If you haven’t already noticed, Oh Best Beloved, I am not a regimented gardener. My tastes run more along the lines of “Zowie! I gotta try growin’ one of those!” which rather destroys any chance of a planned or formal design. When I first found a nursery that would mail-order organic shrubs and trees, what caught my eye was the page that had seedling rugosa roses. It said, “Rosa rugosa is the hardiest rose known, withstanding fifty below temperatures with no damage.” Hello! Now that’s my kind of rose! I bought six, colors “assorted – no choice – but will be pink, red or white.”
When they arrived, they did splendidly, even in our thick clay soil. I was estatic! They grew like gangbusters from spring until early fall. And then, one morning, I looked out the window and…
No bushes. Not one.
Someone, someone with big long furry ears, whiskers, and sizable chompers, had mowed every single rugosa bush flat down to the ground and eaten every scrap, every leaf, bud and cane and even consumed the thousands of tiny sharp sharp thorns.
That was the day I ordered industrial-strength rabbit fencing for my future plantings, something which my gardening friends said I shouldn’t use as it would “spoil” the looks of my garden beds.
Um, didn’t the bunny already do that?!
I also called the nursery, to order more rugosas. To my surprise, the owner laughed and said, “Don’t worry. You don’t need to replace them. They’ve had a chance to establish. You watch. Next spring you’ll have lots of healthy vigorous canes shoot up from the roots.”
He was right.
Each bush is now over three feet in width. If left untrimmed they grow to over six feet in height. They’re completely unfenced, have survived numerous assaults by the bunnies, and are absolutely beloved by the local bumblebees. To my surprise, none of the bushes turned out to have red blooms; two have white roses; one has roses that are a very pale pink, and the others have blooms that are a deep candy-lipstick pink. The rugosas bloom in early summer, with literally hundreds of blossoms on each shrub, and bloom again in successive waves throughout the summer.
If you ever consider growing rugosas, I highly recommend St. Lawrence Nurseries, the nursery that I bought these from, btw. They carry an amazing variety of northern climate fruit trees (apple, cherry, pear and plum) as well as nut and lumber trees, which they will ship bare-root anywhere in the continental United States. They even have disease-resistant American elms, and a variety of native horse chestnut that is hardy in northern climes.
They’re organic growers, but if you’ve shied away in the past from buying organic because of higher prices you needn’t worry. These folks have fantastically competitive prices that beat the socks off of the prices you’ll find at most conventional nurseries.
One warning, if you decide to add these shrubs to your garden and aren’t already an organic gardener. Don’t use a drop of any synthetic pesticide (including insecticides, herbicides and fungicides) of any sort on or near a Rosa Rugosa. Synthetic pesticides are absolutely deadly for these lovely plants!