Plant a Week October Week 3, Sitka Rose

I originally wrote Plant a Week as a resource for children and parents of the Juneau Community Charter School. Generally we’d have a sample of the weekly plant and talk about it in class on Fridays. That afternoon the write-up went home with the kids in the school newsletter. They could point the plants out to their parents on weekend walks. In the northern world, if you know 52 of the major plants you’ll recognize almost all of what you’re looking at.

October Week 3                                                                                          Sitka Rose Rosa nutkana

Rose garden

Footfalls echo in the memory Down the passage we did not take
Towards the door we never opened, Into the rose garden
TS Elliot Four Quartets 1943

Cease your efforts to find where the last rose lingers.  Horace Book of Odes 68 B.C.

A rose is sweeter in the budde than full blowne.  John Lyly Euphues 1580

Roses red and violets blew, And all the sweetest flowres, that in the forrest grew.
Edmund Spenser The Faerie Queene. Book III 1579

For women are as roses, whose fair flower
Being once display’d, doth fall that very hour.
William Shakespeare Twelfth-Night

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
Romeo and Juliet.

At Christmas I no more desire a rose
Than wish a snow in May’s newfangled mirth.
But like of each thing that in season grows.
ove’s Labor’s Lost

He wears the rose of youth upon him.
Anthony and Cleopatra

But earthier happy is the rose distilled
Than that which withering on the virgin thorn
Grows, lives and dies in single blessedness.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream

The English, the world’s most reserved people, have given themselves a romantic outlet in the rose. Symbolic of love and fleeting beauty they have been widely used in story and song for centuries and are the most given flower in all the English speaking world. Can you think of a dozen songs or phrases with roses in them?

Our indigenous roses in the Pacific Northwest are widely planted as ornamentals and hedges. Unlike their cultivated, pampered cousins in the garden who, after all these centuries, haven’t quite learned how to take care of themselves,  Sitka roses grow aggressively and will fight it out with other bushes in the hedge. They can grow to 3 meters tall though they usually grow to 2 meters around here. They put out a lot of runners and suckers. You’ll want to cut those back every year or two so they don’t overgrow less vigorous bushes. You can either root the cuttings or, if you’ve plants by the street that dog walkers let their animals pee on, just lay a collar of the spiky stems on the ground around your plants. Dogs and cats don’t like stepping on them and will find another toilet.

Flowers are five narrow green sepals under five wide, bright pink petals. Inside the petals are a whorl of stamens where the pollen grows and under those are a whorl of pistils which are the female parts that form seeds.

After the flower is pollinated the plant doesn’t need to attract bees any more so it stops putting energy into showy petals. They fall off. The receptacle (the place where the flower sits at the end of the stem) forms a cup where the pistils grow into seeds—hard brown ones called achenes. As the seeds grow so does the receptacle and that is what becomes the bright red rose hip.

Sometimes you can find late season flowers on plants that also have mature rosehips. This is a way you can follow the whole process from flower to fruit.

Rose hips turn red after the achenes are mature to attract birds and other visual feeders. They are nutritious and high in vitamin C. Achenes pass through the animal and grow into plants next season. Here is part of a song with rosehips:

Cause we’re rough, loose, raw and rugged,
Yukon women are we,
we wear plaid jackets and we build our own cabins
and we all drink rose hip tea–independently”
from “Yukon Women” by Sue Ellington

Rose hip tea is made from dried rose hips, and may include leaves and flowers. Author Janice Schofield says don’t eat too many seeds because the hairs on them can irritate the intestines. You can pluck the flesh off before drying or use a mesh strainer for tea.

One year we made a good syrup of boiled rosehips, water, sugar and orange peel. We boiled the hips then strained them through a jelly bag.

Fresh rose hips make superior slingshot ammunition.

And I will make thee beds of roses, And a thousand fragrant posies.
Christopher Marlow “The Passionate Shepard to His Love” 1599

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, Old Time is still a flying,
And this same flower that smiles today Tomorrow will be dying.
Robert Herrick To the Virgins to Make Much of Time 1650

Go, lovely rose
Tell her that wastes her time and me
That now she knows, When I resemble her to thee,
Edmund Waller Go, Lovely Rose. 1664

I am the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valley.The Song of Solomon

The rainbow comes and goes!
And lovely is the rose.
Wordsworth Intimations of Immortality 1806

There is no gathering the rose without being pricked by the thorns.
Bidpai The Two Travellers 326 B.C.

There is a garden in her face
where roses and white lillies blow. .
A heavenly paradise in that place
wherein all pleasant fruits do grow.
Thomas Campion Cherry-Ripe 1617

Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose
Gertrude Stein Sacred Emily 1932

Queen rose of the rosebud garden of girls. Tennyson from Maud 1880

My luve is like a red, red rose, That’s newly sprung in June.
O, my luve is like the melodie, That’s sweetly played in tune.
Robert Burns A Red, Red Rose. 1787