My Barn-eating Rosa banksiae var. normalis

About 11 years ago, my friend Tamara gave me a rooted cutting of this rose, which I planted on the front corner of the barn.

Banksia Cluster

A cluster of flowers

That section was added to the barn in the 1960s as a studio and sales room for the wooden toys that my husband’s parents used to make. Rosa banksia is thornless (I know roses have prickles, not thorns, but prickleless just sounds silly), yet manages to climb with very little support needed. The first couple years, we put a few hooks on the front wall and tied the canes to it so they didn’t flop over the driveway and get in the way of the cars. Once it reached the top of the wall, it found that the trim wood wasn’t well attached to the corrugated metal roofing, and little canes could get through between them. Once through, they produced many small canes arching over the edge of the roof. One cane went along the side of the studio, and has worked its way through one of the battens as well as part of the roof trim.

Banksia Flower

Close-up of a flower

A few years ago, my husband got on the roof and cut off the canes at the roofline, but never got under the roof to cut them off there, so they just sprouted back the next year. People say banksia roses are house eaters. You’ve been warned. Someday we’ll probably have to do major surgery on this rose, and several repairs to the studio walls and roof.

rose on barn

Rosa banksiae var. normalis on the barn

corner of the barn roof

Canes under the corner of the barn roof

There are four varieties of the banksiae roses. They are said to smell like violets, but I can’t smell them or violets, so I guess I have a genetic defect there. A bit frustrating when people say how marvelous it smells. The normalis grows wild in Sichuan Province, China, where it is known as Qi Li Xiang. The first western descriptions date to 1796. It was introduced to Europe about 1877.

cane behind batten

Cane growing behind batten.

In Sacramento last weekend, the banksiae roses were wonderful. Usually, they are about done by the date of the Open Garden at the Old City Cemetery Historic Rose Garden, but our wet late winter-early spring has delayed peak bloom dates. They have the normalis up a huge Pine tree. It was past its peak bloom, but still pretty spectacular:

Banksia Normalis in a Redwood

Rosa banksiae normalis climbing a tall Pine tree

Janelle took at picture of it a few years ago at peak bloom, and posted it on HelpMeFind, which you can see here:  Janelle’s Photo

Here is their Rosa banksiae var. banksiae, the double sport of the normalis. This is the one known as the Lady Banks Rose, and was introduced to the United Kingdom in 1807.


The double white Rosa banksiae banksiae growing into trees

The double yellow form, Rosa banksiae lutea was introduced in the UK in 1824, and is the most popular around here. At a local park, the landscapers have shaped it into “gumdrops”- 3 foot high rounded bushes. Of course it looks ridiculous, but there is a positive effect- it has some bloom on it most of the season. Normally it is a once bloomer with scattered later flowers. In Sacramento, it is climbing a tall tree:

Yellow Banksia

Rosa banksiae lutea climbing a tree

The fourth variety is the single yellow, Rosa banksiae lutescens. It’s the least common around here, and I don’t have any pictures to show. Instead, I’ll share other pictures I took during the Open Garden weekend. I’m not writing about the Open Garden this year, as the events were pretty similar to last year, and you can read about that in my older posts.

Baldo etc

A group of us learning about Pseudomonas infection in rose canes from Baldo

Coulterville Red

A beautiful found rose “Coulterville Red”

tea rose

An old Tea rose, apparently the same as “Angel’s Camp Tea”

The sales table

The sales table after the big rush. There were a few irises, too.



One of the prettiest memorials


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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11 Responses to My Barn-eating Rosa banksiae var. normalis

  1. The mystery Tea rose looks to me like Rose Nabonnand. Thanks for the nice post! Pam

  2. Masha says:

    Thanks for this very informative post on the banksiae roses. So keeping it severely pruned would induce rebloom? That’s interesting… Lovely pictures, thanks for sharing.

  3. SueE says:

    Great to see your lovely white Banksiae – I have it over the porch and the smell is of violets and wood smoke (it’s Chinese name). I trim the new growth leaving a few to tie in and cut out lots of the old wood. I have another rose growing through for later, a shocking pink called Pink Sevillana which flowers til Christmas. Am going to try cuttings of the Banksiae. Thank you.

  4. Wilson says:

    I’ve grown every Banksiae available. I’ve never noticed a violet fragrence. To me they smell peppery. The double yellow is scentless but perhaps the prettiest. .

    • banksiaebanksiaebanskiae says:

      I beg to differ. Double white, banksiae banksiae, is the most glorious to my eye. Here in oz it’s coming into flower now and smells exactly like violets.

  5. Wilson says:

    PS I even sent away to England for a pink Banksiae which turned out to be Tausendschon! I have a number of open pollinated seedlings of lutescens growing in my garden which are blooming for the first time after a five-year wait. It’s not easy growing 90 bankisae seedlings in a suburban backyard.

  6. Jeri Jennings says:

    I really do “get” the violet scent from R. banksia banksia and also from Fortuniana. I’ve found that fragrance in collected rootstock Odoratas, as well.

  7. robert says:

    lovely article. Enjoyed your pictures and the information. I have one, and am trying to be mindful of what it will be before I find a place to pant it

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