I like roses, I really do. It’s just that I’m not a huge fan of the traditional rose garden model. A plot of land devoted to hybrid teas, grandifloras and floribundas is not for me but I can see the attraction for others. Roses in my garden have to blend in with other plants, they need to be tough and disease-free and they must have year-round interest. These are just three reasons why Rosa glauca is in my garden and “Chrysler Imperial” and “Brandy” are not.
Rosa glauca used to be known as Rosa rubrifolia, a reference to its most noticeable quality, the foliage which is a bluish-green tinged with red. Stems are red as well. The plant would be worth growing strictly for the leaves, which is impervious to black spot and mildew and rarely attracts aphids. In late June single pink blooms are produced. Small in stature they may be but the combination of the vivid pink flowers and handsome foliage is gorgeous. Good sized orange hips follow. Plants will mature at around two metres tall, forming a vase-shaped shrub. I prune my plant to shape and to control its height in spring and it responds quickly with fresh new growth. Plant in full sun or very light shade, in average soil. Rosa glauca is hardy to a bone-numbing -40 deg. C.
With foliage like this anything with blue or purple foliage or pink flowers is a natural combination. My plant is located in front of a ‘Fat Albert’ Colorado Spruce, with Helictotrichon sempervirens (Blue Oat Grass) positioned nearby. Perennial geraniums like ‘Max Frei’ or ‘Ballerina’ would look fabulous planted underneath, as would Wave petunias. Purple leaved shrubs like Physocarpus ‘Diablo’ or Cotinus ‘Royal Purple’ are excellent companions as well. The leaves have now fallen from Rosa glauca in my garden but I’ll soon cut a few red stems to use in a Christmas planter and the birds will enjoy the rose hips all winter.

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