By Any Other Name Would Smell As Sweet


This large, mature rose bush is one I contemplated removing back in March due to its thorny nature. Instead, I drastically pruned it to keep it from overtaking the other plants within the circular perennial bed. The bush has returned with a fervor and is the very first rose to bloom at Coppertop!


I am no rose expert and have only grown a few. While trying to identify this white rose from the thousands of varieties, one outstanding feature is the deeply wrinkled leaves. I believe this is a Rosa rugosa, an heirloom shrub. Gardened for centuries in Korea, China, and Japan, and also in Europe since at least 1870, it is extremely cold-hardy and can thrive even in USDA zone 2. Its ideal is temperate coastal maritime conditions, like right here on the Olympic Peninsula. I’ve learned that virtually the opposite of hybrid roses, rugosas are practically immune to diseases, fungal or other — excellent news.


While there are many more spectacular blossoms, this single, ancient rose is the purest white and stands out in a lovely way here at Coppertop. It’s simple and sweet — but its power lies in its wonderful fragrance! What a treat for the senses. Additionally, rugosas are prized for their enormous rose hips. These edible, decorative hips the size of cherry tomatoes will turn pink, then are ripe and a deep bright orange by late summer. They are packed with vitamin C. I’ll need to learn how best to use them, either in teas or jams, cooking and straining out their dense black seeds.  I’ve read that the hips harvested after a frost are sweetest, as the frost lowers the pectin and heightens the sugar content, but even the hips that ripen in summer are surprisingly sweet.


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