Tuesday, June 16, 2015

A wild rose is a welcome volunteer in my garden

 Last year, a mystery rose plant showed up in one of my gardens. It wasn't far from the last spot where I had transplanted my ill-fated Apothecary's rose (Rosa gallica officinalis), which had managed to produce a blossom or two before it died, and I thought had set hips (seed capsules). The mystery rose was also near the downspout where the local chipmunk often hides, and not far from the bird feeder. This combination of factors led me to wonder -- and hope -- that it was my Apothecary's rose come back, with a little help from some hungry critter. 

I transplanted the volunteer to a better spot and put a support around it and waited for blossoms to form so I could confirm its identity. Not surprisingly, it did not bloom in its first year. I did occasionally wonder if I was mistaken and perhaps it wasn't a rose at all, mainly because of an absence of thorns on much of the plant; but a closer look confirmed that it had thorns on the central stem, and I was sure that ruled out members of the pea family that might have similar-looking leaves.

So when several buds formed in early June this year, I was watching. When the first one opened up it was a pale pink single flower with just five petals. Apothecary's rose is described as semi-double, meaning it has more than five petals, and is a dark pink/light red color. This flower made me think of a wild rose, so I did a little research.

As it turns out, my volunteer is a native wild rose, Rosa blanda, called variously meadow rose, smooth wild rose (for its lack of thorns), and several regionally specific names like Hudson's Bay or Labrador rose, which may give you a sense of its hardiness. In fact, it is native to nearly all of northeastern North America.

Its sweet simple blossoms are very pollinator friendly, and seem to be especially popular with these hover flies, which are beneficial not only as pollinators, but also as predators of aphids and other soft-boded garden pests. I noticed a few different bees on the blossoms, as well.

And when it's done blooming, it's still an attractive ornamental plant, forming bright cherry red hips in late summer and colorful foliage in fall. The birds like the hips, and some people do, too, although I've never tried them. Perhaps this will be the year I try rose hip tea or jelly.

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