ROSA MOSCHATA J. Herrm. Musk rose
A low climbing rose with stems to 5m , with very few, rather straight thorns. Leaves light green. Leaflets 5-7, to 5 cm long, ovate, very short-stalked, with small, curved teeth, sometimes pubescent on the veins beneath, the rhachis without thorns. Stipules narrow, with pointed spreading free tips. .Pedicels slender, to 3cm long or longer, with fine hairs and glands; bracts lanceolate, reflexed. Flowers in a loose corymb or cyme, creamy-white, around 5cm across. Sepals around 2cm long, with long slender points and a few small side lobes Styles exserted from the hip. Hips small, oval. Zone 6, perhaps.
A garden plant, native distribution not known.
This rose is still the subject of all sorts of mystery and confusion. It is an ancient cultivated plant, and its wild origin or parentage is at present unknown. It arrived in England from Italy in the mid-sixteenth century, and has been cultivated since then, as much for medicine, as a purgative, as for ornament. In recent times it nearly died out in cultivation in England, but was found by Graham Thomas in the garden of E.A. Bowles, at Myddelton House, just north of London; as Graham Thomas describes, Bowles records that he had it from Canon Ellacombe’s garden at Bitton, near Bath. It is probably from this plant that those cultivated in England at present are derived. When trained on a wall the plant forms long arching shoots which produce a loose umbel of flowers at the tip. These appear over a long period from late summer into autumn, and on a recent visit to Mottisfont the plant was in full flower in early September, with many buds to come.
This form can be recognised by its hanging flowering shoots with flowers in a loose corymb on the end of the shoot; the flowers open in succession, not all at once, and are untidy with petals which twist in different directions; the strong scent is carried on the air. Single and semi-double flowers are sometimes found on the same plant, and it is this semi-double form which is the rose R. moschata ‘Plena’. Both are illustrated by Graham Thomas in ‘Climbing Roses, Old and New’.
The wild habitat of R. moschata has been the subject of much confusion, and it has never been found truly wild. It probably arose in the western Himalayan area, and was selected for its relative thornlessness, excellent scent and late flowering, as well as its medicinal value as a purgative.
Ivan Louette, the Belgian rosarian, has made a detailed study of this plant, and related forms in Iran, Afghanistan and the western Himalaya.
Recent research in Japan indicates that both summer and autumn damask roses originated with (R. moschata X R. gallica) X R. fedtschenkoana (q.v.).
Zone 7, will survive down to –15°C
Photographed in Australia.