Rosa Mundi

Now that we have the plan in place for where all of the perennials will go in the vegetable garden, I was able to spend some time this week researching roses. As detailed here, we need two rose bushes for the beds near the patio, and they need to fit in a 4x4 foot space and bear hips for making things like sauces and jams.

In general, we already knew that the best roses for hips and fragrance would be old garden roses rather than the newer hybrids that you see in a florist's shop. Further research suggested that the tastiest hips would be from rosa rugosa plants, but those are so tough that they grow to more more of a hedge size — possibly 6 to 10 feet! So that's obviously too big for the space, and we had to rule it out.

Rosa officinalis is another old variety suggested for scent and herbal uses. It is also known as the apothecary's rose — in general, any plant variety with officinalis after its name is a classic for herbal use, because the officinalis designates it as having been grown for herbal and medicinal use by monks in their medieval gardens.

In the end, we chose a variety called rosa mundi:


It is an old rose, an offshoot of rosa gallica officinalis. A gallica rose is an old rose from France, and this variety is related to the officinalis, which bodes well for its scent and herbal uses. Gallicas are described as having hips that are good for eating, so this plant seems to be everything we're looking for. It's also smaller than the rugosa, so it should fill out the space we have for it without taking over the bed. And it's beautiful! I'm not normally that into pink, but this is one case where I am willing to make an exception.

And perhaps one of the reasons I find it so pretty is because of its back story. This rose dates at least to the 1500s, but legend has it that it is named for Rosamund Clifford:


She was the mistress of Henry II of England (who apparently wasn't all that happy to be married to Eleanor of Aquitaine). You can read more about here. If the legend about her tomb being decorated with these flowers is true, that would mean this plant has been tough enough to survive (and lovely enough to be cultivated) since the 1100s. 

We ordered ours from High Country Roses (which was very highly recommended on davesgarden.com, a site I rely on for lots of gardening information). The person I spoke to said that it is difficult to propagate, though not to grow. They expect to have between four and 10 plants ready to sell this spring, and since I was the first to order, we are first in line to have ours shipped to us in early May. Looks like my borderline-OCD planning has paid off! I think I more excited about this plant than anything else so far in our planning.

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