Angie and I went to the East Bay Bike Path on Sunday morning as we often do and found, as we had hoped, the multiflora roses in full bloom. Rosa multiflora is considered a weed in many areas, but Sunday morning the millions of simple, five-petalled creamy white blossoms looked like snow drifts piled high along the path. Multiflora is a species (wild) rose originally from the Orient that is widely used as root stock for the grafting of rose varieties that would be too frail without the hardiness that a wild rose can provide. (I bud graft roses in August after the second bloom cycle goes by and will report more about this fascinating method of propagating roses then.)
Multiflora isn’t the only species rose we were looking for. Rosa rugosa rubera, red beach roses with the charasteristic wrinkled foliage, were in bloom also but clearly they had gone by. Hips were already forming and will take all summer to ripen into cherry-tomato sized orangy-red seed pods. I peered high and low for the few plants of the white variety of rugosa — Rosa rugosa alba — that I knew grew there but they must have bloomed out early this year. Both multiflora and rugosa roses, thriving in rock piles, old railroad beds, beach sand, and often flooded with salt water from upper Narragansett Bay, are almost indestructable.
Normally in Rhode Island’s USDA zone 6A and 6B, species roses bloom first in late May followed closely by old garden roses. Modern roses start blooming in early June and usually peak in the second or third week depending on the unique microclimates in which they are planted.
I say normally. Mother Nature always makes things interesting with capricious changes in the weather — a warm sunny spring, like last year, accelerates the bloom by two weeks. A cold, rainy, dreary, miserable New England spring will push the June bloom into July. This season looks typical — so far — with the first and best bloom cycle in our rose gardens well under way to peaking on or about June 17.
Gertrude Stein, the existential writer said, “A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose,” but later admitted that even she didn’t know what it meant.