In search of forgotten Hungarian roses in the Somogyi Library and in its Vasváry Collection

The aim of the research in question is to give an overview of the history of Hungarian roses from the 19th century to the present day. The concept of Hungarian roses became well known over a hundred years ago when the roses of Rudolf Geschwind were described as such at the Paris World Fair. At the beginning of the 21st century the expression 'Hungarian roses' has again come to life. Mr. Gergely Márk, whose life's work comprises over 600 new Hungarian rose varieties, came forth with a book called "Magyar rózsák könyve" (The Book of Hungarian Roses), published by Mezőgazda Kiadó, Budapest 2004.

The present article begins with a brief discussion of Márk roses, which are considered to be so-called "Hungaricums" or Hungarian values. Then the author touches on the rose literature of 19th century Hungary. Finally, the legacy of Mr. Michael H. Horváth, who emigrated from Hungary, is discussed in more detail. In all likelihood Mr. Horváth lived in the U.S. from 1891 until his death in 1945, where he earned a name for Hungarian rose breeding. Last, but not least, the author mentions her disposition to gratefully receive any supplementary comments or corrections concerning this subject matter.

On the life's work of Mr. Gergely Márk

The author has been documenting the roses of Mr. Gergely Márk for the last five years. In addition to being motivated by her close friendship with Mr. Márk and the high esteem with which she regards him, her intent is to ensure the survival of as many Márk roses as possible for future generations.

The roses of Mr. Gergely Márk are Hungarian roses in many respects: they are so-called "Hungaricums".

On the one hand, although this 86 year old rose breeder has bred roses all his life as his profession, his activities lacked market orientation. This fact is reflected in the names of Márk roses, which could represent the figures of a Hungarian pantheon. On the other hand, another specificity of the breeding work of Mr. Gergely Márk is that over 80% of his new varieties were developed solely under open ground conditions. As it is not very lucrative, this type of breeding method has almost disappeared, however, rose varieties bred in this way show above average resistance to the adversities of the weather. Márk roses are a good example of this, as they have adapted very well to the extreme climatic and weather conditions of Hungary.
Mark rose varieties are outstanding even by international standards.

Last year the author had the opportunity to discuss the life's work of Mr. Gergely Márk at the World Rose Convention held in Vancouver. In her study she evaluated precisely 135 Márk varieties. The main criteria for entering new rose varieties in international competitions formed the basis of her discussion. The results praise the roses of Mr. Gergely Márk. The proportion of these roses showing above average frost resistance, their long blooming periods, intense colour play in their petals, many varieties having simple flowers, and the stamens being frequently visible are all worthy of note. Often, these characteristics go hand in hand with a pleasant scent.

'Árpád-házi Szent Erzsébet emléke' (synonyms: 'Heilige Elisabeth', 'Saint Elizabeth of Hungary', and 'Santa Elisabetta d'Ungheria'), a gold medallist rose (Rome, 2000) of Mr. Gergely Márk, satisfies fully the criteria cited above.

This rose has deservedly earned increasing popularity during the past few years. In addition to being planted in many public places in Hungary, including every botanical garden and arboretum (such as the Botanical Garden of Szeged), this rose is to be found in the best known rosariums of Germany. Furthermore, it has been introduced in other European countries, such as Austria, Belgium, France, Slovakia, and Italy (where it has also found a home in the rose garden of the Vatican). And 'Saint Elizabeth of Hungary' is spreading the good repute of Hungarian roses in Japan, Canada, and the U.S., where, in California, in the nursery of Mr. Cliff Orent, it awaits in quarantine to be planted next year in American gardens.

All in all, even if appreciation for new Márk rose varieties cannot be quantified through indicators of market success, the growing interest in these roses worldwide demonstrates well how their value is more and more recognized. Hopefully the chances of survival of Márk roses will increase in proportion to how often they are planted.

'Saint Elizabeth of Hungary'
Breeder: Gergely Márk, Hungary, 1988
Gold medal, Rome, 2000
Photo: Eva Kigyóssy-Schmidt

Excerpts concerning the history of roses in Hungary in the 19th century

When studying the rich material available at the Somogyi Library in Szeged, Hungary, the author received extensive and generous help from Ms. Erzsébet Szőkefalvi-Nagy and Ms. Mária Kórász and their colleagues. She had access to the works of noted Hungarian botanists, in which information on roses was also available.

However, very little information on Hungarian rose breeders active during the 19th century is to be found. The volumes of the "Rózsa-Újság" (Hungarian Rose Journal), published in 1889 and 1890, also published in German and accessible in the Somogyi Library, are a good basis. Moreover, issues of this journal from 1887 and 1888, published only in Hungarian, and the collection of coloured appendices are missing. Any mention of where they might be accessible would be very useful for this research. A monograph found at the Somogyi Library contains very valuable information concerning the wild roses of the Hungarian Empire (Dr. Vincze Borbás: A Magyar birodalom vadon termő rózsái monographiájának kisérlete (Primitiae monographiae Rosarum imperii Hungarici. An attempt at a monography on the wildly growing roses of the Hungarian Empire), Mathematikai és Természettudományi Közlemények (Mathematical and Science Communications), ed. by Loránd B. Eötvös, Budapest, 1881, vol. XVI., pp. 305-560.)

The author found additional very useful information at the Library of the Hungarian Natural History Museum in Budapest, where she was able to inspect, with the kind help of Mr. Gábor Papp, issues of the "Kertészeti Lapok" (Horticultural Papers), published from 1886 through the beginning of the 20th century and issues of the journal "A Kert" (The Garden), published from 1895 through the 1920's. This is where she ran across the name of a rose breeder from New Szeged, Mr. János Balogh, who introduced his rose named 'Archiduchesse Marie Dorothée Amélie' in 1891.

On the work of Mr. Michael H. Horváth, Hungarian rose breeder, who emigrated to America

Another less explored area is the life story of Mr. Michael H. Horváth, who worked in the United States. The author visited the Vasváry Collection of the Somogyi Library for this reason. There she was very promptly and readily shown an article from 1937 on the introduction of a new successful variety by Mr. Michael H. Horváth, called 'Doubloons'. This rose combined the excellent characteristics of an American wild rose with those of hybrid tea roses. It is also mentioned in this article, that Mr. Michael H. Horváth wished to leave behind a fund for national rose-testing gardens. Is it possible that this fund may still exist, and if so, could the author receive more information from such fund on the legacy of Mr. Michael H. Horváth?

Mr. Erich Unmuth, renowned Viennese expert on 19th century roses, compiled the following temporary biography of Mr. Michael H. Horváth, based on his own notes:

11 July 1868 He was born in Szeged. His parents were: Michael H. Horváth and Erzsébet Horváth. His father was probably a railway engineer.
1882-1886 Forest ranger at the Agricultural Academy of the Forestry Institute of Szeged.
1886-1889 Horticultural and agricultural designer, Budapest.
1889-1890 Further studies in Vienna; 3 months in Holland and in Belgium; 2 months in London.
1891-1892 Co-worker at the firm Pitcher & Manda, New York.
189?-1896 Superintendant at one of the largest American horticultural enterprises of the day, Newport Nursery & Co.
1896 City and park planner, Cleveland.
1899 Leading city planner.
1901 He marries Elizabeth Whiteman.
1909 Founds his own horticultural firm in Mentor, Ohio. Later Mentor became a nursery garden centre in the U.S.
1945 He dies in Mentor, Ohio.

It was also Mr. Erich Unmuth who put together the following compilation of the roses of Mr. Michael H. Horváth. All roses are descended from 'Rosa l. wichuriana' and were introduced by Pitcher & Manda Nursery, New Jersey, U.S.A.

'Universal Favourite', 1897
'Evergreen Gem', 1898
'Manda's Triumph', 1898
'Pink Roamer', 1898
'Gardenia', 1899, and
'Jersey Beauty', 1899.

Description of 'Jersey Beauty':
Breeding (seed x pollen) R. l. wichuriana x 'Perle des Jardins' (light yellow Tea Rose, F. Levet, 1874)

Description: Loose sprays of large creamy yellow single flowers with dark yellow stamens. Very strong fragrance. Strongly growing. Foliage very glossy dark green. 5 metres.

As it may be obvious from the above, the biography of Mr. Michael H. Horváth needs to be completed. Based on research done by Mr. Erich Unmuth, we know that he participated in breeding the first roses descended from 'Rosa l. wichuriana'. Afterwards he bred over 40 rose varieties, some of which are still on the market. In this context, any mention of further registrations of roses bred by Mr. Michael H. Horváth or the availability of his surviving roses would be welcome. Such information could be forwarded either through the Vasváry Collection of Szeged or directly to the author's given address. Éva Kigyóssy-Schmidt kindly thanks you in advance for your efforts.

Szeged, Hungary, May 2010

Vissza az oldal tetejére
Éva Kigyóssy-Schmidt
D-10405 Berlin, Prenzlauer Allee 89
Telephone: 0049 30 421 7727