When I first started growing roses, I found myself drawn to particular colors. As time went on, I developed a fondness for the roses of particular hybridizers, and set out to collect their "works." Reading about their lives, and understanding what they set out to accomplish added to my appreciation of the roses I grow.
The first rose I ever grew was hybridized by and named after Dr. Walter Van Fleet (June 18, 1857 - January 26, 1922). He set out to create what he called "dooryard roses" - cold hardy, disease resistant climbers and ramblers with beautiful flowers and lush foliage that would look good even when out of bloom. He was born in Piermont, NY, where my younger sister, another rose fanatic lives. Van Fleet started out as a medical doctor. He was a man of ideals and passions- a man after my own heart. In the 1890s he was a part of the Ruskin Commonwealth Association, a utopian socialist colony in Tennessee. After the collapse of the Association, Van Fleet worked for the USDA, not as a doctor, but as a plant hybridizer, creating new varieties of small fruits, vegetables and ornamental flowers. Van Fleet was a major force in the American Rose Society, spreading the gospel of a rose for every yard. He crossed R. wichurana, R. setigera, and R. rugosa with old garden roses. New Dawn, one of the most influential climbing rose of the 20th century, was a sport of his rose, Dr. Van Fleet. Often forgotten because they are once bloomers, Van Fleet's climbers and ramblers can still be found growing around old homes and in cemeteries across the country. They would be wonderful additions to your garden.
Early on in my rose collecting, my younger sister, Cheri, gave me a plant of Rosarium Uetersen. She had grown it in her garden but hated the color, a salmon pink. I was wowed by the continuity, mass of bloom and flower form- it has between 100 and 140 petals! And so, I was exposed to another hybridizer, Wilhelm Kordes II (March 30, 1891 - November 11, 1976). Like Van Fleet, Kordes was a major force in the development of climbing roses in the 20th century. Born in Elmshorn, Germany, he learned his trade working in Germany, Switzerland, France and England. Like Van Fleet and the ARS, Kordes became influential in the German Rose Society. He established a nursery that is still in existence, run by his descendants. Kordes used what would later be called R. kordesii, a seedling of Max Graf (a R. rugosa and R. wichurana cross) to create his line of climbers. Cold hardy and disease resistant, these roses took the world by storm in the 1950s. R. kordesii was as invaluable as New Dawn in the development of 20th century climbers.
To see the range of roses developed by these two seminal hybridizers, go to www.helpmefind.com/rose/breeders.php and type in their names. If you have a favorite rose and want to find out more about the person who hybridized it and other roses they developed, go to www.helpmefind.com/rose/plants.php and type in the name of the roses. Please consider becoming a contributing member of Helpmefind. It is the best site, bar none, for information about roses.