Two of my reference books, A Rose Odyssey
(1937) and The Companion to Roses
(1982), both have sections on Pernetiana roses that are part biography and part horticultural history.
The author of A Rose Odyssey
, J.H. Nicolas, visited Pernet-Ducher in person and recounts his experience:
"The late Joseph Pernet-Ducher, of Venissieux, was incontestably the greatest rose hybridizer the word has produced, and the Pernetiana strain will remain forever a monument to him... Pernet had a dream which, he told me, started when, working with Alegatiere, he saw each spring the glory of a large bush of Persian Yellow in bloom. He would someday bring that color into the garden rose. It became an obsession with him. Persian Yellow proved to be female sterile, but the pollen is sometimes potent. Pernet applied it to a conglomeration of proved seed-bearing varieties of the Hybrid Perpetual class. He succeeded in raising two seedlings, one from Antoine Ducher, a red Hybrid Perpetual which created quite a sensation and was named 'Soleil d'Or'... He thought he had a pure yellow rose in 'Rayon d'Or' in 1910, but the plant proved addicted to dieback and defoliation. It was only in 1920 that the perfect yellow rose arrived, 'Souvenir de Claudius Pernet'. That rose was the sensation of a century! Pernet was proud of this rose and he told me once, 'You will be long dead and buried before another yellow rose surpasses it."
Now jump to the partial accounting given in The Companion to Roses
"In 1883, Pernet began his attempts to secure a worthwhile hybrid from the pollen of foetida roses, and tried many hundreds of crosses with various hybrid perpetuals but without result. Success came in 1900 with pollen from a Persian Yellow and seed from 'Antoine Ducher', a hybrid perpetual with red flowers. The seedling raised was of no consequence, but Pernet-Ducher let it grow. The following year, when he came to examine it, he saw what he had failed to notice before: another seedling had appeared beside the first. This second generation was 'Soleil d'Or', which through 'Rayon d'Or' provided many of the most vividly coloured modern roses - bright yellow, orange and copper.
"The Pernet-Ducher nursery continued to produce excellent roses well into the 20th Century - in particular, 'Souvenir de Claudius Pernet', a beautiful, if tender, true yellow rose with a darker centre, which has imparted its good looks to many other modern large-flowered varieties; it won a gold medal at the Bagatelle contest. This rose was introduced in 1920 to commemorate Pernet-Ducher's son. Because his regiment remained inactive during the early days of World War I, he had resigned his officer's commision in the French army and joined the ranks; he was mortally wounded soon afterwards. Pernet's other son, Georges, was also killed in action the same week, in 1915, and he too was commemorated with a rose, 'Souvenir de Georges Pernet', which also won a gold medal at the Bagatell trials. But Pernet-Ducher himself never really recovered from the loss of his sons."
Here is a group photograph from A Rose Odyssey
with Pernet-Ducher in center, with the pocket-watch chain. The caption reads, "Rare photograph of famous rosarians gathered in London in 1913 to award the Daily Mail prize to the rose Mme. Edourd Herriot."