Chestnut rose

It is obvious why some plants are popular with gardeners. Most have to be easy to grow, or increase easily, so they can be shared, most are colourful and hardy or have been grown for so long that they are reassuringly familiar.

Most gardens contain some roses, and I would always have at least one rose in my garden no matter how small the garden was. But there are roses and there are roses. Species roses, the roses that nature made, don’t get a look in in most gardens, and they don’t flower for as long as the wonderful varieties that centuries of breeding have produced. But they do have other features that make them appealing to gardeners who want something other than beautiful flowers. There is a huge variety of sizes, forms and textures.

One that I wanted to include in the planting here was Rosa roxburghii, the chestnut rose. It is not very showy in bloom but it is a shrub that has some interest all year round. It is native to China and Japan and is a large shrub up to 3m high and wide. Like many introductions from Asia, it was in a cultivated form, with double flowers, that it was first ‘discovered’ by ‘Western’ botanists. It was a plant in Calcutta Botanic Garden that was first introduced to the West so, like the double-flowered Kerria, the ‘type’ on which the species was based, was double-flowered. The single-flowered var. normalis, was introduced by E H WIlson. I have the single-flowered kind and am not sure if the double-flowered plant sets hips, but I assume it does.

The common name of chestnut rose is given because of the strange hips which are covered in prickles, making them look like chestnut seed cases. They never go red, even when ripe, and they drop onto the ground when green, adding to the ‘chestnut’ effect. The shrub has fine foliage, each leaf being divided into up to 19 leaflets. It has a stiff habit and the bark on the old stems peels and is attractive in winter. As my plant grows I will remove lower branches to expose the trunk.

The leaves turn pink and yellow shades in autumn but are not spectacular. The flowers open for a month or so but, because the habit of the plant is so stiff and ‘chunky’ they are usually rather hidden, though bees find them and love them, vibrating as they run around the blooms, to dislodge the pollen. I have read that the flowers are strongly scented but my plant has only a light perfume and I would certainly not plant it for fragrance. But as an interesting, tough, hardy shrub, it is a good choice.


One Comment on “Chestnut rose”

  1. Paddy Tobin
    October 25, 2022 at 7:36 am #

    An interesting plant!

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