The Lady Banks Roses Are Out!

The Lady Banks Roses Are Out!

In my garden, like the bougainvillea, these climbers love the spring equinox. Or perhaps rosa banksiae just responds to the warmth of the sun after its winter rest. These small white rosettes on almost thornless stems emit a subtle fragrance and climb vigorously. 

First bred in China, they were first brought to the West by a Scottish gardener named William Kerr, and named after the wife of Sir Joseph Banks, the famed botanist and director of Kew Gardens at the time. According to Wikipedia, Kerr’s skills as a gardener at Kew Gardens were noted by Banks, who sent him to China to seek plants in 1804. He stayed for eight years, bringing back 238 plants new to European gardeners and scientists. These plants include japonica, lilies, bamboo, and begonia, among others.

Rosa banksiae was used in ancient Chinese medicine to stop bleeding from wounds. Its fruit contains tiny brown seeds which can after the hairs surrounding them are removed, be eaten like sesame seeds and contain an oil that has healing properties. According to the website of the British non-profit Plants for a Future (PFAF) these fruits are rich in vitamins A, C, and E, essential fatty acids, and flavonoids. In addition, says this site, ‘It is being investigated as a food that can reduce the incidence of cancer and as a means of halting or reversing the growth of cancers’ No references are cited for this claim, so I looked it up. It does appear that rosa banksiae is rich in polyphenols. Polyphenols are found in many plants and have anti-mutation and antioxidant properties.

But most people like Lady Banks's roses for their beauty, their hardiness, and their longevity. In Tombstone, Arizona, the most famous rose of them all was planted in 1885 and now covers 9,000 square feet. Its massive trunk is supported by a trellis and spreads over the roof of an inn.

Ours is over 20 years old and going strong. I won’t be here to see it in one hundred years, but I hope it enjoys itself for a good long time.