Does Lady Banks Live Next Door?
Cycling through Shandon one finds Lady Banks cascading over fences, arbors, and evergreens. The species rose, a rambling wild rose was first discovered in mountainous regions of central and western China and transported to India for cultivation at the Calcutta Botanic Garden.
The rose rambled to England at the request of the Royal Horticultural Society before hitching a ride to America in the mid-1800s to become a favorite in southern gardens and other landscapes in USDA hardiness zones 6-9.
To obtain the best floral show, plant LB in full sun. Humus-rich well-drained soil is ideal, but the roots tolerate a range of soils without blinking a blossom. The vigorous fast grower can reach 30 feet so it needs room to roam. Be advised that the largest rose in the world is a white Lady Banks in Tombstone, Arizona. It covers more than 8,000 square feet and was planted in 1885. You are planting a legacy.
Accent specimens are mounded in the middle of a lawn or at the edge of driveways. Lady Banks makes an excellent ground cover especially on slopes. The long stems can be trained on sturdy arbors, trellises, and pergola. If planted near a tree, the rose will soon scale its way to the top and cascade down.
In rural areas, the rose smothers abandoned cottages, sheds, and garages. In China the rose is used as a fence to border crop fields. Here, it is used as a privacy fence and windbreak.
Lady Banks blooms only once in spring for a period of 3-4 weeks. The rose needs pruning after the bloom cycle but only to remove dead wood or to keep the stems under control.
The thornless Lady Banks with its disease and drought resistance, longevity, and minimal care can convince the rose shy gardener to reconsider wild roses in the garden.
Southern writer and gardener Eudora Welty relied on old wild rose climbers like Lady Banks for the beauty and minimal care re-quired. Today, the restored Welty garden contains the original Lady Banks planted in the first half of the 20th century by Welty and her mother.
Local garden centers carry Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea,’ the most common double-flowered yellow unscented subspecies. The yellow pompom flowers appear in clusters. The white form, Rosa banksiae ‘Alba Plena’, is fragrant.
If Lady Banks lives next door, ask your neighbor for a cutting. The rose is propagated from seed, cuttings, and layering.
Who was Lady Banks? The rose was named for Lady Dorothea Banks, wife of British botanist Sir Joseph Banks, president of the Royal Horticultural Society, director of Kew Gardens, and financier of many plant hunting expeditions. He was an influential figure in reshaping the look of England’s gardens and indirectly responsible for the beauty of Shandon in springtime. Take a look.