June 20, 2013

More on Rosa Glauca

In an earlier post this month I mentioned the oddity of my Rosa glauca, redleaf rose. Several commenters said they really loved this unusual rose, or wanted one, or had liked seeing one in someone's garden.

I too admired redleaf roses before putting one in last year. But I am struggling with how to use it effectively in my own garden.

Rosa glauca is a tall, leggy shrub that needs something solid near it, under it, or behind it, partly to bulk up its sparse form and partly to contrast with its wispy, smoky colored foliage. Here are several ways I have seen it used well:
Love this -- it arches gracefully over a rustic fence, but is anchored by a very large bird condo nearby,
and there is complexity in the different levels of greenery behind it to showcase the form and fine foliage.
I saw this on a local garden tour.

This one leans over. It contrasts with the red maple behind and the bold hosta
foliage below and some big rocks to the right. The leaves are not so gray-green in this light.
This was seen at a garden tour in a nearby town.

The massive rock wall gives this leggy rose some visual oomph below, and the barn adds
some solid structure in the distance behind. Again, in this light the foliage was greener.
This is another example from the local garden tour in town.

Industrial railroad ties running below this fuller, rangier rosa glauca give it some weight.
I saw this one growing on the High Line in Manhattan.

The examples I saw all had hardscape around them and complex plantings behind them. My Rosa glauca is unfortunately sitting in a garden border at the edge of the lawn. There is no harsdcape or structure nearby. It's not working.
Mine is young and funny shaped and very blue. 
There is nothing nearby to contrast with or to give it any bulk.

Rosa glauca is a chameleon of a plant. Some days it is gray, other days it is greener, as you can see in the variability of the several photos above. In evening light it can look positively blue. There are very red tints to the leaves, which accounts for its name "redleaf rose".

The flowers are small and pink and only last very briefly in June. They are single and simple and pretty in a stark way, but you don't plant this for roses, you plant it for the odd, variable, changing leaves.

I thought this would be an eye-catching specimen at the edge of a border, but when I look at the examples that I admired, I can see now that I need something nearby. A rock, a wall, more complex companion plantings.

I really like this plant, I just don't like the way it looks in my garden. I got some redesigning to do.




A question for those of you who grow Rosa glauca -- Do you coppice it to the ground each year? Does that help keep it a nicer form? I know it still gets leggy, but can you keep it from looking so rangy by cutting it back? Or do you just let it go?

36 comments:

  1. Very thoughtful post. I like all the comparison photos. You've given us all a great overview of how Rosa Glauca can appear in different settings. Thanks!

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    1. Aaron, I accumulated these comparison photos of rosa glauca over a couple years, trying to get an idea of how to plant one in my own space. It took me forever, and I still didn't get it right!

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  2. It was nice to see the various way's Rosa Glauca can be used in the landscape, the color is fantastic. I see some flower contrasting with yours so there is that, I think it looks great and I'd like to see it when you have more going on!

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    1. Barb, the color is from a hot pink penstemon planted nearby, and in a long shot it fights with the rose. I'll show a picture of how that all looks in a couple weeks. It's not a good combo.

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  3. Hi Laurrie, I saw this rose recently and wondered about its name. Now I know. The foliage is quite something isn't it? I actually like the shape of your rose, but I think you are right, you don't quite have to right perennials or shrubs to really set off its unique foliage. I wonder what it would look like if you added something with grey foliage? It will be interesting to see what you do.

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    1. Jennifer, I'm glad you recognized rosa glauca here and now know what it is! The shape of mine is getting better as it arches over more. It's still immature (just planted last summer), so it will fill in (and shape up?) eventually. I'm not sure about the gray foliage companion, I think I need something visually weightier next to the rose. More contrast, perhaps.

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  4. Laurrie, do you have tujas, spruce, pine, fir, etc? I think rosa glauca will goes well with any conifer.

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    1. Nadezda, I agree, a dense conifer would really set off rosa glauca's gray foliage. I don't have room near this one to put in a conifer, though. Although maybe a dwarf pine or dwarf spruce could fit.

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  5. I think it's a tricky plant to position in a way that really shows it off...but once you get it, it's fabulous! I think it would look amazing surrounded with substantial companions...or at least, ones with very defined forms. I know I say they are the solution to a lot of problems, but I do think grasses (maybe Sesleria autumnalis) surrounding it would work wonders. Their graphic linear nature would create a visual calm area for the more amorphous shape of the Rose. Even an underplanting of a spreading groundcover (maybe Sedum 'Angelina') would achieve the same effect...color contrast, but visual calm.

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    1. Scott, you're right, this is a tricky plant. I like your suggestion of grasses. In the last photo of the rosa glauca on the High Line, there are mounding grasses below it and the contrast is nice. You make a good point about the calming effect of something linear like sesleria to tamp down the undefined shape and indeterminate color of the rose. Good thoughts to consider.

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  6. I have only seen this rose in one setting, sitting on a hillside. I was wowed by it there. It looks to me like you only need a few big rocks. When the hostas etc fill in it appears to me like it would be anchored. Love those blue leaves. I doubt I have enought sun to make them blue. I wouldn't mind the red color too though.

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    1. Lisa, boy I am terrible with hardscape, like adding big rocks to a mixed border -- I've never been able to use them naturally. But you are right that a simple addition of a few big rocks could help here. You could grow this in part shade -- that's how several of the ones I saw on garden tours were positioned.

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  7. I think the rose looks fabulous, but I know how it is when we're not happy with a spot in our gardens. I don't grow this rose, but I do love daylilies at the feet of roses that get 'leggy'. The daylily foliage is a good contrast to rose leaves, it hides the legginess, and you can find a daylily with a color that will highlight the rose. Or, perhaps, since you like "hard" things beside this rose, you could put a small statue, frog house, or something of that nature near its base. Good luck with making a decision.

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    1. Holley, good suggestions, and all along the lines of what I'm thinking --- something to hide the legginess and something to contrast with the shape!

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  8. This rose is grown more for its foliage and fruit than for its flowers.

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    1. Samantha, I agree. The flowers are not much to look at and they are brief. It's the strange, eye-catching foliage that is the interest here.

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  9. What an interesting plant. I think you've hit the nail on the head, it needs something solid nearby for contrast.

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    1. Jason, it really is an interesting plant, especially for a rose. Roses are grown for their spectacular flowers, not their shapes or leaves, which are ehh -- but this one is the opposite.

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  10. In each example it leans in one direction. It looks like it naturally cascades. I never used this rose, but it is nice to see the examples.

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    1. Donna, it does cascade, if done right. I especially like the example in the first photo where it leans over the fence. Wishing I had a fence . . .

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  11. This is certainly an interesting rose, and you've really given some great examples of how it can be used effectively. I like Lisa's suggestion of putting in some big rocks, or would it work by the meadow?

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    1. Rose, actually just tonight Jim suggested a spot near the dry creek bed, backing up to the meadow and it would be perfect there. Your suggestion and his idea are in sync!

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  12. I can't wait to see where you take this! It is a beautiful plant and I have no doubt with your talent that whatever you come up with will be beautiful! The inspiration pics are outstanding!!!

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    1. Nicole, I do enjoy the inspiration pictures, and like you, I use other people's ideas all the time for my own design musings. I think I have a new spot for the rose by the meadow and creekbed, and will have to do a post when I move it (maybe in the fall).

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  13. First, I think your rose is very pretty now. I am no expert, but how about doing nothing until it gets a bit bigger and you can see what it might need? Seems like it changes quite a bit as it matures.

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    1. Sarah, Thanks! This rose really does morph into different shapes and colors, and makes any design totally changeable.

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  14. It looks like it needs to be part of a shrub border and not a perennial bed. Shrubs would give it the heft it needs so it doesn't look out of proportion. They would also cover its skinny legs. :o) Those blue-ish leaves would look great near a blue tinged conifer.

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    1. Tammy, I agree -- perennials won't do much to anchor this plant or provide any structure for it. It needs bulkier, better companions.

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  15. I like rosa glauca with purple leaved shrubs - it lightens them and helps create a transition between the darker colour and surrounding plants. Would like to show you but my battery is just about to...go....

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    1. Anne, Deep color near a rosa glauca would be a great combination. I hope your battery recharges and you can show an example!

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  16. You make some very good points. I pulled mine out and threw it away, though I love it in other gardens. Wish I had read this first.

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    1. James, some plants need real thought, they can't be plunked just anywhere and be expected to add beauty to the garden. Rosa glauca appears to be one that needs some careful siting. Too bad yours is gone --- with the hardscape and plant complexity you have it could have found a good spot in your garden.

      I will be there Saturday -- looking forward to it and hoping you have great weather for the day.

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  17. Chiming in late on this post but, do you have any blue flowering or blue plants nearby? Someone suggested conifers - maybe a dwarf blue something? A blue green pot of some size?

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    1. Patty, actually I am thinking now of moving it to a spot by the dry creek bed and there are blue Colorado spruces flanking that area. And a dwarf blue globe spruce is nearby and it is quite blue. This could work! Good ideas.

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  18. How about anchoring with a dwarf burgundy Berberis, such as royal burgundy, kept clipped into a neat ball? Your rosa glauca is lovely!

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    1. Anonymous, the tight form and purple foliage of a clipped berberis are the exact idea of what I need: solid form and dark contrast with the rose. But barberry is an issue here, since it's invasive in our Connecticut woods. I have both the green and purple barberry popping up and spreading everywhere in the woods and meadow around me and am starting to have a hard time controlling it.

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