To begin by stating the rose I’m about to discuss is not much appreciated is somewhat misleading.
What I mean is that the rose is seldom appreciated as a flower in its own right. On the other hand, this red rose is popular in Australia and the United States, especially in California and in the South, as an understock on which to graft new roses. I am referring to “Dr. Huey.”
Occasionally someone will ask me to identify a particular red or maroon rose, one which the inquirer swears he or she did not plant. In fact, I’ve been told, that the rose has changed color or sometimes even form. Invariably, I find that the cultivar the inquiring person had grown has died and “Dr. Huey,” to which it had been grafted, has taken over.
This year I decided to treat my “Dr. Huey” as a rose rather than a rootstock, a guest rather than a servant. Rather than being indifferent to him, I deferred to him. In years past he had indulged himself drunkenly with Black Spot. I wanted him out!
But I was told that his roots travel deep deep deep, and good luck. So I began to treat him -- treat the doctor, mind you -- tenderly, watering him often, feeding him routinely, mulching him, deadheading him, everything but virtually ignoring him as in times past.
And oh the profusion of flowers! Sometimes the sprays of deep red semi-double blossoms all but hid the leaves. From a short distance, his crimson-maroon clusters with screaming yellow stamens are quite ostentatious. The whole shrub was lush. And rarely a black spot upon a leaf. It even has some fragrance. Well, so much for that stingy 6.0 rating by the American Rose Society.
“What is that beautiful red rose at the top of your hill?” my sister-in-law asked me last summer. She, who also owns a rose garden, was astonished when I told her.
History tells us she needn’t have been so surprised. After all, the good doctor in his handsome suit is the child of that breathtaking Old Garden Rose “Gruss an Teplitz” (not to mention “Ethel,” and I don’t). “Dr. Huey” is really a climber -- as tall as 10 or 12 feet -- but it can be shaped to a shrub -- mine is about 4 feet tall.
It’s a very strong grower and in the spring sends out much longer canes, which I cut back. I’ve heard it looks spectacular growing into and trailing from a tree. If I had a tree nearby, I’d allow mine to do just that.
Bred by Captain George C. Thomas in 1914, the rose was named after Dr. Robert Huey of Philadelphia. It was, in fact, Dr. Huey who introduced the notion of establishing an information sector in the American Rose Society (ARS) to provide answers and help for novice rose growers -- much like our Master Gardener program. That proposal came to be called the Consulting Rosarian program of the ARS.
Known for his missionary work, so to speak, among roses and rose growers, Dr. Huey wrote and spoke of his own failures and successes in the garden from the 1880s on, at a time when reliable information on roses was scarce. The flowers he grew on his two acres compared poorly to those illustrated and lavishly described (call that “propagandized”) in catalogues.
Knowledge, not propaganda, was his goal for rose growers and the roses themselves. He died in 1928. It was his devotion to and excitement about roses that inspired Capt. Thomas to grow and breed the flowers and to name this one after him.
--Darrell g.h. Schramm