Plant of the Week: Rosa glauca

The High Line's planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew up between rail tracks after the trains stopped running in the 1980s. Today, the High Line includes more than 300 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees – each chosen for their hardiness, adaptability, diversity, and seasonal variation in color and texture. Some of the species that originally grew on the High Line's rail bed are reflected in the park landscape today. This week we share one of our gardeners' current favorites with you.

Rose hips provide one of the most attractive forms of fall and winter interest. Our Rosa glauca is a straight species rose that is showy all year round. Its sweet flowers are only one of its many attractive features. The distinctive matte blue-green leaves are markedly different from the glossy foliage of other roses, and set off its starry, fuschia blooms to great effect. The single flowers appear in delicate clusters of two to five in spring, and plum-colored hips follow. In late summer, the hips turn a brilliant orange, extending the season well into late fall and beautifully offsetting this graceful shrub's arching, cinnamon-colored canes.

Rosa glauca, or redleaf rose, is native to mountainous areas of central and southern Europe, from Bulgaria to Poland. Until the 19th century, this rose was rare in cultivation, when its wildness and multi-season interest began to fit the style of English cottage gardens. Its arms, only sparsely prickly, reach into a rough vase shape. Some gardeners recommend this rose as a flattering natural trellis for a summer-blooming clematis, whose flowers can appear fairly beautiful set against the Redleaf rose's cool foliage. It is naturalized in northern Europe, hardy to a brutal -40°F, and does well even in dense clay soil. The redleaf rose was brought to the United States by European settlers, who had long used the hips as a source of Vitamin C at times when citrus fruits were difficult to come by. Rosa glauca is a descendent of and resembles the ancient Rosa canina, which is the rose stylized imagery of medieval heraldry and was used medicinally in biblical times.

This rose can handle clay, but not water-logged, soil. Foliage will take on a particularly nice color in light shade. Some thought ought to be given to the placement, as this rose looks better in a smart grouping than standing alone. If coppiced, new canes will appear a handsome toasty brown color.

Northern Spur Preserve
10th Avenue Square
Chelsea Thicket

Photos by Ayinde Listhrop.

Our horticultural team counts on members and friends like you to help keep the High Line beautiful and thriving. Join our community of supporters who play an essential role in the High Line's most important gardening projects.

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