These lovely blooms were photographed towards the end of June, in a local hedgerow.
The dog rose or Rosa canina flowers from June to August, producing blush-pink flowers that open to reveal a circlet of golden stamens; these are followed in the autumn by bright red rose hips, a rich food source for birds and small mammals.
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene II
Being sure about the exact species of rose you’ve found isn’t as simple as you’d think. The Wildlife Trusts website says that “there are many species of wild rose, which are all very similar and difficult to identify; they all have white or pink flowers, thorns and red hips in the winter.” So, while I’m pretty sure that these photos are of Rosa canina, I am open to correction!
Wild roses are happy to ramble along hedgerows and into trees, but they are also found in woodlands, grassland and sand dunes. Harvested after the first frost, rose hips have traditionally been used to make rose hip syrup, which is extremely rich in Vitamin C. The petals, distilled into either rose water or essential oil, were once favoured by herbalists to treat a wide range of ailments from eye infections and laryngitis to heartache and depression.
“Rose oil opens and balances the heart chakra”
Historically, the symbolism of the rose is everywhere, once you start to look. The Greeks, the Romans and the Egyptians all revered roses, and they soon came to symbolise eternal love. Cleopatra is said to have carpeted her room in rose petals in an attempt to seduce Mark Antony, and rose petals were strewn on the floor at banquets. Most cathedrals have a ‘rose window’, and a rose is woven into the imagery of the Rosicrucians. The white rose of York and the red rose of Lancaster – possibly Rosa alba and Rosa gallica – were combined to create the Tudor rose for Henry VII.
For me, wild roses evoke the deep peace of a summer afternoon, perhaps with a cuckoo calling, or some wood pigeons. This summer has been wet and cool rather than warm and balmy, but it’s nice to take a last lingering look at this delicious blossom before the season drifts further into autumn.
“I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lull’d in these flowers with dances and delight.”
Oberon, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act II, Scene I
Photos copyright © Colin & Jo Woolf