Dynasty of gardeners Freundlich and their roses



Text: Yuta Arbatskaya


      About history there is widely known dynasty of gardeners from St. Petersburg Freundlich, their merits in the field of gardening, introductions of plants and selections of roses. Drama historical events of XX century promoted not deserved oblivion of their professional work. Today's realities enable to restore historical validity and their reputation in a botanical science.
      The first mention of Charles Freundlich refers to 1852. Exactly that year on the 30th of September, his first- born girl, whose parents named Sofia, came into the world at his home in the village of Arakcheevka on the outskirts of Tsarskoye Selo. It was stated in the birth record that parents of a child were the court gardener Carl August Freundlich and Augusta Louise Lange.

      K. A. Freundlich was a talented gardener, specializing mainly in the cultivation of roses, while working in the Imperial greenhouses in Tsarskoye Selo, on the position of the court gardener, and then - the principal court gardener, has created a whole series of new roses of his own selection. After the death of the first Russian roses’ breeder Gartvis Nicholas A. (1793-1860), the second director of the Imperial Nikitsky Botanical Garden, Carl Freundlich actually became a leading expert in the field of rose breeding in the Russian Empire. Despite difficult weather conditions in St. Petersburg and the absence of any breeding base, he not only breeded new varieties of “flowers’ queen”, delivering them to the court, but he also gained abundant experience of growing roses in the north for more than 30 years of work.

      The Emperor’s Tsar arboretum under the direction of the court gardener Charles Freundlich was called the institution, which “is kept by the most efficient way”, where “a lot of useful tests have already been done with wood and handicraft species, enduring the climate of St. Petersburg perfectly”- wrote the journal “Bulletin of the Russian Society of Horticulture”, describing various garden institutions of St. Petersburg and the surrounding area from the very first issues;... and although Tsarskosel’sky arboretum exists no more than 10 years, but now it consists of more than 200 thousand specimens, suitable for planting”.

      Initially Freundlich worked mainly on graftage of wood and shrubby species for planting in the imperial parks of Tsarskoye Selo, Gatchina and St. Petersburg. Introduction of plants from North America, Siberia and Far East also took pace in a greenhouse. In particular, this concerned to such taxa as Aristolochia Sipho L., Acer Negundo L., Spiraea Douglasii and tomentosa, Potentilla glabra Lodd., Cornus alba L. fol. variegatis, Salix purpurea L., Crataegus sanguinea Pall. and Sambucus racemosa L.

      In the course of time and with the gaining of experience in vaccination, he began to experiment in the field of hybridization. While other gardeners unsuccessfully tried to produce vaccines in the open air, Carl Feodorovich, as he was called by colleagues in Russian, offered to grow wildings in pots in the greenhouse, and then to instill crop plants. The first success came with the breeding of new varieties of hawthorn Crataegus sanguinea Pall. fol. variegatis, having light stripes on the leaves, that’s why it was nicknamed “striped”. However, experiments in breeding of standard roses by grafting on wild species - R. canina and R. Manetti, and especially using the second rootstock became the greatest achievement of Carl Freundlich, he was a pioneer in the domestic botany. French species were mostly used for rootstock: remontant ‘La Reine’ (HP, Laffay, 1842), ‘Prince Léon Kotschoubey’ (HP, Marest, 1852), ‘Géant des Batailles’ (HP, Nérard, 1845), ‘Panachée d’ Orléans’ (HP, D.Dauvesse, 1854), Bourbon ‘Princess Adelaide’ (B, Laffay, 1845), ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ (B, Béluze, 1843), ‘Sidonie’(B, Dorisy, 1846) and tea ‘Adam’ (T, Adam, 1838), ‘Elise Sauvage’ (T, Miellez, 1838).

      Carl Feodorovich was engaged in quality testing and selection at the same time working on vaccination. In 1861 Freundlich achieved dizzying success in selection: 8 new varieties of roses Pimpinellifolia at once were created by him during one year. Roses have been grown from seeds, obtained by cross-pollination, and, as might be expected, crops have been made for a few more years before that. Let’s list these varieties: ‘Rosea grandiflora’ (it is not preserved), ‘Rosea pulchella’ (it is preserved under the name of ‘Pulchella’), ‘Alba plena’ (it is not preserved), ‘Carnea hispida’ (it is preserved under the name of ‘Hispida’), ‘Carnea Maxima’(it is not preserved), ‘Carnea multiflora’ (it is not preserved), ‘Kermesina’(it is not preserved), ‘Belle de Tsarskoe’(it is not preserved). Thus, only two species, breeded by Carl Freundlich, are still preserved.

      The progress of the court gardener became the subject of enthusiastic discussions at the meetings of the Russian Society of Horticulture. The Vice-President of the Society, Eduard Regel, held Freundlich up as an example to other growers more than once, focusing on his experiments with different kinds and sorts of roses. In addition to those already mentioned, R. canina and R. Manetti, Freundlich transfered experience of vaccinations and breeding of roses on other species - R. Boursaultii and R. rubiginosa. In the 1870s, when the roses became almost the most popular plants in gardens and parks of St. Petersburg’s nobility, mass publications about roses abroad, about the history of roses, about new species and so on comes out in print from the pen of the first Petersburg’s breeder. Later, when the demand for roses had risen to unprecedented volumes, Freundlich left the laborious work of selecting and was engaged in exclusively French species introduction.

      By the middle of 1880s, Charles Freundlich had become a recognized leader in Russian culture of roses breeding. Here’s a little quote from the report of the International Horticultural Exhibition, arranged in St. Petersburg in May, 1884: “All the rose cultivators try to copy Mr. Freundlich’s art of such excellent roses growing, but no one has surpassed him in the ability of such rose cultivating. Foreigners were surprised by Freundlich’s progress on the culture of roses in St. Petersburg, and Mr. Freundlich was awarded the highest award on the former expertise - the Award of Their Majesties, the best pair of porcelain vases, as a domestic exhibitor, who assisted with decoration of the exhibition the most”. By the way, Carl Feodorovich was awarded a gold medal on the Vladimir ribbon of order (1874) for constant participation in different horticultural exhibitions, where Freundlich’s roses were always the best, and he received a silver medal for the plan of future Alexander Park (in front of the Admiralty).

      Karl Feodorovich had four children: Sofia (1852), Amalia (1853), Wilhelm (1855) and Katharina (1857). The latest, after studying at Dorpat (1871-1874), became a pharmacist in the chemist’s shop of the Imperial Court, and in December, 1880, married Leonhard Gerhen. The famous Luxembourg rosarian Jean Ketten called his new tea rose in honor of Katharina Freundlich–‘Catherine Gerchen-Freundlich’ (T,Ketten,1896).

       Of course, Carl Feodorovich connected all the hopes for continuity at work with his son, Wilhelm. After the death of Carl’s younger brother, Louis Julius in 1867, who worked as the head gardener of State Councilor Vasily Fedulovich Gromov (on the streets of Manezhnaya and Podgornaya), the question about inheritance of the family business was put especially sharply.

      Wilhelm, the son (who was Vasily Karlovich among Russian collegues), admittedly, not only did not disappoint his father, but also expanded the company to incredible scale. In 1881, as a true entrepreneur, he had already taken family business into his own hands and had built huge greenhouses near the train station at Tsarskoye Selo, although he was still under the guidance of his father. From then Freundlich’s company was no longer depending on the Imperial greenhouses, and one might independently be engaged in the introduction and the sale of roses all over Russia. V. K. Freundlich released one catalogue after another, which contained almost all novelties of European selections. At the same time Wilhelm was opening his own stores of roses in St. Petersburg (Nevsky, 34; Liteiny, 53; Officerskaya, 3), bought property in the Volyn region (near the village of Novostavtsy), where he arranged commercial orchard. Having married Alvine, the daughter of a factory owner, Conrad Nebe, who was a merchant of the first guild, he became the owner of the paper mill, and soon the newly- weds gave birth to their sons, Conrad (1882) and Bruno (1884).

       A famous company Eilers was the main customer of Freundlich’s roses. Describing the situation with roses on the market in 1883, the correspondent of the magazine “Bulletin of Horticulture” writes: “If 10-12 years ago the annual roses demand for establishment was expressed by the sum of 1,000 rubles, now it surpasses a respectable amount of 30 000 rubles. The above-mentioned gentlemen Freundlich (father and son-Y.A.) became monopoly providers for this specialty and acquired, of course, great merits for breeding of early forced roses”.

       Wilhelm Carlovich Freundlich - a permanent member of the board of the Russian Society of Horticulture, a member of the Board of Trustees of Tsarist- Slavic school of horticulture and market gardening, the Vice - Chairman of the Commission on the arrangement of Horticulture College, one of the richest people in St. Petersburg. From then he himself gave awards with his name to young contestants on horticultural exhibitions, he was among the benefactors at “Arbor Day celebrations”, organized in spring in St. Petersburg.

       At the exhibition of 1899 Wilhelm showed new rose of his own selection, but it left unnoticed by the jury. In 1893 the sort ‘Mistress Bosanquet blanche’ appeared in the European catalogues of roses, the author of which Freundlich was recorded. However, there was a mistake: this sort of was launched back in 1832 by Frenchman Laffei. It is possible that by 1893 the sort had been lost in Europe, and as it remained in St. Petersburg, then it was returned to the catalogues by someone from the Europeans once again, but under another authorship. Although, it is possible, that the sort Laffei was breeded by B. Freundlich.

       With the outbreak of The First World War Freundlich’s name disappeared from the pages of periodicals: a special resolution of the emergency meeting of the Society of Horticulture on the 28th of August, 1914, all honorary and full members, relating to German or Austrian citizens, were excluded from the lists of the Society. Freundlich was a German by birth and a Lutheran by faith.

       Father, Carl Feodorovich died in 1898, his wife died in 1903, it is not known anything about his son. I only managed to track down information about Wilhelm’s son, Conrad: Freundlich Conrad Wilhelmovich was born in 1882 in Pushkino city, a German, non-party man, a gardener of the railroad resort, lived in the city of Soltsy. He was arrested on the 13th of January, 1938. By special triumvirate of UNKVD LO on the 21st of February, 1938, he was sentenced under article 58-10 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR to capital punishment. Shot in the city of Leningrad on the first of March, 1938.

       As you can see from the report, grandchildren of Carl Feodorovich also followed after the garden field, but, unfortunately, their deeds were erased from the memory of descendants, as well as almost all the roses of Carl Freundlich. It seems to us, it should become a matter of honor for botanists and historians of St. Petersburg to restore both, the roses of Freundlich dynasty and their good name.