Purple Wellies

One woman's musings of plant lust for intoxicating blooms

A Rose by Any Other Name Would Smell as Sweet

About a year ago, I came across a rose with the promise of large, crimson single flowers with an exceptionally long flowering period - late spring through to the first frosts (although rumour has it , it has been known to flower well 12 months of the year including in snow and sub-zero temperatures!

My interest was awakened. I’m never one for growing your standard roses. Hybrid teas, and god forbid, a ground cover rose, would never be found growing in this garden. I’m fine with shrub roses, but have always been steered to the species type. Far more maintenance free: giving scent, foliage, hips and autumn colouration with minimum pruning required. What’s not to like?

I was thinking about this rose again only a month or so ago, and couldn’t for the life of me remember its name – something like ‘Bengal Tiger’, I thought. Having cleared an area of ground I was replanting, I thought this rose would suit nicely. With a Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’, pollarded each year to increase the foliage size and keeps its gargantuan size in check, sitting behind to showcase the single pink flowers of the rose off to good effect (I am a fan of using dark foliage to offset pink and red flowers).

Having finally found and purchased the said rose I can now see why I couldn’t remember the name. It can be listed under any of the following: Rosa x odorata ‘Crimson Bengal’, Rosa x odorata ‘Sanguinea’, Rosa ‘Bengal Crimson’ or ‘Bengal Beauty’... and also Rosa indica ‘Bengal Beauty’... or Rosa chinensis ‘Sanguinea’ or any combination of the above. That’s half the plant finder surely! So what’s in a name anyway? Shakespeare implied the names of things don’t affect what they really are in Romeo and Juliette with his line ‘a rose by any other name would smell as sweet’.

Growing to between 1 and 2 metres in height, maybe more if positioned against a wall, it might be cut to the ground in a cold winter, but will reshoot from the base. Slightly scented, single pink flowers, which darken with age, against wine red young foliage. The flowers also change colour dependent on temperature. I believe there is a specimen at the Chelsea Physic Garden in London, possibly a climbing variety as it is taller.

I already grow a close cousin of this rose, in the form of Rosa x odorata ‘Viridiflora’ (the green rose). A most peculiar thing with its green and brown flowers, more likely to appeal to the florist or plant geek than the average gardener, but that said it is flowering lightly in the garden at the moment, unscathed by the minus 4 degrees we had the other night. This now reconfirms my new acquisition, and hopefully it too, in time, will be adding joy and surprise to all who see this flowering so well in the garden at this time of year. Who knows it may well sit very nicely as a cut flower in a festive arrangement along-side the holly, ivy and mistletoe. Locally grown (well you can’t get much more local that your own garden), in-season (yes, it really does want to flower by itself now). All this from a square metre of soil, even a container, if you had to! If you’ve got a small garden and you want bang for your buck then I would definitely go for one of these.
Posted: 02/12/2016 17:06:38 by Pamela Barden