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Over 20 rose species are native to various parts of North America, but some are rarer than others. Most bloom only once a year and bear single, pollinator-friendly single flowers in white, pink, or rose. When the petals fade, native roses develop nutritious scarlet hips that are a treat for birds and animals, not to mention the humans who sometimes forage for them. Some natives are armed to the teeth with lots of sharp prickles, making them perfect for boundary or privacy hedges. Species like Rosa blanda, which feature relatively smooth stems, can hold their own in more “civilized” situations.
Prairie Rose (Rosa blanda): This sweet thornless rose bears several evocative nicknames, including “prairie rose”, “Hudson’s Bay rose” or “Labrador rose”, for its favored locales. Cold-hardy and tough, it is native across northeastern North America where it survives in open, dry, sunny prairies and open woods. Its nearly thornless stems and mounded habit make it a good candidate for use in “wild” planting schemes. Flower color varies from dark pink to white and blooming may occur from June to August. It only reaches 4-feet tall and wide, but it tends to spread, so it needs elbow room. Native plant lovers can rejoice in the fact that the relatively smooth stems make necessary pruning easier.Swamp Rose (Rosa palustris): If your wild garden is damp, Rosa palustris may be right for you. Native to the eastern half of North America, swamp rose is a large shrub (8-12-feet tall) that likes to be sited at the water’s edge, where it can commune with moisture-loving sedges, iris, and other, similarly inclined plants. It will tolerate some shade but it blooms and performs best in full sun. The late spring blooms are lightly scented and may be deep rose pink or pale pink. The prickles are hooked, which makes pruning a challenge.
Climbing Prairie Rose (Rosa setigera): This spring-blooming climbing rose offers blooms that range from deep magenta to white. Sometimes known as the “bramble-leafed”, it sends out long, flexible shoots that enable it to scramble up to 15 feet, making it useful as a substitute for non-native climbing roses. If trained on an arch or trellis and provided full sun and good draining soil, climbing prairie rose can be a show-stopper. The fragrant pink blooms appear in clusters that develop into showy red hips in fall. Wise gardeners remove the root suckers that inevitable sprout at the base, enabling the plant to shoot skyward without producing a thicket underneath.To use native roses most effectively, provide enough space. Many, but not all varieties grow tall and relatively wide, with a tendency to form dense thickets if left to their own devices. They look great planted alongside bold native Adam’s needle (Yucca filamentosa), breezy native bunch grasses like Shenandoah switch grass (Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’), and native purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea). (Source: fafard.com)