"That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet" (Romeo and Juliet II, ii, 1-2), doesn't even begin to cover the unusual wonder that is Rosa eglanteria, also known as R. rubiginosa, the Sweetbriar Rose of Shakespearean fame. For the unwashed rose devotees who have not yet run across this enormous, coarse, thorny monster, I feel I have to spend a blog entry to enlighten those who aren't aware that a rose doesn't need to flower to perfume the air.
In Kansas, R. eglanteria grows eight to ten feet in height and becomes a tangle of brambles sufficient to serve as a livestock barrier or as an obstacle to the suitor of a teenage daughter (reading Romeo and Juliet is sometimes useful for gardening fathers). Otherwise it should be planted far away from garden paths and visitor areas lest it snag the unsuspecting and increase the garden's insurance premiums. It has undistinguished single light pink flowers, but the small blooms are quite numerous enough to make a display at the right moment in the spring. Ovoid orange hips form to provide some fall and winter interest, but it’s the scent glands in the foliage that make this rose one to have and keep. While my annual attempts to trim and tame this rose leave me torn and bleeding, I still keep the Sweetbriar around for its moments of pleasure freely given by the tender caress of the summer rain.