Victorian England imported popular rosa rugosa.
New Englanders have made rosa rugosa a favorite seaside shrub.
As you drive along the beach road, you see these shrubs everywhere.
The rosa rugosa however is native to Asia.
David Stuart wrote in his book The Garden Triumphant: A Victorian Legacy, “In 1849 Robert Fortune found the now immensely popular Rosa rugosa in Shanghai.”
The plants Fortune (1812-1880) sent back to England from his journeys made him a major influence on the Victorian garden in the nineteenth century.
A plant hunter like Fortune traveled to parts of the world from where rich English horticulturists like the Duke of Devonshire at Chatsworth as well as nurseries and even Kew wanted to have the newest plant to display in their gardens.
Fortune played a major role in bringing plants from China back to the West.
He sometimes used the Wardian case, a recent invention, to transport the plants across the sea. The case sealed the plant and at the same time provided it moisture, thus preventing the demise of a delicate specimen.
Julia Brittain writes in her book The Plant Lover’s Companion: Plants, People and Places the Horticultural Society’s garden at Chiswick in London asked Fortune to find plants in China.
She says, “His annual pay was to be 100 pounds – poor recompense for three years of danger and discomfort.”
In his search for plants Fortune came across rosa rugosa.
Rosa rugosa would of course make its way to American gardens as well in the nineteenth century. [below]Today we enjoy this rose. We seem to accept it as if it were almost native because we have grown it for so many decades.
We owe Fortune a note of thanks for this plant and many others like the hosta and the weigela that he introduced to our gardens.