"Pay attention to the world." -- Susan Sontag
Lady Banks’ Rose (1 of 2)

Lady Banks’ Rose (1 of 2)

From “Renaissance and Romantic Roses: 1500-1800” in A History of the Fragrant Rose by Allen Paterson:

“[A] late eighteenth-century addition to our complement of roses… came from China and, although the first introduction is quite well documented, it took from 1796 to 1909 to flower. Now, while R. banksiae, for this is it, does take a few years to settle down to flower well, to take over a century is excessive. The story is that Robert Drummond brought it from the Far East whence he had accompanied his brother, Admiral Drummond. The rose was planted at the family home, Megginch Castle in Scotland. There it grew but, lacking hardiness, was so frequently cut down by the frost that it had failed to develop the three-or-more-year-old thornless stems which are necessary for it to flower. Eventually, cuttings from this specimen were grown in a garden in the French Riviera: this, Mr. [Graham] Thomas asserts, was the first time the single wild white form of Lady Banks’ Rose flowered in Europe.

“It obtained its name, however, from another form and another introduction, but close enough to the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to make it permissible to mention it here. One of the earliest professional plant collectors was William Kerr, whom the Royal Society sent to China in 1803. He brought from a Canton garden the double white form of this rose. It flowered near Kew in 1807 and was named after the wife of the Royal Gardens’ director, Sir Joseph Banks….

“Subsequently, first double and then single yellow forms were discovered: all are most lovely plants, especially enjoying the warmth of a Mediterranean climate. To see the soft yellow forms cascading out of high olive trees in association with wisteria, in Corfu for instance, is a magnificent sight.”


I first discovered this Lady Banks’ Rose plant at Oakland Cemetery’s gardens last year — which means I had either overlooked it previously (this happens more often than you might think) or it was a new planting. Let’s just say it was a new planting, so it sounds more like a discovery than the overcoming of the overlooking of something. To be fair to myself, though, it’s possible I had just missed its showy blooming season, after which it was a rather ordinary looking shrub that didn’t need to be photographed.

In last year’s post, I photographed the plant in its very early blooming stages — see Lady Banks’ Rose (and Rose Mania) — to emphasize how the flowers produced clusters of yellow cone-shaped blooms at the top of single stems. This year, I took some wider photos as well — and you can gather from the images how many branches and flowers the plant produces, especially as it easily doubled in height and ground coverage since it posed for me previously. The flowers at this stage gather in very dense bunches, yet the plant overall still maintains a certain shapeliness that I’ve attempted to highlight by photographing it from different perspectives and adding some light and saturation to emphasize its forms. It occupies the intersection between two of the garden’s pathways and is surrounded by ferns, as well as the hellebores, vinca, and some of the azaleas that I photographed this year.

Its history is fascinating, though somewhat confusing — but I’ve represented a little about its introduction to Europe in the quotation above. In the second of two posts featuring this plant, I’ll include a few more historical tidbits, and describe one of the ways Lady Banks’ Rose made its way from Great Britain to the colonial United States.

Thanks for reading and taking a look!

Leave a reply ...