Rose Cuttings – October, 2007
The banksias roses are always the first to bloom in the spring, accenting the landscape like no other rose.
In fact, the white Lady Banks rose, Rosa banksiae banksiae, has been grown all over the Deep South for nearly 200 years, and some people still don’t know it’s a rose. This variety and its near-twin, the yellow R. banksiae lutea, can be seen billowing from tall trees and submerging high fences in graceful, thornless 20-foot canes and willowy green foliage from coast to coast in Zones 8-10. In spring, each plant covers itself with a mass of small (about 1 to 1 1/2 inches across) very double flowers for three or four weeks straight.
Because Lady Banks rose is without thorns, because its leaves resemble willow bamboo more than they do the foliage of most garden roses, because the pale flowers are so tiny, so profuse and so uniquely perfumed, it seems truly unusual and doesn’t offer many familiar pegs on which to hang its recognition as a rose. In fact, the yellow variety impersonates a blooming tree quite often. Passersby will stop and ask about “that tree,” because the flowers are so thick and the canes beneath are difficult to distinguish from the branches of a supporting oak or hackberry. The white Lady Banks rose is not seen as often, but is appreciated even more because of the delicate, but pervasive scent of violets given off by the crowded flowers.
In our Central Texas gardens, it is only watered and pruned (after the spring bloom) – fertilizer seems a little ridiculous. About every third or fourth year, a sudden freeze cuts it back substantially. Our Lady Banks Rose is growing on a tripod where gardener visitors walk around it and are brushed gently by its trailing canes. In spring, its scent carries across the garden in a light breeze, or hangs by the flowers in a cloud on still days.
About the author: Mike Shoup is owner of The Antique Rose Emporium, a Texas nursery dedicated to the reintroduction of old garden roses. www.weAREroses.com