“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorns have roses.”
― Alphonse Karr, A Tour Round My Garden
No one knows why roses are thorny although the most common theory is that they have evolved to have thorns to guard against being browsed by animals in the wild. Thorns should technically be called prickles and are actually modified leaves.
One of the holy grails of roses would be to have thornless roses but this would be highly unlikely to happen on a large scale as thorniness is such a strong trait in rose breeding that it almost always shows through. Remember also roses are in the Rosaceae family with the likes of berry fruit and hawthorns.
But there is good news! There are roses with fewer thorns and some with no thorns at all that you can grow in your garden.
In recent years, a range of Smooth Touch roses have been released and they are promoted as being 95 – 100% thorn free. Bred in California by Harvey Davidson, they sometimes have thorns lover down but the new growth is thorn-free. There is a range of varieties and colours available.
There are other almost thorn-free roses available including:
Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’: A very early flowerer and semi-evergreen, this rose does grow quite large so one for a larger garden. Once flowering.
‘Veilchenblau’: A real attractive rose in full bloom with masses of small purple magenta blooms, sometimes streaked white and open to reveal yellow stamens. Only flowers once but what a display and there is a good scent to enjoy too.
‘Zephirine Drouhin’: A great display of deep rosy pink blooms which repeats well during summer. Richly fragrant, this rose is a more contained to 2m high and 1.5m wide.
‘Outta the Blue’: A floribunda with clusters of magenta-purple blooms with a yellow centre and paler reverse to the petals. Strong spicy scent and very early to bloom
‘Mme Plantier’: A shrub/climber with masses of small white Pom Pom blooms covering the plant. Once flowering only.
‘Cornelia’: Masses of small fragrant coral pink blooms smother the bush over the growing season with a good crop of hips if left to form.
Some of the David Austin roses including ‘The Generous Gardener’, ‘Lichfield Angel’ and ‘A Shropshire Lad’ that have few thorns. Also, it’s hard to go past ‘Iceberg’ in both bush and climbing forms for an easy to grow rose with few thorns.
In the rose garden for October:
- Keep an eye out for any pests and diseases on your roses and treat accordingly.
- Stake or pinch out the top of new basal shoots emerging from the base to prevent them being blown off.
- Keep the weeds under control.
- Water if there is a spell of dry weather.
- If growing for show, you can disbud your roses by removing excess buds.
By Hayden Foulds
Hayden also serves as Deputy Chairman of the World Federation of Rose Societies Rose Trials Committee amongst other rose endeavours.