Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Rosa banksiae

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Take time and smell the rosesRoses have been around for millions of years which just prove that roses are not difficult to grow. The Rose is also our National Floral Emblem and the state flower of several states.

Syns. R. banksiana, Banksian rose, Banks’ Rose, Lady Banks’ Rose Species.
Cultivated since 1796

Rosa banksiae is one of the best shrubs for a wall and in a few years will reach the top of most houses.  It produces an abundance of pretty small roses with the sweetest fragrance you can imagine.  The flowers are borne on last year’s wood and so it is well-advised not to prune in the spring.  Only dead or useless branches have to be trimmed.  The date of introduction is not known but the double white form was first described in the Botanical Magazine for 1818 as Lady Banks’ Rose and one of the sweetest of roses.  It has also been known as a native of China and had been introduced in 1807 by William Kerr.  The double yellow was introduced in 1824.

Definitely not for the small property, this vigorous species rose offers a spectacular spring show in warm-climate gardens that can accommodate its rampant growth habit.  There are four different forms of R. banksiae, varying by flower color and flower form.  R. banksiae normalis is considered to be the “wild” form, with single white flowersR. banksiae banksiae (also known as ‘Banksiae Alba’, R. banksiae alba, R.banksiae alba-plena, White Banksia, or White Lady Banks’ Rose) offers exceptionally fragrant, double white flowers.  R. banksiae lutea (R. banksiae lutea-plena, Yellow Lady Banks’ Rose) is the most well-known form of Rosa banksiae in cultivation with small, fully double, bright yellow flowers that come in clusters.  They are only slightly fragrant.  R. Banksiae lutescens has single light yellow blooms.  All four have small, oval buds that open to clustered, 1-inch wide, rosette-form flowers, usually blooming in early or midspring to late spring.  Slender, thornless canes carry semi-evergreen to evergreen, shiny, dark green leaves with narrow leaflets.  They are rarely bothered by diseases. 

All four forms of this specie rose have a vigorous, rambling habit and can grow up to 30 ft, so they’re usually used as 20 to 30-foot climbers.  They need a sturdy support, such as a well-built pergola or arbor; they also like to scramble into trees.  It is a great rose for zone 8 to 10.

I saw Rosa banksiae in Charleston, SC on my first visit there in 1989.  We went on a House and Garden Tour and at one of the gardens we visited, ‘Yellow Lady Banks’ was growing almost to the roof of the house against the wall.  We wandered along some tiny street and I saw 'Yellow Lady Banks' rose by the gate and I took the above photo.

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