Sunday, June 5, 2011

Rugosa Hybrids

My rugosas are in full bloom right now. I have a hundred foot long bed of them. What a sight and what a scent. Rosa rugosa is a species rose from Japan, Korea, north east China and the Russian Pacific Coast. It ranges in height from three to eight feet tall. The flowers are single and reddish purple or white. R. rugosa was introduced to Europe in the early 1800s. There was no hybridizing done with it until the end of the 19th century. Most of that early work was done in France. They range in height from about two feet to eight feet tall. The blossoms may be single, semi-double, double or very double. Colors are reddish purple, pink, white or yellow. Rugosa hybrids are among the hardiest repeat blooming roses. They can be used in a mixed border or as specimens. The lower growing varieties can be bedded out. They are especially useful along roads where salt tolerance is a requirement. Although they suffer in alkaline soils, they can handle poor soils. These roses do not get any foliar diseases. Japanese beetles do love them. Do not spray them though, as their rough foliage is sensitive and will burn if sprayed even with a foliar feed.

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.

Snow Pavement, AKA Schneekoppe was hybridized by Baum in Germany in 1984. Suzanne Verrier, in her great book, Rosa Rugosa, says the flowers are the color of “a drizzle of blackberry syrup in heavy cream.” It is heavily scented with a mix of rose and clove. This rose gets to be about four feet tall and as wide. Plant it near the edge of a border so you can stick your nose in a blossom as you walk by.

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, For in-depth information on this wonderful group of plants, check out Suzanne Verrier’s book, Rosa Rugosa.

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed your post, I have planted a hedge with sarah van fleet, mrs anthony waterer, rosea de l´hay and wild edric. However, one of my Sarah van fleets has reverted to a moss rose. Is this normal and what should I do?