almost stemless
and lie so thickly on the canes that the plant is practically hidden.

Hugonis has the faculty of opening most
of its flowers at once, and while this shortens the bloom period
it adds so much to the beauty of the plant while it is in
bloom that the short season can be forgiven.

Early in the morning, before the sun is
very high in the heavens, is the time to
enjoy Hugonis, while the dew-Iaden air is
still heavy enough to keep the delicious
fragrance of the flowers from being

After the flowers are gone and the plant
becomes fully clothed with its fine acacia like
foliage, it is beautiful again. After the
foliage has fallen in the winter, the graceful
form of the red canes makes it a plant
to admire all winter.

Rosa Hugonis was discovered in north central
China by a Welsh priest named
Hugh Scanlan, who sent dried plants,
bearing seed-pods, to the British Museum
in 1899. These seed-pods were sent to
Kew where they were germinated and
plants raised and bloomed, and named
R. Hugonis in honor of the discoverer.
The Arnold Arboretum received plants
in 1908 but it was several years before the
rose was offered to the American public.

Another Asiatic shrub rose, and a
splendid companion to Hugonis, is the
double form of R. xanthina from northern
China and Korea. Although Xanthina
has been grown in Chinese and Korean
gardens for centuries, it only reached this
country in 1908, having been sent by the
famous plant-explorer, F. N. Meyer.

The plant of Xanthina is very much like
that of Hugonis except that it is stronger
growing, making a shrub up to 10 feet.
The bright yellow, double flowers are
about 2 inches across and open gradually
instead of all at once, as Hugonis tries
to do.

A third splendid shrub rose is R. spinosissima
altaica, commonly called Altaica.
As it comes from the Altai Mountains of
Siberia, it is, therefore, perfectly hardy.
It forms a graceful plant 5 to 6 feet tall
and bears quantities of creamy white
flowers 2 to 3 inches across, followed by
black hips.

Wilson, who was perfectly familiar with
the species roses of the world, claimed this
as his favorite hardy white rose.

These roses come from desolate places
where the winters are bitterly cold and the
short summers insufferably hot; where drainage
is good but moisture and food are scarce.
Therefore, they will do best in our gardens
if the same conditions are provided�good
drainage and soil that is not too rich.
Plant them and let them alone; feed them
sparingly if at all; and keep the pruning shears
away from them unless there is a
dead cane to be removed.

Another delightful species which is perfectly
hardy in the middle eastern states,
although a native of warmer countries
than the preceding varieties, is Mrs.
Aitchison's Rose, R. Ecae, a native of both
Afghanistan and Turkestan in Asia and
northern Africa. Found by Mrs. Aitchison,
the name was formed from her
initials, E. C. A., with an added E to make
the proper Latin genitive.

The single, very pale yellow flowers are
unusually lovely, but the plant itself is
the interesting part in this case. Its 4- to
5-foot canes are an attractive shade of
dark red, with wide winged thorns, and the
attractive, fern-like foliage has the fragrance
of Sweetbriar. It can stand more food
than the first three but better keep the
pruners away.�R. Marion Hatton.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2012 at 2:47AM
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stefanb8(z7 MD)

The Pickering clone of primula isn't nearly as fragrant as some and I suspect it may not be pure primula; it's very different from other strains I've seen, more vigorous and with larger flowers and foliage. Still, it is a very nice rose and not at all lacking if no primula is the only other option. However, and not to spoil anyone's mediocre version, a good clone of primula certainly can waft a distance and smack you in the face with its gorgeous, spicy fragrance in the right weather, but finding such a clone can be a challenge. Hortico used to supply one, but I think they have discontinued selling it. The chief thing to remember is that whatever clone you end up with, it is possibly the palest yellow of all the early yellow species.

I've wanted to grow a correctly named clone of 'Golden Chersonese' for a while (R. ecae even more so, if it even exists in North America), but I'm not sure yet if GC is commercially available at the moment. Even the photo at the Vintage Gardens web site isn't very convincing (although their description sounds right).

Olga, I'm happy to add that your donations are still growing at the arboretum!

    Bookmark   March 12, 2012 at 11:25PM
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Stefan, Thank you for update. This is great. How are you?
Recently several nurseries stopped offering early yellow roses (Pickering, Hortico, etc). At first Canary Bird became not available in US. Primula and Hugonis are now available only from few sources. Really sad.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 9:35AM
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Thanks for that, Kim. That answers a few questions I've had. If any of the hugonis cuttings survive I'll put it into the gravel pit with the r. xanthina from High Country.

There is a beautiful r. primula picture in "Thorns for Beauty," the biography of J. Horace McFarland, p. 218. I would love to have that beautiful shrub.

The picture is from the Pennsylvania State Archives; it would be a lovely addition to hmf, I thought.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 2:11PM
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You're welcome Gean. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I've scanned an article about Frank Meyer (Meyer Lemon) who brought many of these roses into the US from China. I'll put that up shortly under a new thread. If you can scan the photo from Thorns for Beauty, please feel free to post it to HMF. I know it's been longer than 75 years since publication so copyright isn't an issue. Thanks! Kim

    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 5:52PM
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roseseek, that is a beautiful quotation! thank you for posting it.

The R.primula plants I sat next to at Berkeley Botanical nursery, in California, showed red colored foliage when they were in full bloom, which was a very pretty sight with those primrose yellow roses against red leaves. The strong scent caused me to look around for a Buddhist temple, so strong was the scent of incense on the air. I believe those potted plants earned its' nick name; 'Incense Rose', for those 5 plants, at least.
I would rate it having 8 out of 10 fragrance points, with eglanteria being c. 5 under the same climatic conditions.
However, the nose which smells a rose, can perceive it more strongly scented due to the differences in olfactory receptors.


    Bookmark   March 14, 2012 at 7:31PM
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You're welcome, Lux! Glad you enjoyed it! I would love to find a Primula which actually had the scent you describe. I grow things which aren't known for their blooms simply because of the scent of the plant parts. Rub a handful of Dwarf Myrtle and smell your hand. Lovely! You'll recognize the scent from Gee! Your Hair Smells Terrific! and Clairol Herbal Essences Shampoo. It's used to make herbal hair rinses for dark colored hair and the plant smells wonderful! I love Eglantine, Foetida and Fedtschenkoana for those reasons. Many hybrid multifloras have amazing scents to their new growth, particularly their flowering parts before the flowers actually start to open.

Most OGRs have those kinds of scents to their new growth tips and flowering parts. Some fruity, some ever green, most very highly scented. Just delicious! Kim

    Bookmark   March 14, 2012 at 9:59PM
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stefanb8(z7 MD)

Olga, things are very well with me--thank you for asking, but how have you been? I should have been posting here more, but the house/garden has kept me so busy these last few years. I always overdo everything.

The loss of the early blooming yellow roses from the trade is really sad, but I hope that the world economic situation is mostly to blame and will turn around eventually. The clone of primula from Hortico was one of the very best.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 9:17PM
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Does anyone here grow that choice Hortico Primula who might be able to either share cuttings or suckers, if it's own root, please? Kim

    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 9:49PM
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Kim, I actually just checked my records and my Primula is from Hortico, not from Pickering. I can share cuttings, if you are interested. To me it is mostly fragrant when you brush against it or touch the leaves. However, fragrance can be quite strong on certain humid days, it will waft. This is how I discovered its fragrance first time. I was working in the garden and couldn't understant where the smell is coming, I was not familiar with it and I forgot that Primula leaves can be fragrant. Now I know and can easily detect it often even when it is very light. I am tuned to it :)

    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 10:38PM
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Thank you Olga. Just emailed you directly to the email address you have listed here. Much appreciated!

I would also be very interested in cuttings or suckers of the double Xanthina as pictured here from the 1919 ARS annual. Kim

The story of Xanthina is quite interesting, particularly as it is due to the man responsible for our Meyer Lemons and R. odorata. These are also from the 1919 American Rose Annual.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 11:35PM
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