Wild Rose

A rose by any other name...

Portland is the City of Roses and it’s rare to find a garden that does not contain a rose or two or more. However, what we think of immediately when we think of roses is a contemporary hybridization and taming of the wild-haired free spirits that are native roses.

The Pacific Northwest is home to four of these beauties. Fierce in their protective thorns, delicate of flower, they are the stuff of mythology and wonder. No really, they’re quite lovely. They are the "wild rose" of song and literature. And they can be a wonderfully lush addition to your garden -- if you have the space.

rosaBe forewarned: if you’re thinking of a polite, demure hybrid tea rose that will fit politely in that particular corner of the garden, by all means get one and enjoy its beauty! A native rose probably won’t fit that spot. If you relish the thought of a 5’ x 5’ web of beautiful, simple flowers, pink and lightly scented, followed by an abundance of brightly colored hips that the birds will thank you for all winter, a native rose might just be the thing.

Native roses sucker freely and abundantly. If you think you have a black thumb, plant a native rose! Full to partial sun, moist to drought tolerant depending on the species, there is the potential for one of these lovelies to thrive in nearly every garden setting.

They’re not, well, tidy. Or discreet. They are vigorous growers and don’t care who knows it - they can fill a space with a thicket of thorns in a matter of a few seasons. BUT - they are festooned with the most enchanting soft pink single flowers, anywhere from an inch to nearly three across, lightly to moderately scented, throughout the summer months.

The following are the roses at home here in Oregon.


Rosa gymnocarpa: Bald-hip rose

Bald-hip rose is one of the more adaptable of the native roses, with small red hips that persist to feed birds through the winter. 

Grows to about 3-5’, sun to shade, Hardy Z5


Rosa nutkana: Nootka Rose

Delightful native rose with large, bright, orange hips and clusters of one to three 2" pink flowers with a sweet, almost cinnamon scent. Fast grower, reaching 3-6’ and spreading by suckers to form dense thickets, where birds seek shelter and build their nests. Will top out at about 7 - 8’, found in open areas, dry to moist conditions. Tolerates clay. 


Rosa pisocarpa: Cluster rose or Swamp rose

The name says it - grows in wet places, along stream banks in full sun to light shade. Can get to 7’ or more, with graceful arching stems and delicate foliage. A beautiful native rose that has several clustered instead of solitary pink flowers. It blooms from May-July and often for a second time in fall.


Rosa woodsii: Wood’s rose

Wood's rose grows on the east side of the Cascades. It's happy in sun to part shade, wants good drainage and regular water, though is tolerant of varying conditions.

Grows 5-6' tall and wider, Hardy Z4.

Photos by The Wild Garden