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Monday, March 9, 2009


Lady Banks' rose, Rosa banksiae, is one of the most popular roses grown around world. Hardy, thornless and untroubled by the usual rose problems of blackspot and mildew, it is blooming this week, in gardens around Austin, with all its might. This rose is not for the fainthearted. Its arching branches will clamber high up into the trees if given the chance. Not content with a fine performance in my front garden it has spilled over the wall to give the outsider a glimpse of what might be on the other side of the wall.

I had never given much thought to the name of the rose. Clearly it was named after someone called Lady Banks. Last year a visitor to our garden asked me if I knew who the lady was. Some discussion ensued and later that week a package arrived containing an article from National Geographic on the life of Sir Joseph Banks. The very wealthy, natural historian, Joseph Banks had sailed three years around the world with Captain Cook, aboard the Endeavour. Returning to London in 1771 he brought back an immense collection of plant and animal material. He died in 1820 at the age of 77.

In 1807 one of Banks' collectors had found a rose growing on the Chinese coast and sent it back to Kew where it was named Rosa banksiae in honor of Joseph Banks' wife. It soon became known as Lady Banks' rose.

In 1885 a cutting of this rose was sent to Tombstone, Arizona. In the garden of the Rose Tree Museum grows the worlds largest rose tree. From its twisted trunk grow branches which cover 8,660 sq ft of trellis. 

Linnaeus called Banks "the immortal Banks." The legacy of Sir Joseph Banks may live on for ever in many places including the Sonoran desert and many Texas gardens.


  1. Thanks for the info on your beautiful Lady Banks Rose. Mine here in Round Rock has just started to show some buds, so it will probably be blooming in a couple of weeks. It has taken over the Redbud tree next to it along with the neighbor's trampoline! I can't bear to trim it back because it is home to so many bird families.

  2. Lancashire Rose -- Your Lady Banks is just stunning. And thank you for digging up that story and sharing it with us. How delightful to learn the colorful history of such a beautiful specimen.

  3. It's nice to know the story behind the name. I inherited a Lady Banks rose with my first home in Austin (before Green Hall Garden) and adored it in springtime. The rest of the year it was kind of a mess, and I guess the neighbor whose fence I shared thought so too. One morning, just as the whole rose was in bud, I went outside to find his side completely hacked back and my side bent to the ground under the lopsided weight and in tatters. It was a tragic loss of buttery roses that year.

  4. Your rose is wonderful and very enviable.
    However, I am disconcerted by the story, as the information I gathered for an earlier post is very different indeed. The entire Rosa banksia complex of four different roses, is very confusing and after all, "A rose by any other name....", although yours doesn't have the best scent of the foursome , it still matters little which rose is called what, doesn't it?

    My information says that the Lady Banks rose is actually single,white and fragrant rather than yellow double. The plot thickens ...

  5. I think you are right about the white and fragrant. I have seen the white one and it certainly looks as though the one in Tombstone is white. However this rose is sold here as Lady Banks so the story seemed appropriate. Everyone refers to this as Lady Banks rose and I thought it would be a good idea to bring some attention to the man behind the name. I did not research the rose itself but took the information form the NG article.

  6. I wonder, if my hubby was to name a rose after me, if it would be a thornless, resilent beauty like this, or a thorny needy sickly one?

    Great post, thanks for sharing today:)

  7. Carla- take him down to the nursery and ask him to pick one out! Then you'll know. Even Lady Banks has a weakness. She's pretty hard to manage! Of course maybe he was off on his travels all the time.

  8. Hi RR.
    Interesting rose post. The pictures of the largest rose tree are unbelievable, I had no idea they could attain this sort of stature! It is like something from a children's fairytale.

    I also really liked your previous read about some of your English garden visits. Great photographs. Made me homesick!

    Your garden is looking very rocky and very rosy :-)

  9. Hi Morning Glories- Your rose will probably bloom on time- mine is a couple of weeks early. I wonder what the cold spell will do to it this weekend. I thought I'd better post a picture of it as it might not be around on the 15th.
    Diana- How about this rose on your back fence. The bunnies would never get through. Of course you could do the same thing with crossvine or star jasmine.
    Pam- I had a neighbor in California whose "gardener" cut back the jasmine that was over on my side of the fence. It was in bloom and was totally destroyed.
    ESP- It's rockin and rollin today, in the wind! Sometimes I would like to go back to garden in England but I fear it is too late. I would want a cottage in the Cotswolds and so does everyone else! I have to live vicariously though my gardening books and garden visits.

  10. Maybe spending 5 years with its roots stuffed into a pot slowed my Lady Banks down? Once released into the ground in 2006 it's grown enough to cover half a metal arch but hasn't been hard to control.

    I love the Banks story,Jenny! My Lady Banks was labeled Rosa banksiae 'Lutea' and that's what our double yellow seems to be called in Hortus Third:

    ROSA Banksiae To 20 ft., evergreen, with few prickles, lflts 3-5, pointed, 1 in. to 2 and 1/2 in. long, finely serrate, fls white or yellow, 1 in. across, single, many; hip round, red, pea-sized, China. Zone 7. Cultivars include 'Alba Plena', fls double, white; 'Lutea', fls. double, yellow; 'Lutescens', fls. single, yellow.

    I do wish it had fragrance, especially since mine is paired with the native coral honeysuckle, also not scented.
    Thank heavens my Sweet Olives are blooming.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  11. Yes Annie, lutea is the one we are growing. Mine will get a severe chop back as soon as it has flowered. Of course that won't stop it sending out those huge arching branches that slap people in the face as they come through the gate. All that arching means spectacular flowering.

  12. My bluebonnets look most similiar to that picture you posted of the stunted ones. I planted TONS of seeds, but only 10 or so came up and they are fairly sad looking. They should get a few flowers, but it is just not going to be a good year for my bluebonnets!

  13. Interesting story behind the rose name.

    I love your Lady Banks rose! Sadly, I really don't have room for it anywhere in my yard, so I'll just have to admire yours instead.

  14. Considering a Lady Banks to cover the vinyl siding on an addition to our otherwise all-brick home. Want that old English, covered-in-vines, look. Would this be an appropriate plant to use? I'm in southeastern Virginia. How would I support it? Wires? Hooks? Trellising?

    Thanks for any suggestions...

  15. Susan, Pretty as this rose is I think it would be just too big to grow on a house. It is more suited to a fence well away from the house. It is a huge rose and needs much attention to keep it in check. Might I suggest you look at the Antique Rose Emporium website. I have Zephirine drouin on a wall. I often see this in pictures of climbing roses on a house. I have mine on a 7 foot wall. I just pruned it this year and plan to show its new look on an upcoming post. All climbers bear better if their branches have some tension so they should be allowed to arch or be trained to do so. I have wires strung across and passing through eye hooks. It would be easy to do in brick mortar. Zd is an extremely fragrant rose and a repeat bloomer although the main bloom is in the spring. Good luck with your search and thanks for stopping by.

  16. Sorry I just notice you said the rose is to go on the siding. Wires would also work there better than a trellis.

  17. Hi, do you know if the Lady Banks rose is deer resistant? I'm in San Marcos in a deer filled neighborhood. Love these roses and have a good spot but the deer are abundant. Will I be wasting my money? Thanks for any advice.

    1. Although my Lady Banks is inside the walls it spills over the wall where it has plenty of growth and blooms. I think it might need to be protected to begin with but it is a big rose and can hold here own even against the chomping once established. You might want to net it to begin with but it is very quick grower and will soon be above the deer.

  18. I want a Lady Banks White and I cannot find them anywhere......Antique Emporium sold out.....only yellow around. Does anyone know where I can find one?


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