The smell of the sweet shop

I mentioned my hedge of rugosa roses in After the Storm…

I’m just going to have a totally self-indulgent moment now with these roses.

The rugosa roses are tough little nuts. They will grow in sand-dunes, are disease-free, and always look lush and floriferous. There is a continuous display of blooms, each one being replaced by fat round rose-hip. I love the combination of red hips and silken magenta blooms against brightest green leaves.

These roses are perfect for semi-wild areas: the boundaries of gardens, for instance.  Which is why I recruited them for my allotment invasion.

I am very grateful to these roses for not deserting.

You know when you probably shouldn’t be planting something in a particular spot?  When you dig a foot down and the hole fills with water?  And the clay is so claggy you could make pots from it?  And there is a thick thatch of grass on top that you can be bothered to lift, so you kind of turn it upside down and hope no one notices?

I planted two dozen Rosa rugosa in this way.  They would have been entirely justified if they had just keeled over there and then.  But such is the life-force of Rosa rugosa, they are doing no such thing.  They are even suckering, such is their immense toughness and tolerance.

Rosa rugosa is early to flower, and this one opened two weeks ago.  Every morning I have sunk my nose into it.  These are not face-planter roses, like my David Austin English roses, so just a little delicate nose insertion is needed here.

This is a species rose, a wild rose, and so is a single flower, with just five petals and anthers at the centre. This means that, unlike cultivated hybrids, which tend to have many petals, this rose attracts beneficial insects. The anthers also add a more complex scent to the mix.

Rosa rugosa ‘Rubra’

Here is the white form:

Rosa rugosa ‘Alba’

And I seem to have a pale pink form too.

Rosa rugosa, pink form

This rose has a deliciously clovey scent from the anthers.  The petals give a more conventional rose scent.

I thought you couldn’t improve upon Rosa rugosa, but then I discovered the rugosa hybrids.  They are often double forms, but retain the scent and the hips.  There is ‘Hansa’, which I grow at the centre of the my rose garden, to bring a touch of the wild to this otherwise domesticated area.


And then I stumbled across ‘Wild Edric’.  It was billed as perfect for wild areas.  There was a gap in my newly created hedge that needed filling…

This was Total Tomfoolery.  It is one thing sinking two dozen £1.50 bulk-buy rugosa whips, and quite another to launch a dozen DA roses into a swamp.  But, before you reproach me, this was at the drier end of the quagmire.  It was a bit suction cup-squelchy, but did not fill up with water here.  Fingers crossed.

They are in their second year, and they are looking pretty invincible.  Unsinkable, you might say.

They have big, semi-double blooms, (two layers of petals) and flower in great profusion throughout the season.  Because they still have exposed anthers (unlike true double roses, where the fertile anthers have been traded for extra petals), they attract bees and other insects.

Rosa ‘Wild Edric’

The bare-root ‘Wild Edric’ roses started off ahead of the Rosa rugosa whips, and are still looking taller and fatter at the start of their second year.

Rosa ‘Wild Edric’ hedge, just starting into flower.

The blooms are lovely in all stages of development, from bud to falling petals.  I deadhead them to keep them flowering, and in all honesty I don’t know if they produce hips or not, because I didn’t let them set seed last year.

Rosa ‘Wild Edric’ with flowers at three stages of maturity.

But the best thing about this rose is the scent.

Can you remember Voice Tablets?  And Yorkshire Mixture?  And  Aniseed Balls?  These roses are all of these sweets in a scrunched-up paper-bag.  Clovey and aniseedy and fruity and rosey and…sweet-shoppy.

I think I let loose a little squeak when I smell this rose.  I can’t help it.  You would too.

Which is your favourite scented rose?  Or for that matter, scented flower?  Are you tempted to order some Yorkshire Mixture after being reminded of its existence?

My aim on this site is to share the sense of wonder I get from gardening and being outdoors. 

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39 Comments Add yours

  1. They look gorgeous! We are trying them on our boundary but they aren’t flowering yet. 🙂

    1. Ali says:

      Hope they do soon! Are they newly planted?

      1. No but they have been under threat from horses and sheep! We planted them in the field on the other side of our wall to improve the boundary. We shall see……. 🙂

      2. Ali says:

        Ah… good idea!

  2. Cathy says:

    Lovely! Is there one that smells of lemon sherberts? 😉

    1. Heyjude says:

      Kew Gardens: Small single flowers. Soft apricot opens to white with a hint of lemon behind the stamens.

      Not a rose but try Lemon Verbena – the leaves are pure lemon sherbert!

      1. Cathy says:

        Thanks! I love lemon verbena, and drink my own dried almost daily. I made some sorbet once with it – perfect lemon sherbert flavour! 😉

      2. Ali says:

        ‘Kew Gardens’ is beautiful. Ah! Great choice for lemon sherbert!

    2. Heyjude says:

      Oh, and The Poet’s Wife has a lemony fragrance. I love the name of that one too.

    3. Ali says:

      It would be fun to match them to all our favourites, wouldn’t it? ‘Benjamin Britten’ is supposed to have a hint of pear drops, and ‘Lady of Shallott’ smells of apple pie…

      1. Cathy says:

        Wonderful, and without the calories! 😉

  3. I love Rosa rugosa. It thrives here in Donegal in some quite harsh spots. My late father planted them in his garden, and I have so many fond memories of their scent…

    1. Ali says:

      Ah, that’s lovely. Scent really takes you back, more than any other sense, doesn’t it?

  4. pommepal says:

    Frangipani and star jasmine are my favourite tropical fragrances in my garden with lemon blossom being a close third

    1. Ali says:

      Those are heavenly too. And gardenia!

  5. Julieanne says:

    I prefer species roses myself, and I think R. Rugosa is an excellent rose if you have space for it. My favourite rose is R. Seagull, a rambler with single flowers and a gorgeous scent enmasse.

    1. Ali says:

      Oh, that is lovely. Just googled it.

  6. bcparkison says:

    Beautiful! Now…to hip or not to hip….that is the question

    1. Ali says:

      Indeed! I should deadhead all but one!

  7. Heyjude says:

    I love roses when they have a perfume. One of my favourite gardens in summer is the David Austin garden in Albrighton near Wolverhampton.

  8. Heyjude says:

    Forgot to mention the Yorkshire Mixture – I used to love that, but couldn’t help crunching which isn’t good for the teeth! Pear drops were a favourite too.

    1. Ali says:

      I scotch-guarded our walking boots the other day and that was pure pear drops! ‘Benjamin Britten’ is supposed to be pear droppy, but I haven’t had a strong whiff from it…

  9. jennavive72 says:

    Lovely roses and I LOVE the little white/yellowish spiders that like to live in these roses!

    1. Ali says:

      Ooh – I must investigate this!

  10. This is by far my favourite scented rose. It even has nice foliage which is a rarity in roses.

    1. Ali says:

      Yes. I love the foliage.

  11. janesmudgeegarden says:

    I’ve planted one given to me by a friend who yanked it out of her garden bare rooted! I then put it in a most unsuitable spot, so have transplanted am now waiting for the results in spring. I’ll have to think of an Antipodean sweet alternative for the scent.

    1. Ali says:

      It seems to be very forgiving!

  12. Your clay, water logged soil is exactly what I have here. Even today I have standing water. Rosa rugosa here we come

  13. That first magenta rose blows me away!

    1. Ali says:

      Ah, that’s lovely. X

  14. Eliza Waters says:

    I made potpourri once from wild R. rugosa petals I collected and the scent lasted for years. The best batch I’ve ever made. Do you make it?

    1. Ali says:

      My mum made some confetti last year for a wedding, but not from Rosa rugosa. Maybe I should try that…

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