Hiawatha Rose: A Rambling Rose Shading From Glowing Crimson to Maroon Pink

by DerdriuMarriner

Rosa 'Hiawatha' was introduced by Michael Walsh, a Welsh transplant on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in 1904.

For over 100 years, Rosa 'Hiawatha' has been recognized as one of the most popular Wichurana ramblers.

Named in honor of the hero of Henry Wadsworth Longellow's epic poem, Song of Hiawatha, published in 1855, 'Hiawatha' was introduced by Welsh breeder Michael H. Walsh in 1904.

One of the reasons for its enduring popularity is the ease with which 'Hiawatha' roots from cuttings.

Exceptional showiness of glowing flowers, especially on arches, more than compensates for indiscernible fragrance of 'Hiawatha' roses.

Rosa 'Hiawatha'

illustration by Antony Ludovic Régnier (1851-1930)
illustration by Antony Ludovic Régnier (1851-1930)


One of the most popular Wichurana ramblers is 'Hiawatha.'

'Hiawatha' rose's parentage is 'Turner's Crimson Rambler' x unknown. 'Turner's Crimson Rambler,' also known as 'Crimson Rambler,' was introduced by Charles Turner of the Royal Nurseries Slough in 1893. Its ancestry includes Rosa chinensis, Rosa multiflora, and Rosa wichurana.

'Hiawatha' flowers are sized about 1.8 inches (4.5 centimeters) and open in outstandingly floriferous clusters of 15 to 40.

White centers with golden stamens illuminate the rich crimson of freshly opened 'Hiawatha' roses. The glow fades, though, with maturity, as stamens are browned and petals shade into maroon pink. The American Rose Society color classification for 'Hiawatha' is red blend.

Its flowering, which occurs only once in the season, takes place late.

Glossy, dark greenness of foliage provide an aesthetically striking contrast. Unfortunately, growing 'Hiawatha' against walls seems to coat leaves with mildew as is typical for Wichuranas.

Its height tends to be twice its width. Maximum height is around 13.1 feet (4 meters), with a spread of 6.6 feet (2 meters).

Its minimum hardiness zone, which indicates the preferred climate for 'Hiawatha,' is Zone 5, which has a range of -20° to -10° Fahrenheit (-29° to -23° Celsius).


Rosa wichurana: East Asian species is credited with changing the history of rose breeding.

Rosa wichurana
Rosa wichurana

Rosa wichurana: a bewitching East Asian rambler that changed the course of rose breeding


'Hiawatha' rose and its parent, 'Turner's Crimson Rambler,' belong to the wild rose species Rosa wichurana. A native of East Asian countries of China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, Rosa wichurana was named in honor of German jurist and botanical explorer Max Ernst Wichura (January 27, 1817 - February 24/25, 1866), who brought back to Berlin a specimen which he had retrieved from Japan in 1861 during the Prussian Expedition to East Asia, 1859 - 1862. Credit for describing the species is given to François Crépin (October 30, 1830 - April 30, 1903), a rose specialist who directed the National Botanic Garden of Belgium (Jardin Botanique National de Belgique) in Meise, Flemish Brabant province, central Belgium.

As progenitor of the plethora of Wichurana ramblers bred by nurseries worldwide in the early twentieth century, Rosa wichurana has left its mark in the sophisticated arena of rose breeding.

Rosa wichurana attains a height which is almost double its width. Maximum height is about 16.4 feet (5 meters). Spread maximizes at 9.8 feet (3 meters).

Long shoots, which root as they trail along the ground, also display enthusiastic agility as climbers in scaling artificial supports such as arches, trellises, and walls, as well as natural props such as bushes and trees. Indeed, Rosa wichurana consistently sets the standard for roses, not only as climbers and ramblers, but also as ground cover.

Flowering occurs late and only once each season.

Flower size is small, measuring 1.6 inches (4 centimeters).

Rosa wichurana blossoms as single white flowers in panicles (branched clusters with short floral stalks) of 5 to 10.

Foliage appears usually as nine small, dark, glossy leaflets, with two curved prickles on every leaf-node. Rosa wichurana's distinctive foliage provide a glittering contrast to its profuse, pure white flowers.

Another of Rosa wichurana's many appeals is its strong, sweet fragrance redolent of musk. This tantalizing scent, however, was not bequeathed to Rosa 'Hiawatha,' which, nevertheless, has beauty to spare in its visual appeal.

The minimum hardiness zone for Rosa wichurana is Zone 6, which ranges from -23° to -18° Fahrenheit (-10° to 0° Celsius).


Woods Hole's maritime landscape: historic Nobska Light, about 1 mile south of Michael Walsh's rose gardens on Joseph Story Fay estate

Nobska Light, Woods Hole, Cape Cod: first built in 1828, rebuilt in 1876
Nobska Light, Woods Hole, Cape Cod: first built in 1828, rebuilt in 1876

Michael Walsh: breeder of 'Hiawatha' rose


Born in Wales on January 18, 1848, Michael H. Walsh emigrated to the United States in 1875. Educated in horticulture and experienced as a gardener, Michael honed his skill in his adopted homeland, finally settling as head gardener on the estate of Joseph Story Fay (December 8, 1812 - June 14, 1897) in Woods Hole, a village in the Town of Falmouth in southwestern Cape Cod. Three acres on the property were dedicated to gardens and greenhouses for growing thousands of roses for testing and hybridizing. Michael is credited with popularizing ramblers on Cape Cod.

Sadly, Michael's exquisite, rosy gardens are no longer in existence. Mr. Fay's house, which was known as "The Homestead" under his ownership, still stands, however. Renamed "Challenger House" in honor of the nineteenth century pioneer oceanographic research ship, H.M.S. Challenger (first launched February 13, 1858; ignominiously scrapped in 1921), Mr. Fay's manse now belongs to the world renowned Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

In 1943 the Falmouth Garden Club, founded in 1931, honored Michael Walsh's achievements with the placement of a memorial stone between Challenger House and the Woods Hole Historical Museum. The memorial states:

"Near this place lived Michael H. Walsh, who made the rambler rose world famous."


Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

"Song of Hiawatha" inspired Michael Walsh to breed three namesake roses: Hiawatha, Minnehaha, and Nokomis.
1846 crayon and chalk on paper portrait by Eastman Johnson  (July 29, 1824 – April 5, 1906)
1846 crayon and chalk on paper portrait by Eastman Johnson (July 29, 1824 – April 5, 1906)

"The Song of Hiawatha" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: namesake of 'Hiawatha' rose


The Song of Hiawatha, an epic poem comprising an Introduction and twenty-two chapters, was composed by American multi-linguist poet-translator-writer Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (February 27, 1807 – March 24, 1882). Published in 1855, Song of Hiawatha met with instantaneous success and injected Native American legends and places into the popular vocabulary not only of the United States but also throughout the world. Basing his hero on the Ojibwe trickster figure and culture hero, Nanabozho, Henry substituted the mellifluous name of Hiawatha in the mistaken belief that the names were synonymous. In fact, however, Hiawatha referred instead to a presumably historical personage instrumental in the founding of the Iroquois League, which was formed sometime between 1100 to 1600 and based primarily in the area of upstate New York. Pictured Rocks, 15 miles (24 kilometers) of colorful sandstone cliffs rising up 200 feet (60 meters) along the picturesque south shore of Lake Superior, is the traditional setting for the adventures of Nanabozho in Ojibwe legends.

Symbolic of the high esteem with which Henry was regarded in the nineteenth century, a marble bust of his likeness was unveiled in 1884, two years after his death, in the Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey. The bust was sculpted by Sir Thomas Brock (March 1, 1847 – August 22, 1922), who had garnered recent acclaim for his 1881 bronze statue, "A Moment of Peril," now housed in the Leighton House Museum, and for his completion of the bronze statue of Albert, Prince Consort (August 26, 1819 – December 14, 1861), begun by his mentor, Irish sculptor John Henry Foley (May 24, 1818 – August 27, 1874), for the Albert Memorial, Kensington Gardens, west central London, commissioned by Queen Victoria (May 24, 1819 – January 22, 1901). Placed on a pillar, the memorial is located near the tomb of Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1343 – 25 October 1400), the great medieval English poet who was the first poet to be buried in the Poets' Corner. Thus far, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow holds the unique honors of being the first non-British poet as well as the only American poet to be memorialized with a marble bust in the Poets' Corner.


Spectacular scenery of Pictured Rocks, setting for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "The Song of Hiawatha"

Bridalveil Falls cascades down the Pictured Rocks:  springtime waterfalls slow to a trickle by summer.
Bridalveil Falls cascades down the Pictured Rocks: springtime waterfalls slow to a trickle by summer.

Conclusion: A Rambler Rose by a Welsh rose breeder on Cape Cod in honor of a legendary Native American hero


The enchantment of the tale of Hiawatha, from his descent from Nokomis, who falls to earth from the moon, to his eternal love for Minnehaha, inspired Michael Walsh in the early twentieth century to breed extraordinary namesake Wichurana ramblers. In 1905, five decades after the first printing of The Song of Hiawatha, Michael introduced the satiny pink 'Minnehaha,' which was preceded in 1904 by 'Hiawatha.' In 1918, Michael completed the legendary trio with the introduction of 'Nokomis,' a delightfully fragrant confection of rose pink.

Both 'Hiawatha' and 'Minnehaha' are included in the exquisite rose garden begun in L'Haÿ-les-Roses, north central France, as la Roseraie de L'Haÿ by Jules Gravereaux (May 1, 1844 – March 23, 1916) and now maintained as la Roseraie du Val-de-Marne.


Hiawatha sails ever westward, to the Islands of the Blessed, to the Land of the Hereafter

"Westward, westward, Hiawatha sailed into the fiery sunset"
"Westward, westward, Hiawatha sailed into the fiery sunset"



My special thanks to:

  • Talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the Internet;
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University for superior on-campus and on-line resources.


"Hiawatha": circa 1874 oil on canvas mounted on panel by Thomas Cowperthwait Eakins (July 25, 1844 – June 25, 1916)

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC

Sources Consulted


Brown, Vernon H. "M.H. Walsh Rose Specialist Woods Hole Massachusetts." Cape Cod Heritage Roses > Michael Walsh. 2013. Vernon H. Brown. Web. Comcast.

  • Available via Comcast.net at:  http://home.comcast.net/~capecodheritageroses/walsh_page.htm

Brown, Vernon H. "Michael Walsh Originator of the Cape Cod Ramblers." Cape Cod Historic Roses > Walsh Catalog. 2013. Vernon H. Brown. Web. Comcast.

  • Available at:  http://home.comcast.net/~capecodheritageroses/walsh.htm

Butler, Mrs. Hermon B. "The Walsh Rose Gardens." Bulletin of the Garden Club of America, No. IV (April 1914).

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Chapman, Lloyd. "The Barbiers and their Roses." Ann Chapman. 2012. Ann Chapman. Web. www.annchapman.net

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du Clos-Jollet, Marie. "Rose Hiawatha." Journal des Roses, Vol. 36, No. 3 (Mars 1912): 44-45.

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"Garden Records. No. XI. Mr. Charles Turner's, The Royal Nursery, Slough." November 1870: 509-511. In:  William Thomson and Richard Dean, eds., The Gardener: A Magazine of Horticulture and Floriculture. Edinburgh and London: William Blackwood and Sons, MDCCCLXX (1870).

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Hatton, R. Marion. "The Walsh Ramblers." American Rose Annual, Vol. 28 (1943): 22-24.

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"Hiawatha." Rogue Valley Roses > All Roses. Rogue Valley Roses LLC. Web. www.roguevalleyroses.com

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"Home of Ward M. Parker, 1831." Woods Hole Historical Museum > Historical Paintings of Woods Hole and Falmouth by Franklin Lewis Gifford. Woods Hole Museum. Web. woodsholemuseum.org

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Laxton, T.T. "Cross-Fertilizing and Raising Roses from Seed in England." Gardener’s Monthly, November, 1880: 322-325. CybeRose & Bulbs > Roses > Breeding. Web. bulbnrose.x10.mx

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Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth. The Song of Hiawatha. With illustrations and designs by Frederic Remington, Maxfield Parrish, and N.C. Wyeth. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company; Cambridge: The Riverside Press, 1908.

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Modern Roses XI: The World Encyclopedia of Roses. San Diego: Academic Press, 2000.

Quest-Ritson, Charles. Climbing Roses of the World. Portland OR: Timber Press, 2003.

Quest-Ritson, Charles and Brigid. American Rose Society Encyclopedia of Roses. 1st American Edition. New York: Dorling Kindersley, 2003.

"Rosa wichurana Crép. memorial rose." Plants Database > Plant Profile. U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service. Web. plants.usda.gov

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"Rose Propagation Workshop." Cape Cod Today. Thursday, June 27, 2013. eCape. Web. www.capecodtoday.com

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Roses. 1st American Edition. New York: Dorling Kindersley, 1996.

Roses Autumn 1911 Spring 1912: An Alphabetical and Descriptive List of All Leading Varieties Grown at King's Acre Nurseries Hereford. Hereford:  King's Acre Nurseries, Ltd., 1911.

"Scene in Little Harbor, Woods Hole, 1845 (with Red Schoolhouse)." Woods Hole Historical Museum > Historical Paintings of Woods Hole and Falmouth by Franklin Lewis Gifford. Woods Hole Museum. Web. woodsholemuseum.org

  • Available at:  http://woodsholemuseum.org/giffordpaintings/pages/lhroad.html

Stokes, Winston. The Story of Hiawatha. Adapted from Longfellow. With the original poem. Illustrated by M.L. Kirk. New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1910.

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Stout, Hilary. "Learning to Love Woods Hole." The New York Times > Travel. August 2, 1987. The New York Times Company. Web. www.nytimes.com

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van Steenis-Kruseman, Maria Johanna. "Wichura, Max Ernst." National Herbarium Nederland > Cyclopaedia of Malesian Collectors. National Herbarium Nederland. Web. www.nationaalherbarium.nl

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Wilson, Ernest H. (Henry). Aristocrats of the Garden. Garden City NY: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1917.

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Woods Hole: a floral paradise for a Welsh transplant rose breeder

Woods Hole
Woods Hole
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

A complete guide to the care and cultivation of more than 2,000 roses, lusciously illustrated.

American Rose Society Encyclopedia of Roses : The Definitive A-Z Guide

Climbing and rambling roses are sources of grace and dignity in the finest gardens.

Illustrated with 200 color plates. Covers nearly 1,600 roses.
Climbing Roses of the World

Illustrated by children's book author-illustrator Susan Jeffers.

The classic American poem The Song of Hiawatha is developed into a tale covering the childhood of Hiawatha and telling the story of his early years, when he first learned the Native American way of life from his grandmother.
Hiawatha (Picture Puffins)

Special edition, lavishly illustrated with drawings and paintings of Frederic Remington.

The Song of Hiawatha - Frederic Remington Illustrated Edition

Cape Cod, Massachusetts Chart & Views: black t-shirt

Cape Cod, Massachusetts Chart & Views
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DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 08/24/2014, DerdriuMarriner
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?


DerdriuMarriner on 12/03/2013

VioletRose, Thank you! Cape Cod roses, especially the ramblers, are favorites for me. They look so exquisite against the nearby backdrop of the beautiful Atlantic Ocean.

VioletteRose on 12/03/2013

Nice post, beautiful flowers!

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