It may seem strange and even a little bit disrespectful to call such a beloved flower a weed, but here at Al-Kemi, we don’t consider “weed” an insult, and in any case, many kinds of roses do grow freely, wild and naturalized, all over the world. Their abundance, toughness, and adaptability don’t make them any less special- perhaps they are even more revered for being easy to find and work with.
By now, any of you who have struggled to keep a domesticated garden rose alive and looking beautiful might think I’m insane to call them “easy”, but for the wild roses of the world, growing and flourishing in all sorts of conditions with very little care is the norm. Everywhere we have lived has had its own special native and feral roses, selected by Nature over time for that particular spot, arising from individual expressions of land and locale to manifest the singular qualities of perfection that Rose represents.
Here on the Oregon coast, we have a few feral types and a couple of native types, also. The feral ones, having escaped cultivation but not needing its pampering, are the sweet, demure tea rose called Lady Banks, and the robust Rosa rugosa, with its bold flowers and big fruity hips.
Lady Banks roses are native to China, and were introduced to European gardens in the early 1800’s by the plant hunter Sir Joseph Banks, who named the cultivar after his wife. I first learned about this rose when we moved to Port Orford, and I noticed “banks” of rambling roses all over vacant and unkempt lots. These roses bloomed profusely with clusters of 1 inch flowers in shades from light cream to shell pink, and the striking thing about them was how perfect they always looked. The leaves were dark green and glossy, no signs of bugs, rust, mildew, or any of the issues that plague garden roses.
I later found out that this is one of their most well-known characteristics, and if their very modest needs are met, they can grow huge in size and long in life- there is a Lady Banks rose in Tombstone, Arizona that was planted from a cutting sent from Scotland in 1885! This famous rose covers 5,000 square feet with its rambling canes, and its trunk is 14 feet in diameter!
Less refined in flower but equally hardy is the Rosa rugosa, so named because of its wrinkled, or “rugose” leaves and crepe-like flower petals. Rugosas spread by suckers, rather than in arching canes, and so this rose can form dense thickets of thorny brambles, covered in flowers in the summer and huge, delicious rosehips in the fall. Also called “beach rose“, it is common on beaches here, and it is very tolerant of the poor sandy soils, salt spray, and wind of this ecosystem.
It’s hard to choose the best feature of Rugosas, since the flowers are so lovely and fragrant, but the hips are huge, the size of a cherry tomato or bigger, and loaded with vitamin C. We have a couple of small ones we just planted, and we look forward to them taking over an otherwise dull corner of our field and feeding both us and wildlife when they get bigger.
The other type of rose we have planted here is our native Wood’s Rose, another rambling type, with the classic five-petaled rose flower and small but plentiful hips in clusters like crabapples.
I’ve always loved finding this and the other native Nootka Rose when hiking in our area, and there is a particularly beautiful stand of the Wood’s Rose on the way to the farm stand I buy our veggies at in the summer.
Growing along a fence, when I took this photo of it earlier this summer, I could literally hear the buzzing of the happy bees all over it from where I parked across the road. The sweet but spicy perfume reached that far, too, and the flower I picked scented my car for days. Soon, after some frost sweetens them, I will return to pick rosehips to make into jelly if I gather enough.
Next week is Michaelmas, the feast of St. Michael, which is also called “Hipping Day“, as it is traditional to collect rose hips during this time. It is also said that blackberries (a rose relative) are prime right now but not after the feast, when they belong to the devil, or to the Drosophila fruit fly worm, which is maybe worse.
As I talked about in my Equinox article, this season is one of a second harvest, with the first being grains at Lugnasadh, and now, fruits, most of them in the rose family and sacred to Venus. Apples, pears, plums, and rosehips all come from rose-like flowers, and they all show the five-fold symbolism of Venus, mirroring in their petal or seed structure the orbit her planet draws above us.
With all her beauty around us and with the Sun in her sign of Libra, mirroring the new energy she brings at the Spring Equinox in Taurus, it’s perfect that we just finished a new vintage of our Venus Magistery of Rose. It took some time to get quality organic roses to work with, since the price of rose oil dropped over the last few years, fewer farmers in Bulgaria are growing roses, and so the limited harvest goes to oil extraction for perfume making. But we finally did get some lovely Bulgarian rose to extract, and a few months later, we again have this gorgeous Magistery.
This vintage is lighter than in years past, more delicate in energy, although still having a powerfully aromatic taste. If our previous vintage was a strong, sensual but playful woman, this one is more of a sweet and innocent girl, open-hearted and gentle in its energy.
At the same time, in smell and taste this vintage is a bit spicy like the wild roses, with a slight cinnamon note that is warming like a relaxing summer day. It is very opening to the heart chakra, and with that summery warmth, it reminds me that the Heart chakra and heart organ overlap and bring together the energies of Venus and Sun.
Although it’s a different species of rose, when I work with it, I am taken back to mid-August, when I pulled over to connect with the bee-loved roses buzzing by the side of the road, their faces open to the warmth of the sun and to my affection for them. I look forward to working with it more, and to hearing your experiences as it goes out into the world- find it here in our store, and let us know what you think!