Sunday, June 20, 2010

Essence of Summer

June is the month for wild roses - and none is more fragrant that the burnet rose Rosa pimpinellifolia. It's the first wild rose to flower, beginning in late May, and produces deep purple rose hips that ripen almost to black. Burnet rose is also incredibly spiney, with a mixture of large prickles and smaller bristlly spines that lodge in your flesh, as I discovered today when I tried to restrict the growth of a plant in my garden.

Burnet rose flowers are normally creamy-white but a few years ago I took a small cutting from a plant growing on sand dunes on the Northumbrian coast which has petals with attractive magenta flecks. It has since flourished in our dry garden soil and the fragrance is fabulous, but it has sent out long runners under paths that have sprouted an ever-widening forest of prickly shoots. Left unchecked, it would probably take over half of the garden but removing it is a painful process, even with gardening gloves..

Burnet rose is first and foremost a coastal species in Durham, although there are some inland populations. This one was photographed on the cliffs at Dawdon in County Durham last week. In Northumberland many of the plants growing in the coastal dunes are much shorter. It's a plant I always associate with summer trips to the seaside, and judging by its invasive tendencies in my garden it's best left in its native habitat.


  1. Beautiful wild roses. I saw them flowering profusely in the Himalayas last month.

  2. The only place I've noticed Burnet rose on the IoW was also at the coast, Phil, on the cliff top at Bouldnor last autumn when its exotic hips delayed me with the camera for some time.

  3. Hi lotusleaf, having visited your website, it's clear your roses are a lot more impressive than mine!

  4. Hi Rob, the hips are very distinctive and sometimes accompanied by a late flower or two. During mild winters the plant in the garden has sometimes had a flower on Chritmas day