My Gigantea

Rosa gigantea is a rare rose in this country. Not many people would want to grow it, since, as its name implies, it’s HUGE! So how do I happen to have one? 10 or so years ago, I was visiting Bill Grant, who had been a member of the Species Round Robin for many years. Viru, in India, had collected seeds in its native habitat so he could grow it and use it in breeding roses for warm climates. He sent seeds to Bill, who gave me a little baggie of them. I put them in my fridge and forgot about them for several months. When I noticed them there, I planted them, and several sprouted, but only one thrived. I moved it into a gallon pulp pot, and the next year put that pot into a large pulp pot, and when the roots came out the bottom, I put the whole pot into the ground by the corner of the shed, hoping it would cover the thing. Next to the corner of the shed was the kids swing set my husband had built, no longer in use. The gigantea decided to cover that instead of the shed. In a couple of years it was blooming, the first to bloom of the seeds and plants Bill had spread around. Bill’s own plant was started before mine and growing far up a redwood, but didn’t bloom till the next year. Sadly, Bill’s plant died suddenly a few years later. I suspect a gopher.

I apparently have the perfect climate for this rose – occasional frost in the winter, lots of fog in the summer – never very cold, never very hot. I don’t water or fertilize it, but I suspect it has roots deep enough to find groundwater. Here are a couple of pictures of my gigantea as it looked in March of 2008:


Gigantea trying to block access to tool shed


Gigantea in full bloom

Then came a windstorm in late winter on 2009. The gigantea was again in full bloom. The wind and weight of the monster rose was too much for the old swing support, and down it all went, with all the bloom landing on the ground.
Here are several pictures as it looked right after:

after the fall

Fallen gigantea. The greenwaste bin was soon full of branches that had to be cut for access to the yard and toolshed.

The old support:

old support

The old swing support

None of the basal canes broke, fortunately, so the monster continued to grow as if nothing had happened. But since the plant was now sideways, it was growing toward the carport.

new growth

Red new growth. Note bloom at ground level.

Over the course of the next several months, we removed the remains of the swing support, planned a new sturdier support, and bought posts and cement. We have a post hole digger, since we have a fence along 3 sides of the property. So in June, we finally started in on the new structure. A few pictures of the new support being built:


The new posts are in.

Adding the horizontal supports:


Frank bolting on the horizontal support pieces.

At this point, major surgery was required on the rose. There was no way to pull the thing up onto the new structure. Plus, all the canes were intertwined. I haven’t mentioned it yet, but – THIS ROSE IS ARMED TO THE TEETH!!! One risks serious injury trying to attach ropes to pull it up. So what had been the upper half of the rose, and all of the new growth had to go. On Thanksgiving, with help from Frank and Mark, my son-in-law, pushing with rakes from the tool shed side, and pulling the ropes on the support side, we got the monster secured. And once it was tied up, the rope had to stay. My hope is that it will intertwine itself into staying in this position by the time the ropes rot. I really don’t want to go through that again!

roped up

Heavy ropes used to tie the rose to the support.

The gigantea lost no time adjusting to its new position. Here it is in July of 2010, just eight months after the previous pictures:

gigantea rebuilt

The support is now covered.

So now it is March, 2010, and again Gigantea is in full bloom.

full bloom

Full Bloom

on tool shed

Still trying to block access to the tool shed.

between sheds

Between the old shed and the tool shed.


About Jill Perry

Since 2005, I have been the Curator of the San Jose Heritage Rose Garden, a part of Guadalupe River Parks and Gardens near downtown San Jose. I write about the Heritage Rose Garden, my garden and my travels when I feel inspired and have time. Since I have no regular schedule, if you'd like to know when I write a new article, please subscribe to this blog.
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5 Responses to My Gigantea

  1. Jill,

    I am in such awe of this rose! I acquired one at least 2 or 3 years ago from Cool Roses in Florida. I planted it from a large 3 gallon bush and have slowly been waiting for it to “Take off” as I put it where I needed some privacy. It has been slow to establish but after some horse manuer this year it is finally growing at a steady pace but NOTHING like the pictures I see here! We are hot and humid so I would think it would go crazy but I have not seen it. I am sure that it is R. Gigantea. I hardly get to water it as it is not close to a hose. It is planted in a good amount of shade too which is probably the main problem. Anyway, I will let you know it it becomes the type of monster you have! What a great story! Thanks for the entertainment! Pam

  2. Masha says:

    What a story! It must have been quite a job getting this rose into its new spot. It looks beautiful there, and I do hope it will give you many more years of wonderful blooms.

  3. .Elaine says:

    Jill…this is one House eater…I have a PaulsHimalayan Musk that could easily do the same…I took him back to…21/2 Arnold has said: I’ll be back!!..sure enough he was or, is!

  4. Michelle says:


    Do you happen to gave any rooted cuttings youvarw willing to share? I have the perfect spot for a gorgeous giant Like this!


    • Jill Perry says:

      I haven’t managed to root cuttings of it. I have grown a seedling of it, which I gave to a friend, but I don’t know if it was selfed or crossed yet. I collect some seeds every year that I give to interested people, but I don’t know if anyone has successfully raised a plant from one.

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