A rose is a rose is a rose … or is it?

Janice Wells jwellsoeo@hotmail.com
Published on March 22, 2014

Whenever I mention the rose hedge at Gooseberry Cove, it never fails to prompt response from someone who was as charmed by it as I was.

Susan Khaladkar wrote recently “Here’s my question. You mentioned the shrub roses of Gooseberry Cove. I admire them, too, and would like to get the same variety. Do you know the name of the variety? Are they, basically, a heritage rose?”

Good question Susan. In fact, I’m surprised that no one has written by now to tell me what they are or perhaps who lives in the house surrounded by the hedge so I can see if they know.

This hedge that seems to have some renown completely surrounds a house and fairly large garden between Placentia and St. Bride’s in Placentia Bay. You have to walk past it to get to the beach. It has been a few years since I was there, but considering that it looked very mature then, I’d be very surprised if it’s not still looking gorgeous every summer. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the owners don’t know themselves exactly what species it is; it may well have been planted before they bought the house.

I can’t remember exactly what the house is like, if it’s an old timer or not. Maybe the current owners planted the hedge or are descendants of the gardener who first had that wonderful vision.

Susan’s question prompted me to look up roses native to Newfoundland. My “Wildflowers of Newfoundland and Labrador” book confirms the information I found online. We have two actual native species; Rosa Virginiana, which can reach seven feet, has a two-inch pink bloom in early summer, usually single (although there is a double variety that isn’t as common) and orange hips; and Rosa nitida, also known as the Northeastern Rose and the Shining Rose. It also has single pink bloom in early summer but seldom exceeds three feet in growth, and has reddish canes and small red hips.

Virginiana likes moist situations and may be the one we see growing in ditches by the sides of roads. Nitida sounds like the ones I’ve always called beach roses because I often see them cohabitating nicely with beach peas and grasses bordering our beaches.

There are other shrub roses that, while not native, have naturalized here. These could be called heritage roses because the original plants or cuttings came over from Europe with early settlers. One of the most common of these is the white rugosa rose seen thriving in long forgotten gardens or around very old houses.

Newman has a huge mass of them in front of his Eastport house. It has pure white double blooms and a fabulous scent, fitting the description of Blanc Double de Coubert, which dates back to the late 1800s in France. The first one was planted in Eastport well over a hundred years ago and may have been brought there from Sailor’s Island or Broom Close, having been brought there from somewhere else.

There’s also a deep pink rose in the same site that is probably around the same age. It isn’t as aggressive as the white one and has been a bit crowded out. It didn’t help when we built the deck over some of them, but this tough rose actually grows up through the decking.   

I recently met Liz Close, the new Director at MUN Botanical Gardens and felt, right away, that she will become a friend. Then I found out that she used to be the Rose Garden Curator at Niagara Park’s Botanical Garden.

My first thought was “oh what a wonderful joyous job to have had.”

My second was that she is going to be a great resource for me to in my desire to plant a rose hedge by the harbour in Heart’s Content and I can’t wait to get together with her.

So be warned Liz.

Janice Wells lives in St. John’s. Her latest book, “Newfoundland and Labrador Book of Musts,” was published in October 2010 by MacIntyre Purcell Publishing Inc. You can reach her at janicew@nf.sympatico.ca. Note to readers: please do not send thumbnail-size photographs, as they are too small to publish.