…would smell as sweet. Maybe. But when it comes to scent, not all roses are created equal. As rose breeders have sought the perfect form, or longer-lasting flowers, or some other particular feature, scent has sometimes fallen by the wayside. Here at Willow House, I have become the guardian of a row of rugosa rose hybrids, which line the walk to the door. I’m not blessed with a keen sense of smell, but even my challenged olfactory awareness can’t miss the heavenly rose fragrance with which they infuse the air.
My grandfather grew roses, lovely hybrid teas. They were the centerpiece of his garden, neatly lined out in their own beds, carefully tended. I lack his devotion, however. Plants in my garden need to be able to look after themselves. They can expect no pampering and fussing from their gardener. Rugosa hybrids, tough, vigorous and disease-resistant, are my kind of rose.
Rosa rugosa is native to northeastern Asia. Being hardy and disease-resistant, it was very successful in adapting to conditions in Europe where it was introduced. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, breeders in Germany and France began to develop exciting new rugosa hybrids. The Darthuis Nursery, in Holland, hybridized Dart’s Dash, pictured above. The rugosas arrived in North America in 1872, introduced directly from the Far East. The “Explorer” series was originally developed at the Ottawa Research Station by Felicitas Svedja and includes Henry Hudson, introduced in 1976 and pictured below. In addition to their other virtues, the bushes are magnets for pollinators.