It appears that there are roses deer don’t eat! While garden shopping last spring, I couldn’t resist ordering one of these ‘deer resistant roses’ – but not because it was stated as such in the catalog. What I wanted was a large old fashioned rose bush that was fragrant, bloomed all summer, would thrive in zone 4, and had strong disease resistance. That last part is very important in a humid climate. Rose diseases are harder to control here than deer. So, I decided to try Blanc Double de Coubert, a gorgeous white bloomer introduced in 1892.
It was hard not to spritz deer repellent on the first fragile greenery that emerged from the bare root installation in mid-June. Especially in it’s location so close to where the deer bed down in the weeds around the decrepit old orchard beyond the barn. But if we were going to find out if this claim of deer resistant roses was true or not, one cannot apply munching deterrent. About the time the first flower bud was ready to pop open, I found 3 hoof prints in the soil around the plant. It was definitely well inspected, but not even a leaf tip was missing, though I can’t say the same for the Diablo Ninebark 25 feet away on the end of the house. (Tend to forget it’s over there until part of it is missing.)
Not only is this rugosa rose deer and disease resistant, the foliage and flowers really are beautiful. It is not, however, caterpillar resistant. So, it was sprayed for insect pests. Can’t have fat wormy things stripping it if there are to be flowers. There were only 2, and once it was sprayed with neem no more munching took place, even through fall when the rose’s leaves turned yellow before dropping in anticipation of winter. Since this rosebush will eventually mature to 6 feet high and wide, the no need for spraying to protect it from deer is definitely good.
Due to it’s size, Blanc Double de Coubert might not be suited for every yard, but they say it can be kept smaller with proper pruning. This is most likely done in spring, but research it if you’re interested. Personally, I want it to get huge, and have plans to add at least 2 more of these rugosa roses over there to finish off a mixed hedge. Much prettier than privacy fence. Cheaper too, though I hope it gets a lot bigger next summer, because it only grew to about 8 inches tall in year one. I suspect this has to do with it being bare-rooted to the point of retaining only a couple of main roots. Definitely won’t be ordering them from any mail order name in Randolph, Wisconsin. All of them are owned by Jung, and the plant quality isn’t the best. The rose, though a very sloppy graft, is the only thing that lived. They graciously replaced the geraniums that sprouted and then died… twice.
Colors of Deer Resistant Roses
Most rugosas are highly fragrant, and come in all your standard rose colors: white, light to dark pinks, yellow, and reds. There is also one bicolor known as Moore’s Striped. Besides being deer resistant, rugosa roses are tough plants. They deal with salt air exposure on the coasts, aren’t picky about soil, are very drought resistant, and have excellent cold hardiness too, with some being hardy in zones 2 and 3. Some are single, and others are double. Not all of them are huge plants, and only some of them are recurrent bloomers, which means they sprout fresh flowers throughout the summer without deadheading. Blanc Double de Coubert just happens to be a recurrent bloomer, a trait that pushed it into my shopping cart so easily.
Are all rugosas deer resistant? I’m not sure, but it’s likely they are. Not sure if it’s the flavor or the fact that the stems are covered with thorns from top to bottom. I’ll never add them all to my yard, though some Linda Campbell that will give me big plants with dark red blooms all summer will be joining the existing Blanc come spring. I might even replace the first plant because grafted roses sucker, and a harsh northern winter leaves you with whatever the rootstock was. I didn’t realize it wasn’t own root when placing the order!
Best places to find a good selection of rugosa roses that are own root are Heirloom Roses and High Country Roses. While many popular mail order nurseries will have one or two rugosas, but these places have a large number to pick from. There are some named varieties that unfortunately no one sells anymore.
Image courtesy of embruns.