Conventional wisdom dictates that bees aren’t fond of roses. That isn’t always true.
But they love the old- fashioned less-complicated roses like Sweet Briar and the Gallica Rose.
Known as the Sweet Briar Rose because of the strongly apple-scented leaves, this rose is a favorite English native that has been recorded in literature from Chaucer to Shakespeare. R. eglanteria, or Eglantine, has been common in cottage gardens because it is not only hardy but always fragrant, whether or not it is in bloom. The rambling shrub is large, thorny, and vigorous with dark green, slightly rough foliage. Spring flowers are pink with five petals and have a good rose fragrance of their own. R. eglanteria should be part of every fragrance garden. Rain, wind and sun all seem to bring out the perfume of the plant.
The Gallica Rose is a European wild rose, a small shrub (usually less that 4 ft) and by convention considered red (actually more a deep reddish pink). A semi-double form “Officinalis” (see photograph) is one of the earliest recorded cultivated roses. It has many names, for instance: “The Provins Rose” (after the beautiful medieval town of Provins just outside Paris), or simply “The Red Rose”. It is also the rose with the best claim to being the “Red Rose of Lancaster“, the symbol of one of the warring factions in the wars of the roses.
So both you and your bees can enjoy roses in your garden. Happy Valentine’s Day!