Heirloom Roses: The Eglantine (Sweet Briar) Rose
Think long and hard before planting an Eglantine rose in your garden. It becomes enormous and is so thorny that you need protective clothing to prune it. But if you love Shakespeare and Chaucer, then you must have at least one.
The Eglantine rose, also known as the Sweet Briar rose, is native to Europe. It was so beloved in England that both Chaucer and Shakespeare wrote of it in their poetry and plays. The English brought it with them wherever they colonized. It is so hardy that it escaped their gardens and became naturalized in the landscapes of North America, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. It is considered an invasive plant and is banned from sale in all of those countries except the US.
Hardy from zones 4 through 9, the Eglantine rose thrives in full sun attaining a mature height of 10’ to 15’. Its width can be up to 10’. The branches are heavily thorned which added to its size, makes it an ideal hedge along a property line. It likes regular watering, especially a good soaking in the morning. The Eglantine rose spreads by suckering.
It is grown for its scent and its hips. The flowers are a light pink. Each blossom has five overlapping petals and a bright yellow center. Both the flowers and the leaves are apple scented, especially when wet. It blooms for about two weeks in late spring to early summer. Thereafter, the leaves provide the scent. The blooms result in large hips which turn orange in the fall. Each hip contains enough vitamin C to satisfy an adult’s minimum daily requirement. The hips are often used in teas.
The Eglantine rose does not require any pruning beyond the usual pruning done in very early spring to remove dead or dying canes. Any dead leaves, branches or other brush should be removed from under your bush to prevent the spread of insects and disease.
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© 2014 Caren White