The Education of a Rose Gardener
Learning to love the Rugosa Roses
Their arrival in my garden went completely unnoticed. The rose order of sixty odd varieties that came as bare-root plants from Peter Beales was put together by Rupert Golby. Some were the recognisable classics and others with compelling names like Complicata. Rosa Rugosa Blanc Double de Courbet was for me a no-name, but not for Rupert. I admit this talented garden designer’s wisdom was lost on me in those early days. I had yet to be educated as a gardener.
Rugosa’s thorns made an impression. Of all the roses that grew those first few years, Blanc Double de Courbet with a fiercely bristling beard of thorns on all its stems was the one rose that made its presence sorely felt. What impressed me though, was its growing vigour. And it was not lost on me, that this rose alone was immune to the mildew and black spot and left untouched by deer.
Busy as I was with disease management required from my other roses, I left Rugosa to get on with what it did best: growing robust green foliage. A foliage that is different from that of all other roses (“rugose” from the Latin, wrinkled or rough) and precisely the reason rugosa roses were botanically baptised Rosa Rugosa in the late 18th century after arriving in Europe from their home in Northern Asia.
Why Rosa rugosa failed to light up enthusiasm of english rose gardeners is open to theory. Perhaps rugosa was too thorny or the single blooms of the two early varieties Alba and Rubra too simple. That other alternatives in the genus rosa too compelling. So Rugosa was ignored .
Easy & Exquisitely perfumed
But not on the Continent. In Germany and France and indeed in Canada and North America Rugosa’s advantages were instantly appreciated. It’s lack of soil fussiness. In Maine it naturalised so well it was renamed “the wild beach rose”. It’s tolerance of double digit subzero temperatures; its magnificent autumn hips in some cases the size of crab apples. And Rosa rugosa keeps its blooms coming from spring right through to autumn. Last and the best: this rose is one of the most exquisitely perfumed! A true "nosegay"!
Quick Profile: The Rosa Rugosa in my Garden
Blanc Double de Coubert 1892
The Muslin rose, reputedly Vita Sackville-West's favourite rose. Pure white double blooms, with fragrance once described as 'Woolworth's cold cream'. This barely does the scent justice. The perfume is intensely exquisite and is reason alone to have stand of this variety on the garden. Good at repeat blooming, but carries few hips. The product of Cochet-Cochet, who lived in the French town of Coubert. It is reputed to be a cross with the tea rose Sombreuil, but this is unlikely.
Posted September 2016