Along the seacoast here in the northeast you will find Rosa Rugosa, that shrub rose with the bright red flowers and round fruit. It has in fact over many decades found its way along much of the ocean roadside.
British plant explorer Robert Fortune brought it to England from China in 1845.
Soon this rose became popular for American gardeners as well.
Newton, Mass. nurseryman William Kenrick in his 1832 catalog for his nursery plants does not list Rosa Rugosa among the dozens of roses he offered for sale. Surely Kenrick, whose nursery some referred to at the time as the ‘largest in New England,’ would have offered Rosa Rogosa if by then it had made its way to America.In the 1885 issue of his magazine Gardener’s Monthly Phildelphia nurseryman Thomas Meehan included a letter from Rose Terry Cooke. She wrote, “What is there about Rosa rugosa to make it desirable? I paid a dollar for one, on the recommendation of catalogues, and I think any of our wild roses more beautiful than this bristling, single blossomed, coarse-leaved bud.”
By then garden catalogs were selling Rosa Rugosa and gardeners, or at least some, wanted this new rose.
American Gardening magazine wrote in 1897, “And what garden is complete without a Rosa Rugosa? None. A rose garden without a representative is the play of ‘Hamlet’ without the moody Dane.”
That line says it all, don’t you think? Every garden needed a Rosa Rugosa.