Some Beautiful Wild Roses – The “Country Life” Library. TREES & SHRUBS FOR ENGLISH GARDENS BY E. T. COOK. SECOND EDITION 1903
No family of hardy shrubs is more bewildering in the multiplicity and intricacy of its nomenclature than Rosa. Although there are many species now accepted by botanists, yet the pseudo-specific names may be counted by hundreds. Fortunately for those interested in their cultivation, a good many of these names refer to plants with very unimportant distinctions (many of them, indeed, are minor forms of our native Dog Rose), and the best of the wild species are mostly grown under the names applied to them in the following notes.
Their cultivation is simple. They are like the Hybrid Perpetuals in their love for a rich loamy soil—one inclining to a clayey rather than to a sandy nature. Loving abundant sunlight, they are not happy in shady spots. The commonest mistake in their cultivation is in pruning. The notion that they have to be cut back like Hybrid Perpetuals and such-like Roses has often resulted in the loss of a season’s flowers, besides destroying for the time the peculiar beauty of habit that many species possess. The shoots, often long, sucker-like growths that push from the base in summer, supply the flowers of the following year, and until they have flowered should not be touched with a knife. Whatever pruning is necessary—and it is, as a rule, a mere matter of thinning out of old worn-out stems—is to give the young growths more air and freedom. No shortening back is needed. It may always be remembered that some of the most beautiful specimens of Wild Roses in existence, especially those of rambling growth, have never been pruned at all. The chief thing is always to retain the free, unfettered grace natural to the plants. Pruning will help to do this, but it must be pruning of the proper kind.
In the wilder parts of the garden the common Dog Rose (R. canina) and its numerous varieties are worth a place; they flower well, and are always beautiful in fruit. The same may be said of the Sweet Briar (R. rubiginosa), the fragrance of whose young growths is always a delight, whether in garden or hedgerow. R. hibernica, a British Rose, thought to be a hybrid between the Scotch Rose and R. canina, comes in the same category. It flowers earlier than the Dog Rose.
For the wild garden also there are several other Roses that may be mentioned, such as cinnamomea, with rosy-red flowers and crimson fruit; nutkana, acicularis, pisocarpa, and californica. Only those are mentioned that from their greater beauty and distinctness deserve a more detailed notice.
Rosa plant list
R. alba.—Although found wild in several parts of Europe, this, the “Common White Rose” of Linnæus, is supposed to be a hybrid between R. gallica and the Dog Rose. It is always found in places which lead to the belief that it is not truly indigenous, but an escape from cultivated grounds. The typical plant has white flowers that are considerably larger than those of the Dog Rose, and the petals have more substance. There are now numerous double-flowered varieties in gardens, some beautifully tinged with rose.
R. Alberti.—A native of Turkestan, where it was discovered by M. Albert Regel not many years ago. This is one of the rarest species of Rosa in cultivation. The flowers are bright yellow, the leaves small and much divided.
R. alpina.—This is the species from which the Boursault Roses have been derived. It is a native of the Alps and Pyrenees. The stems are 4 to 5 feet high, and have few or no spines except when young. The flowers are rosy red; the fruits red, often pear-shaped, and covered with bristles, which, when rubbed, have a turpentine-like odour.
R. arvensis (or R. repens).—From this species the Ayrshire Roses have been obtained. It is naturally a trailing or climbing plant, having long thin shoots and white flowers. When trained over tree stumps or rough stakes and ultimately allowed to grow at will, it forms tangled masses which are very pretty. But the double forms—even the common variety, flore-pleno—are to be preferred, being especially useful in semi-wild spots. The type is wild in England, and frequently to be seen in hedges and thickets.
R. carolina.—For certain positions this is a useful Rose. It has erect stems and forms dense thickets, spreading rapidly by means of the numerous underground rhizomes it sends out in all directions. The flowers are purplish-rose. A later-flowering variety known as nuttalliana is a stronger grower and has larger flowers. This will flower up to September. R. lucida and R. nitida are, like R. carolina, natives of North America, and are of similar habit, but they are dwarfer and the leaves are more glossy. All these are apt to become crowded with old stems, and, besides an occasional thinning out, are much improved by dividing up every three or four years.
R. ferruginea (R. rubrifolia).—This species, which comes from the Pyrenees and Alps, is remarkable for the reddish-purple colour of its leaves and young shoots. Groups of half-a-dozen or more plants give a striking colour effect. The flowers are similar to the Dog Rose, but red.
R. lævigata (R. sinica).—Except in the south and south-west or in similarly favoured localities, this is not really hardy, but where it thrives it is a singularly beautiful Rose, perhaps unsurpassed among single Roses in the size of its pure white flowers. It is known as the Cherokee Rose, and is naturalised in some of the Southern United States. A lovely hybrid between it and R. indica has been raised and named Anemone. Its flowers are soft rose.
R. lutea (Austrian Briar)—Of all the Wild Yellow Roses this is the most beautiful. The yellow-flowered species do not, as a rule, thrive so well as the others in gardens—one has only to mention such species as berberifolia, sulphurea, xanthina (or Ecæ) to recall that. But R. lutea, in strong loam with plenty of lime added, generally thrives well. The copper-coloured varieties are more difficult to deal with in suburban districts. The flowers of the typical R. lutea are of the brightest rich yellow. When in good health it produces each year long arching shoots, wreathed from end to end with blossom. This species comes from the Orient.
R. microphylla—This interesting species is closely allied to R. rugosa, and is a native of China. It has a sturdy bushy habit, few spines, and the curious habit of peeling its bark. Its foliage is very handsome, the leaflets being small and numerous. The flowers are rose coloured and very fragrant. The shrub is interesting for its fine fruits, which are of large size, very spiny, and of a yellowish colour when ripe. Although some other species surpass this in showiness, it is one of the most distinct.
R. moschata (Musk Rose).—When seen at its best, few of the rambling species are more beautiful than this. It is not, however, so hardy as some, especially when young, in which state it makes long, succulent shoots during summer and autumn, which are apt to be killed back in winter. Old plants do not suffer in the same way, or not so severely. Its flowers are borne in great clusters, and are notable for their pure whiteness and conspicuous bunches of bright-yellow stamens. The best plants often of this species are in shrubberies, where, no doubt, the other shrubs afford it some protection. It is a native of the Orient and India. The name “Musk Rose” refers to a perfume which may occasionally be detected in its flowers after a shower, but is never very apparent. Nivea is a beautiful form.
R. multiflora.—This, the Polyantha Rose, the wild type of the group so named and the progenitor of many graceful Roses, is a native of Japan and China. It is a shrub 8 feet or more high, forming a dense thicket of arching branches. Its flowers individually are small, but they come in large dense clusters and so abundantly as to transform the shrub into a mass of white. They are very fragrant. This is an admirable plant for putting at the top of a wall or steep bank which it is desirable to drape with vegetation. The Polyantha group of Roses can always be distinguished by the stipules at the base of the leaf-stalk being fringed.
R. ochroleuca.—In stature, foliage, and mode of growth this is like the Scotch Rose, but its flowers are of as bright and rich a yellow as those of the Austrian Yellow (R. lutea). Where R. lutea does not grow well, this will be an excellent substitute. A native of Siberia.
R. pomifera (Apple Rose).—This is, perhaps, the most striking of Roses in regard to its fruit. The hips are 1 to 1½ inches long, apple or pear-shaped, of a fine bright red, and covered with bristles. It is a species that requires generous conditions at the root to be seen at its best. R. mollis and R. tomentosa belong to the same group, and have also fine red fruits, but they are much smaller than those of R. pomifera.
R. rugosa (Japanese Rose).—No plant has come to the front more rapidly in recent years than this Rose. It was introduced from Japan in 1845, but appears to have been neglected. It is one of the very hardiest of Roses, as well as one of the sturdiest and most robust. The leaves are very handsome, the leaflets being of a rich green and wrinkled. The flowers in the wild type are rosy crimson, but there is also a white variety, and seedlings give quite a variety of shades. It hybridises freely with other species and garden varieties, and has in this way enriched our gardens with many good hybrids, Mme. Georges Bruant and the Coubert Double White among them. The fruits of R. rugosa are orange-shaped, scarlet red, and of large size—altogether very ornamental.
R. sericea.—For some reason this Rose has never obtained the recognition it deserves. Perhaps its comparative rarity may account for this. It is the earliest of all Roses to flower out of doors, its first blossoms opening as a rule towards the latter end of May; the flowers are creamy white. In the cooler days of May and early June it lasts longer in bloom than many of the later flowering species do. It has one very distinctive character, in the petals being nearly always four (instead of the usual five) to each flower. Sometimes the bark of the young shoots is a bright red. A native of North India.
R. setigera.—Of the North American Roses none has proved more useful in this country than the Prairie Rose. A rambler in habit, it is valuable for its vigorous growth and late flowering. The flowers are large, deep rose, and appear in July and August.
R. spinosissima (R. pimpinellifolia).—The Scotch Rose is one of the earliest species to bloom; it is also one of the prettiest and most distinct. The stems are dwarf and covered with bristles, the leaves small, and the flower white and cup-shaped. There are several wild varieties of it, the two most noteworthy being altaica (or grandiflora) and hispida. Both these grow 6 feet or more high, and the flowers of both are larger than the typical Scotch Rose. Those of altaica are creamy white; those of hispida a lovely cream yellow. The garden varieties of this Rose are numerous—some double, some single, and varying in colour from yellow to white and from pink to purple. The type is found wild in several parts of Britain.
R. webbiana.—Coming from some of the highest elevations on the Himalaya at which shrubby vegetation exists, this species is the hardiest of the Indian Roses. It has a thin, graceful habit, and its spiny stems are blue white when young. This year it has been very pretty in the unusual profusion of its bluish-tinted flowers, each of which are about 2 inches across. The leaves are of a blue green, and are similar in size and division to those of the Scotch Roses. But it is quite distinct from them or any others, for which reason it is worth the notice of lovers of these wild types.
R. wichuraiana.—It is not many years since this Japanese Rose was first introduced, but it is now fairly well known. It is a perfectly prostrate plant, and is remarkable for the shiny, varnished appearance of the leaves. It is one of the latest species to come into bloom. The flowers are pure white, and appear during July and August in clusters resting on the carpet of glossy foliage. It makes an excellent covering for sunny banks where the soil is good. Old tree stumps are also pretty when covered with this Rose. It has already been hybridised, and among its progeny are Pink Roamer, Manda’s Triumph, South Orange Perfection, and Jersey Beauty. There is a very distinct cross between it and R. rugosa at Kew.
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25% off selected Roses at the UK’s largest garden website Voted the nation’s favourite flower, most roses are excellent for cutting and many have a delicious perfume. If floor-space is limited, cover the walls with a climbing or rambling rose – the thorny stems of which will help deter unwanted visitors. Otherwise, choose a rose bush with a long flowering period, or one that has a good resistance to disease – like the classic English (David Austin) roses.