Resplendent Rugosa Roses

by Nanette Londeree, Master Rosarian

Resplendent – shining brilliantly: characterized by a glowing splendor. What a definition! And you can bet that any rose that has that description is one you want to consider for your garden. Welcome to the world of hybrid Rugosa roses.

Hybrid rugosa roses are the progeny of crossing different Rosa rugosa, species roses. Rugosa species are native to northern China, Korea, Japan and the far north Pacific Rim regions. A few had been hybridized in the 1820’s, however, hybridizers became interested in working with the species in the late nineteenth century due to the roses special characteristics.

One of these is their very textured leaves – their name is derived from the Latin word for “wrinkled.” The foliage is very dense, to a point in some varieties that you can barely see the canes. They produce blooms from white through pink to red and purple, and even a few yellows. Flowers in the species are often singles with few petals, while most of the hybrids have fully double, medium-sized, fragrant blossoms with informally-formed petals. They produce brilliant orange-red hips in the fall that are filled with vitamin C, and as many varieties are repeat bloomers, you can have a plant with flowers and hips at the same time. They range in size from compact shrubs to vigorous climbers, and there are new dwarf cultivars as well.

One of the major attributes of this group of roses is their general health and vigor. As a group, these roses are tough – they are very disease resistant, heat tolerant, cold hardy, can survive in poor, dry soils and even seem to flourish near the ocean’s salty air. As a result, they make terrific low-maintenance landscape roses. Planted in mass they are truly resplendent, both in their burst of bloom in the spring and their fall color – leaves and hips! Once established, they require minimal care. To prune these roses, remove the oldest canes at ground level during late winter or early spring before growth begins.

Most varieties don’t like to be sprayed with anything (except water). Otherwise, phytotoxicity is quick to follow and the shrub will rapidly defoliate. While the species are also noted for their suckering (production of stems from the roots), hybrids are less likely to do so.

Some varieties you may want to look for include:

Blanc Double de Coubert, (ARS rating 8.3) – this hybrid has semi-double to double white, very fragrant flowers (even at night) with yellow stamens. The foliage is very rugose, and it is a very vigorous plant.

F. J. Grootendorst, (ARS rating 7.8) – bright red double blooms have serrated edges in clusters of up to 20 flowers. Foliage is small, dark and leathery. It has a vigorous, bushy form and is a repeat bloomer.

Frau Dagmar Hartopp, (ARS rating 8.5) – also known as Frau Dagmar Hastrup, this variety produces fragrant light pink flowers with yellow stamens. It has large red hips that appear shortly after the first flush of flowers so both flowers and hips are present throughout the season. The plant grows 2 to 4 feet tall and has yellow to orange fall color.Hansa, (ARS rating 8.4) – a 1905 introduction which produces large, brilliant red-purple blooms with extremely fragrant blooms. Vigorous, recurrent bloomer with big red hips.

Jens Munk (ARS rating 8.8) – clusters of medium pink, fragrant flowers with yellow stamens top the canes throughout the season. Another vigorous plant with light green foliage.

Linda Campbell (ARS rating 7.9) – hybridized by Ralph Moore in 1990, this rose produces enormous sprays of medium red blooms with a slightly lighter reverse. The foliage is large, dark green and semi-glossy. It is a very prolific plant that is highly disease-resistant.

Martin Frobisher (ARS rating 7.3) – hybridized in Canada in 1968, this rose looks very much like an Alba; the fully double, very pale pink flowers are wonderfully fragrant. The foliage is pale green, and very hardy.

Therese Bugnet (ARS rating 8.4) – a hybrid introduced in 1950, produces stems that are deep, maroon-red in winter. Dark pink buds open to medium pink, fragrant flowers. Very disease-resistant.

Topaz Jewel (ARS rating 7.3) – another rugosa developed by Ralph Moore in 1987. The double, medium yellow, lightly fragrant flowers fade to cream, and show some stamens when fully open. The plant repeats blooms and can reach five feet tall.

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