I have recently read about a rose we grow and sell as Jean Ducher with research which now finds it to really be G. Nabonnand.

As one of Australia’s leading growers and sellers of old roses we must be aware of any changes found within the rose industry as it effects how we place in our catalogue, label plants in our display garden and list on our web site. We must also know what customers are asking for and what we should recommend. As a nursery we are affected more than any others with name changes which can cause much confusion within the trade and garden buying public.

For these reasons I must question changes until totally satisfied they are correct.

Some very hard working rose enthusiasts have extensively researched both these roses and based on their findings have made the recommendation which seems to have been adopted by many companies and societies around the world. Their analysis of the published facts is sound but I am not convinced and need to conduct my own research before I can consider changing the name. When researching I look at information without bias and having an open mind as this is the only way to be totally sure of the facts. I know when trying to prove a point we all look at anything to prove our case and sometimes dismiss, or overlook, conflicting information which may counter our claim. This is not a detrimental comment about the research only a fact of life.

It is a real pity we have never been asked anything about this issue and if there was anything we could contribute. Our company started in 1902 and is Australia’s oldest rose nursery. We specialise in old roses and have the largest collection in Australia. Although we have few records back at that time we do have some identification notes, picture slides and important lists which could have been useful in this issue, including where plants came from and at what date. Mostly old rose circles would have been aware of Deane Ross and his knowledge and expertise on old roses. It was his passion that saw most old roses imported and on the market today.

Earliest we can find a record of Jean Ducher rose with us was in our 1979 catalogue and looks like it was imported from New Zealand in 1976/7. Deane and Maureen travelled a lot to some of the world’s best rose gardens and talked with, at the time, the world’s most knowledgeable rosarians. Maureen Ross can still remember in New Zealand they met with Trevor Griffith and Nancy Steen who introduced them to many Teas not before seen. It was this connection which saw propagation material of their named Jean Ducher imported by Deane to Australia.

I have checked Deane’s photographs and his notes with what he saw in New Zealand and feel confident to say what we have, and New Zealand have, seem to be the same variety. This concurs with the finding published about the name error which confirms the variety currently sold here as Jean Ducher is the same as that in New Zealand.

When reading how the Tea experts made their discovery Jean Ducher was wrong is interesting reading but for me there seems too much assumption the information they were using was correct and less on unquestionable, totally accurate, irrefutable facts.

Our first piece of evidence given is a listing in Brent Dickerson’s book, The Old Rose Adviser, with the description of Jean Ducher. We have two assumptions here. (1) is the description accurate? Dickerson’s book is not personal observations but a collation of descriptions in various publications. From reading the descriptions the rose appears to have either lemon, yellow, buff, bronze, cream, salmon-yellow, salmon, peach or colour is variable. With such variation I feel it would be virtually impossible to determine what colour it is especially since all descriptions were based in England or Europe where we know colours differ from that in warmer regions of the world. Comments relating to how it appears in winter can be misleading for winter in England or Europe cannot compare with one in most areas of Australia. Foliage would clinch the identification but little is written about this factor. (2) Was the description taken of the correct rose? We have NO certainty the description was of the rose Jean Ducher but only know it was written about a rose they THOUGHT was Jean Ducher. As all the descriptions were from books, were they personal observations or just re-worded written by another author? One error = perpetual error.

’The Garden’ September 9th, 1876 states, “In the autumn of 1874 no fewer than 70 varieties were announced by French rosarians”. With so many varieties introduced, many looking similar, how can anyone, through the passing of time, be sure of anything being accurate now? Mistakes do happen with labelling and identification all the time and with 450 Tea Roses in Dickerson’s book I am sure there would have been some possible errors.

Our second piece of evidence is from a colour plate in ‘The Garden’ 1879 showing a Jean Ducher as being extremely thorny. (Dickerson’s book has no mention in the description of Jean Ducher as being extremely thorny). A picture should have more credibility than writing as we can see and compare with what we know of the rose and make a judgement if it is correct or not. But here too we have two assumptions. (1) Was the rose the artist painted the correct rose? We have no certainty of this only it was labelled Jean Ducher in the publication. It is an assumption by all that this is a picture of the correct rose. As there is nothing to counter its correctness we must assume it is correctly named Jean Ducher. (2) Was the painting accurate of what the subject looked like? Again we have no way to tell if this was an accurate reproduction of what Jean Ducher looked like to the artist but again would have to accept its authenticity.

With no way to confirm or deny the accuracy of the image of Jean Ducher, I feel it can only be stated this image is probably correctly named and probably accurate of what the rose looked like until proven otherwise.

Dickerson’s book also has many colour plates and Plate 45 is shown as G. Nabonnand. This rose also has yellow flowers and looks nothing like the rose in question we are disputing. As the issue is Jean Ducher and G. Nabonnand are the same rose this image does start to make me think. Looking through other plates we see paintings which are also not accurate to what we currently know of varieties we grow here. Plate 23 is Etoile de Lyon and way off what we see in our nursery, Plate 33 is Dr Grill and not accurate with what we have and Plate 57 is Mamon Couchet that looks nothing like what I have always known this rose to look like. If so many other Teas do not have accurate paintings either there are a multitude of errors with current roses on the market or these paintings are not accurate to what we see here. If they are not accurate then I could easily question the accuracy of the Jean Ducher painting.

I feel the Jean Ducher picture must now be classified as inconclusive.

In Dickerson’s book and helpmefind/roses they also list other names for Jean Ducher as Ruby Gold and Comte de Sembui. On helpmefind is a painting of Comte de Sembui and ‘Oh my gosh’ it is so close to what we have as Jean Ducher it’s not funny. Comment made on helpmefind says ‘old literature treats Jean Ducher and Comte de Sembui as separate, though resembling cultivars’. Is this more evidence to support Jean Ducher as correct or is this painting, and associated comments, also incorrect and leaving us none the wiser?

For me the most compelling piece of evidence would be the ‘sporting’ of G. Nabonnand into a new variety which is called Peace (Tea). A sported rose will be identical to its original except for its sported variation. (Mostly different colour variation). If the foliage of Peace rose tea is identical to G. Nabonnand we would have confirmation we have found which rose is really G. Nabonnand. It appears from what I have read that Peace tea was identified growing here in Australia and is not found in any other counties even though found in England. Only images I can find are all Australian based so cannot find earlier options to determine if it was the correct rose. All these images do look like the foliage in the roses in question.

Can this now prove G. Nabonnand as being the rose being sold as Jean Ducher? Possibly. Although we do still have lots of assumptions. (1) Was the rose identified correctly here in Australia as Peace? Being a sport and having similar foliage it is likely but cannot be absolutely confirmed as this did happen back in the early 1900’s. (2) Was the rose that sported the Peace rose really G.Nabonnand? Could it not be true that Peace really sported from a wrongly identified Jean Ducher so is in fact a Jean Ducher sport? Without positive knowledge of the authenticity of the original rose from where the sport came we must assume again.

Some will say I’m just making something out of nothing, knocking what others have proven is correct. From my questioning of the most vital pieces of evidence in the Jean Ducher case, the wrong name Jean Ducher must be considered inconclusive or possibly wrong at best but I feel cannot yet be confirmed wrong. But I am on the fence and posing questions which need clarification for me to accept the finding.

It is easy for someone like me to knock what some have spent considerable time to do without trying to help solve the mystery through my knowledge of the subject and sharing the information I have through the ‘facts’ my research has found.

I feel the only real way to properly find a correct Jean Ducher would be to find a 140 year old original bush which we can be confident is correct, or plants made from an original known to be correct plant. But is this possible with so much time passed and possibilities of errors occurring?

My first thought was to look up the Ducher breeder to see if any information existed. A search revealed a nursery called Roseraie Ducher. This name hit me as a real possibility of finding my 140 year old original plant. The original company who developed the rose was still in operation.

I sent an email to Roseraie Ducher regarding Jean Ducher on their list and received a pleasant reply from Fabien Ducher, the 6th generation of the Ducher family to grow roses. He stated ‘we are aware of 3 varieties said to be Jean Ducher and there is always an ‘expert’ to tell us which is the correct one’ and ‘the one we grow is the same as the plant on your list. It is the same one that is seen in our early catalogues’. He also mentioned ‘there are many mistakes with the Nabonnand roses in France and I think some had several names 150 years ago’. Lots of confusion.

I feel this may be as close as anyone can expect to find what may be the original Jean Ducher. It could definitely be incorrect but if the Ducher family doesn’t know what their family developed, and what it looked like, and still grow, I don’t know who would. To me this fact surpasses all information I have read on the issue leading me to sway on the fence in the Jean Ducher correct direction.

It was also mentioned Ducher had a direct relationship with New Zealand and found one of their early breeding, thought to be lost, Marie Ducher, in that country. With such a direct line could not Jean Ducher also have found its way there with varieties sent and the rose identified in the Remuera region of New Zealand, being very, very old, is from the original plant sent there? This is an assumption by me as there is no evidence to prove this but a lot more positive in tracking linage than early descriptions in books which I have stated are inconclusive.

I hope what I have found may open this subject to further discussion which at present is dividing rose lovers around Australia. The Jean Ducher right camp V the Jean Ducher wrong one.

If however it can be proven to me the descriptions were correct and was written about the correct Jean Ducher and if it is proven the image is correct of Jean Ducher with its buff yellow flowers and if there is evidence the Peace sport is definitely from a correct G. Nabonnand and if the Ducher Company in France rose they call Jean Ducher can be proven wrong I will accept the name error and now work towards trying to find a way to list correctly in my business.

But this is where it REALLY gets messy.

For the past 40 years customers have bought from us a rose called Jean Ducher. For us Jean Ducher sells by this name, and sells well, as it is one of the top Teas we grow. Gardeners ask for it by name and if we no longer list a rose under this name they will likely assume we stopped growing it and look elsewhere for it. Very few of our customers would be aware of the name change and will continue to ask for the rose they know and love. We know this happens for when we found Bloomfield Abundance was wrong and changed the name all still asked for it by the original name.

To add more confusion to our dilemma. Label producers have stock of Jean Ducher but do not have a colour label of G. Nabonnand and would not print unless good numbers are needed. A grower may be forced to keep the original name to avoid not being able to access pictorial labels to attach to the plants they sell.

It is irrelevant what name a rose is found to really be called for if it is changed from what the general gardening public know it as it is unlikely to stick.

I do welcome those wanting to research old roses and try and find correct names however as a nursery what could be found may create more trouble than help and possibly may not be taken up by a grower even if proven correct. Over time names stick and consumers WILL ask for by the name they know.

Identifying roses in our past is one of the hardest jobs anyone would want to undertake. Books and web sites are full of misinformation, missing facts, assumptions and as time passes we lose positive human lifelong knowledge.

Dickerson wrote in his book ‘Appendix 1’ on identification: ‘Identification of roses old and new is an intricate and demanding affair, and one should not attempt with the clear understanding that success if unlikely’. And ‘We must therefore scrutinize every fact or attribute very closely indeed all the while doing just the opposite and guarding against setting too much store by any single fact or attribute’.

Based on my questioning of the facts in this case and my research finding Jean Ducher is still grown by the original introducer, I would have to seriously question if there is enough positive evidence to be able to make the statement Jean Ducher is wrong. As a nursery I will continue to sell what is asked for by name until some new information can be found which I can assess and make a judgement whether to change the name or not.


Created  14/4/2020