Pure and simple Wild roses
Amateur Gardening|November 14, 2020
They may not be the showiest of roses, but these wildlife pleasers are surprisingly versatile and offer pretty single flowers plus autumn hips, says Louise Curley
Louise Curley

WITH their simple beauty and robust constitution, wild roses are often overshadowed by their showier, more flamboyant and longer flowering descendents. But as we enter bare-root planting season, it's well worth bearing in mind just how much a wild rose can add to a garden.

Known botanically as species roses, these were the original roses. They have been around for thousands of years, are revered by cultures all over the world and are the parents of every one of the hybrid roses you find in gardens today.

Pared-back beauty

The genetic history of roses is a complicated one – cross-breeding has created a succession of long-flowering cultivars with ever-more voluptuous blooms. Wild roses, however, are roses in their simplest form. They generally produce thickets of growth and are covered in a fleeting flush of single flowers made up of five petals.

While most don’t repeat flower, their stunning hips more than make up for this, lighting up the autumn and winter garden with glowing red fruit. They’re also fantastic for wildlife – the summer flowers are loved by pollinating insects and the hips provide a food source for birds in the bleakest months of the year.

Used to holding their own in the wild, these are hardy, robust plants. They tend to be unfussy about soil conditions – as long as they’re not waterlogged – and are less prone to the pests and diseases that can be problematic for cultivated roses. Some, like the native dog rose, R. canina, are vigorous and need space to thrive; but there are lots of options that can be easily incorporated into borders.

Wild roses are thorny specimens – an adaptation that has served them well, protecting them from grazing predators while allowing them to scramble through other plants. This can be off-putting, but the spikes do have certain advantages: they make great hedges if you want to keep out unwanted visitors – whether human or animal. And the thorns of Rosa pteracantha are as beautiful as they are sharp – they look a bit like translucent, scarlet mini shark fins

Bare root bargains

Cheaper and with plenty of choice, bare roots roses are available now and, once planted, will establish quickly in the warm autumn soil. When shopping for something new this year, it definitely makes sense to consider a wild rose.

The best wild roses for...

Hedges

R. rugosa

Flowers are made up of hot pink petals that look like crumpled silk, arranged around golden stamens. They have a strong rose fragrance and give way to fat, red hips resembling tomatoes. A robust, healthy plant. H&S: 2m (7ft).

R. pimpinellifolia

Also known as the burnet rose and long associated with Scotland. Makes a medium-sized bush covered in masses of creamy-white flowers from April to May, followed by blackish hips. Likes free-draining soil. H&S: 3ft (90cm).

R. canina

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