Roses that don’t look like roses

Eye of the Tiger.

By Brian Wagner

WE all have a precise idea of how a rose should look like… their velvety petals, the shape of the flowers, and mainly the thorns on the stems but sometimes, it’s hard to recognise a rose as a rose, and the thorns are probably the only element that could convince us.

With the hundreds of rose varieties we grow, we often see plants that certainly don’t look like roses.

Many of these unusual varieties are quite old, like these three that we love because they are very different and unique.

Rosa Watsoniana

Also called “The Bamboo Rose”, it will certainly be a conversation piece in your garden.

Bred in Japan in 1870, this unique plant has long narrow leaflets disguising itself as bamboo, and small delicate white flowers with little to no fragrance giving way to small red hips.

R. Sericea Pteracantha

It’s a wild, native Eastern rose that is mainly grown as an ornamental plant for its large flat, translucent red young thorns, and introduced in Europe around 1900.

The flowers appear only once a year and are small and white with four to eight petals and a light, sweet fragrance.

It produces attractive red hips in autumn and winter.


Also called “The Green Rose”, because the petals of its small flowers are entirely replaced by numerous green sepals giving the effect of a green, rosette form rose.

It’s a unique garden curiosity, flowering in flushes and large clusters throughout the season, originally from China and introduced in Europe in 1855.

Single Flower Roses

More similar to a rose, but still quite far from the classic flower shape we are used to, are the so-called “Single Flowers”, with only five large and very thin petals, so delicate that we wouldn’t use them in a bouquet or flower arrangement, as they look perfect left on the plant.

Some varieties from the old fashioned Rugosa family belong to this group, and they are ideal plants for hedges and sandy soil: they’re strong and vigorous, with very good foliage and usually many thorns as well.

Rugosa Alba has got pure white flowers with a silky texture and strong fragrance; Rugspin is scarlet crimson with glossy dark green foliage; Scabrosa has dark pink/purple blooms with medium green foliage; Frau Dagmar Hartopp displays gently cupped single flowers of a light pink tone, with an intense fragrance and dark, glossy foliage; and Delicata has light pink/mauve and very fragrant flowers, surrounded by mint-like leaves.

Single Flowers and Double Flowers (with a few more petals) have been very trendy in the last few years and some beautiful new varieties have been released by awarded British breeder Chris Warner.

Among his interesting varieties we can certainly mention Bright as a Button, Eyes for You, Eye Shadow, Golden Eye, Eye of the Tiger, and For your Eyes only, with delicate colourful petals that open out wide, showing off the stamens.

Find more about these varieties on