1055 Rosa banksiaeCommon Names: Lady Banks rose, banksian rose Family: Rosaceae (rose Family)
The Lady Banks rose is a "species" rose, rather than one of the many thousands of cultivars or hybrid roses. In other words, Lady Banks rose is a wild rose that actually grows out in nature. The Lady Banks rose is a climbing, sprawling vinelike shrub with long, slender thornless stems. It can scramble 50 ft (15 m) or more up a tree, cover a long fence, or (without any support) form a huge, rounded mound, sometimes as big as a house! Lady Banks evergreen leaves are small, with 3-7 elliptic leaflets. The flowers are borne in clusters composed of many white or yellow lightly scented blossoms, each about an inch (2.5 cm) across. The lady blooms just once a year, in late spring, but what a show she makes! The flower clusters cover the entire plant in glorious flowing cascades!
Several selections from the original wild rose are cultivated. Double white banksian rose (Rosa banksiae var. alba; a.k.a. R. banksiae 'Alba Plena') has double white flowers. R. banksiae var. lutea has double yellow flowers and is probably the most commonly cultivated variety in North America. R. banksiae var. normalis has single white flowers and thorny stems. R. banksiae 'Lutescens' has single yellow flowers that are strongly violet-scented.
Rosa banksiae, (Lady Banks rose) grows wild in western and central China. It was introduced to the western horticultural community in the early 1800's, and named for Lady Banks, the wife of the chief scientist on Captain Cook's expedition.
CultureLady Banks rose is a vigorous, fast growing shrub that needs a lot of room. She is not suitable for a small garden or a timid gardener. Unlike most ladies I know, this one thrives on neglect. Prune only dead wood or as necessary to keep the plant in bounds. Note, however, that Lady Banks blooms on second and third year wood, so you probably will be pruning stems that would have borne flowers in spring. Light: Position this Lady in full sun. If she finds herself in partial shade, she will grow up and out of it. Moisture: Supplemental watering is not necessary once the Lady is established. Hardiness: USDA Zones 7 - 10. A hard freeze colder than 15 F (-9 C) can kill the Lady. Propagation: Lady Banks rose is easy to propagate from fast growing stem tip cuttings, and by layering. This rose is almost always grown on its own roots.
Too large for a small garden, the Lady Banks rose makes a spectacular showing as a stand alone specimen in the middle of a large lawn. She also can be planted near large trees where she will soon make herself comfortable in the canopy, and startle passersby with brilliant buttery yellow flowers in the treetop. Use lady banks to cover a fence or arbor, or espaliered on a wall, but don't even think of confining her to a patio pot!
The Lady Banks rose is probably the original "Yellow Rose of Texas." The classic Lady Banks is often found in old formal gardens of the American South, many dating from the middle 1800's. Lady Banks blooms about the same time as Chinese wisteria (Wisteria sinensis), and combines well with that rampant vine, if there's enough room. Many old, even abandoned homesteads in Georgia and the Carolinas still explode with riotous festoons of purple and yellow each spring as the wisterias and Lady Banks roses continue to decorate old fences, arbors and even the oak trees.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest rose bush in the world is a Lady Banks rose growing in Tombstone, Arizona, that spreads over more than 8600 square feet (799 square meters) and has a trunk with a 12 ft (3.6 m) circumference. It was planted in 1885.
Steve Christman 8/9/07