The cabbage rose (Rosa centifolia) is a very old variety of rose that was a favourite of the Dutch Masters. Grown before the year 1600, it has been important to the French perfume industry and was brought by Europeans when they settled the Americas. Once in America, the cabbage rose escaped captivity and began to seed itself in the wild.
Cabbage Rose Flower
The flower of the cabbage rose is an old-fashioned favourite because of the many petals on the flowers -- up to 100 is not unusual. The name "cabbage rose" is actually derived from those flowers, because an opening bud looks similar to a cabbage. The cabbage rose blooms in mid to late spring and lasts for three to four weeks.
The cabbage rose is a very prickly plant. It has a loose shrub form, growing 4 to 5 feet high, and is covered in thorns. However, the flowers are such a reward as to make the thorns less annoying. When in bloom, the cabbage rose frequently holds so many of these multipetaled flowers as to cause the whole shrub to bow under their weight. Cabbage rose blooms range from a white to a deep red and often have stripes or spots.
Cabbage rose is an old favourite for making French perfumes. In fact, one variety, light pink cabbage rose, is still grown extensively in the Grasse region of southern France and Morocco, where it is called "rose de mai." The rose oil is extracted from the blooms and used to improve synthetic fragrances and flavour tobacco products and soft drinks.
Cultivating Cabbage Rose
Cabbage rose is relatively easy to grow. It thrives in clay soil rich in humus and with moderate sand levels. Soil must be moist and the site humid; altitudes of 2,500 to 3,250 feet above sea level are ideal. A flexible opportunist, the cabbage rose has escaped cultivation and gone wild in Connecticut, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.