Anita Morton - Growing Gardens

Lady Banks Rose

China is the source of many of our great garden plants, and one which has been admired and cultivated there for many hundreds of years is the banksia rose, Rosa banksiae. This species rose is one of the few that really appreciates a warm climate like ours, so you can plant one with confidence.

This climber was named in honour of Lady Dorothea Banks, wife of the famous botanist Sir Joseph Banks, and a notable gardener in her own right. It has been in cultivation in the West since the end of the 18th century and has proved to be very adaptable and tough. The only drawback is that its single-flowering, so once spring is over there will be no more blooms.

The banksia rose comes in two forms; white flowering R. banksiae Alba and yellow flowering R. banksiae Lutea. There are a few cultivars which have been selected for various characteristics, but these are the two which are commonly available. Both have clusters of small, informal flowers the yellow form has a slight rose scent, while the white has a stronger perfume reminiscent of violets.

Both forms grow long, arching canes that will easily cover a shed or pergola. They have no thorns to speak of, so are safely and easily controlled by pruning they will make a very large mound if left to their own devices. Happily, pruning out the old stems may be all the maintenance this plant needs, as they are highly resistant to all the pests and diseases that bedevil hybrid roses in our climate.

Banksia roses are old-fashioned plants, so you might have to ask a nursery to order one in for you. Alternatively, if you have a friend who grows them, try your hand at propagating them from cuttings taken in late summer.

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