There are usually only a few varieties offered in most nurseries. I have over 30 different rugosa hybrids growing here. The biggest of them all and one of my favorite roses is Sarah Van Fleet. It was hybridized by Dr. Walter Van Fleet in 1926. This rose grows to over eight feet tall and six feet wide in my garden. It starts blooming in early June. This year it started blooming Memorial Day weekend. It will continue to bloom until a hard frost. Sarah Van Fleet has a fragrance more like an old rose. The blooms are semi-double and medium pink in color. They fade some as they age. It does not set hips. This rose is extremely thorny. Wear a canvas jacket and gloves with gauntlets when you prune it. There will be some dieback (no more than 10%) after a very cold winter. This rose could be the focal point of a mixed border. It is in my border. Sarah Van Fleet would make an impenetrable hedge. The shortest rugosa hybrid and another of my favorites is White Roadrunner. This rose was developed in Germany by Kordes in 2001. It doesn’t grow more than two feet tall and has semi-double white flowers. The yellow stamens look great against the white petals. It is self cleaning, i.e., the petals fall off on its own. It does set a heavy crop of large, bright red rose hips. This rose also looks lovely in a mixed border. You might choose to line a path or driveway with it, as the white blossoms aid visibility at night.
Rugosa hybrids are low maintenance roses. Give them a bucket of compost once a year as a top dressing and mulch them heavily to keep the soil moist and weeds down. Once established, prune about a third of the old canes to the ground every spring to encourage new growth. Own root plants will sucker and spread. They can be divided and replanted in the spring as soon as the ground can be worked. They do look lovely in thickets and drifts. For a list of the ones I grow see the Roses We Grow Page (click on the green icon to download an Excel spreadsheet) on our website, http://www.derrosenmeister.com/ For in-depth information on this wonderful group of plants, check out Suzanne Verrier’s book, Rosa Rugosa.