The Saga of the Talisman Rose

Filed on Saturday, May 15, 2010 under: ,

The Talisman rose: colored plate from the 1928 American Rose Annual
It all started about 17 years ago. There I was, early in my rose-growing career, perusing the 1993-'94 Weeks wholesale rose catalog. There, towards the back of the hybrid tea listing, was an old rose called Talisman. Its breeder was listed as "Montgomery - 1929". Just like all the other roses in the catalog, this one had a full description, as well as a photo. Unfortunately, the photo was of a full blown-open bloom, so I really couldn't tell much about its appearance, other than it was a red/goldish-copper blend. But I was, of course, intrigued by the date of introduction: 1929. Here was a plant that was a living remnant of the Jazz Age.

A couple months passed and I was fortunate enough to be given Stirling Macoby's Ultimate Rose Book as a gift. Here again was mention made of this rose named Talisman. According to Macoby, the Montgomery Rose Co. asked and got six times the price of other roses for their Talisman plants. It was that unique in its day and time. Unfortunately, the photo in Macoby's book was no better than the one in the Weeks catalog.

The years passed and I continued to run across references to Talisman from time to time, but I never did see any decent photos of this rose, nor did I ever see one for sale anywhere.

Enter the internet.

Talisman in its climbing form
Finally, while researching roses over at one night I found some decent photos of Talisman's blooms at the peak of perfection. It is no wonder that Montgomery charged so much for this rose; even by today's standards it is an utterly unique and beautiful rose. It was, in fact, one of the leading florist roses in its day, as well as being one of the most popular garden roses.

The next thing to do was find a source for a Talisman plant. Once again, enter the internet.

I managed to track down three or four vendors that were still propagating this old variety. All of the places I looked at grow their roses from cuttings on their own roots, not grafted as is the usual method. This didn't really worry me as I have propagated and grown my own hybrid teas from cuttings before. I finally settled on Rogue Valley Roses as my vendor of choice. So I placed my order early last week with the date of shipment to be on this past Monday, May 10th. It arrived on Wednesday, the 12th, and... it is a cutting alright, and a small one at that. But it's rooted and it's growing (even has buds), so it should be okay.

I'm going to run this little guy through a full bloom cycle in its current pot and then it will be potted up to a one or two gallon container. The eventual plan will be to pot it up into a 5 gallon (or larger) pot; that is where its permanent home will be. You see, these old hybrid teas aren't always as winter-hardy as the newer ones, so it only makes sense to keep it in a pot in the heated greenhouse over the winter months. This little rose plant is the single most expensive one that I have ever purchased ($31.00, including shipping and handling), and it's becoming an increasingly rare variety -- not something that I want to take a chance on losing over the winter. No, it is best that I preserve it. It is a remnant of an impossible-to-recapture time in American history.

I will try to post updates on its progress on this blog.

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