If you love fragrant plants, try Blanche rock rose (Cistus ‘Blanche’) in your garden. Interestingly, it’s not the flowers that are fragrant – it’s the gorgeous, resinous foliage that gives off this sweet, piney-spicy perfume, particularly when the sun hits the leaves. If you’ve ever traveled in the Mediterranean, the scent of this plant’s leaves will transport you to the region faster than a cold glass of fino sherry.
The long, slender leaves are dark green with crimped, ruffled margins. Plump, rusty rose-tinted buds appear in clusters at the end of the new growth. And the flowers themselves are gigantic – I just measured one at 4 inches across. The petals are pristine, almost translucent white and have a satiny, tissue-paper appearance, with yellow, orange-tipped stamens.
Flowers open in the morning and are cast off the plant and fall to the ground as the day wears on. It’s very romantic, the way the flowers cycle through birth and senescence daily through the month of May, until the last flowers of the season appear in early June.
After flowering, rock roses go into a summer rest, as do many plants from summer-dry regions. These are ideal for drought-tolerant garden schemes: once established, rock roses need little to no water in summer except in the driest spot.
They require good drainage, full sun, and a warm position (reflected heat is fine). Blanche is cold-hardy to around 10-15 F,. Mine sailed through last winter without a sign of damage but was a little frazzled after the previous winter, due to the cold winds.
Blanche rock rose reaches about 6 feet tall and 5 feet wide. It has a nice upright habit, although any rock rose will need a bit of pruning after flowering to keep it tidy unless its grown in very lean, dry soil.
For lots more information about rock roses, click here, where you will find the results of extensive testing by OSU researchers on this diverse group of plants.
For more information on rock roses, head over to a Hardy Plant Society of Oregon lecture on the subject by one of Oregon’s premier rock roses experts, David Mason of Hedgerows Nursery in McMinnville. David will speak about rock roses (Cistus and Halimium , plus x Halimiocistus and sunroses ( Helianthemum) at 7 pm tonight (Tuesday May 11) at the Multnomah Arts Center, 7688 SW Capitol Hwy, Portland 97219. It’s only $5 and members and non-members alike are welcome. Sign up here.