Plant of the month

Rosa Mutabilis

Each month, OGV sub-committee member, Gayle Parkes, presents the 'Plant of the month'. She also posts to OGV's Instagram - make sure you check back regularly for her latest post. This month Gayle brings us Rosa Mutabilis.

Oh how I love this rose! This one just had to come with me, albeit in a pot, when I moved from my large garden to my tiny one. The name says it all – Mutabilis, from the word “mutable” meaning of course, changeable. And change this gorgeous rose certainly does, and quite quickly too. The single cupped flowers open a creamy-honey-yellowy-apricot, then they become coppery-pink, then watermelon, and finally age gracefully to a rich mahogany. She is such a show off with her constant mass of colour from spring right through to autumn! I call her my shabby chic rose as her single blooms are not structured but more floppy, fragile, soft and romantic. The ever changing petals seem to flutter in the breeze, hence the knick name, The Butterfly Rose. Tiny birds flit through her twiggy dark plum coloured stems and dark green-grey foliage and the bees are drawn to the subtle perfume she exudes.

R. Mutabilis may appear soft and romantic but she is tough! Open and loose with quite vigorous growth that forms a large spreading bush, this Chinese rose can grow to 2.5m tall and almost as wide. Grow in fertile, moist, well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade and provide good air circulation. She is quite disease resistant. Because of my size restrictions I have my shrub in a pot and I have to keep it reined in with regular tidying up with my secateurs. As you can see from the images, I love to have a willowy vase full of flowering stems on my dining table. But in the not so tiny garden is where she really should be. 

R. Mutabilis is suitable as a specimen or an informal hedge, or grown in mixed borders. She is especially suited to be sited at the back of the border where one can plant a lower storey in front. Some say she has unsightly “bare legs” so this strategy takes care of that nicely. This unfussy beauty only needs a light trim at pruning time and doesn’t need deadheading. Yes… we love a low maintenance rose!

A rare and truly lovely garden rose, with a scent changing from sweet through spicy, you might like to consider R. Mutabilis for a spot in your garden. You will soon love her as much as I do and she will become your favourite too.