Two Splendid Summer Shrubs

Several years ago, in July, 1999, I saw two extraordinarily beautiful native shrubs in bloom at the Chicago Botanic Garden that I had never seen before.

They are in bloom now–what would you guess?

Maybe you have never heard of them before either.


The first is  Prairie or Illinois Rose (Rosa setigera) .



This photo was taken July 6, 2006, at  Ferson‘s Creek Fen in St. Charles, Illinois

The Illinois Rose, also called Prairie Rose or Michigan Rose, is the latest blooming and showiest of our native roses.  Abundant clusters of slightly fragrant, deep pink blossoms, 2 1/2 “ across, centered with golden stamens, cover the heavily armed canes from late June through mid-July.  Emerald green, heavily veined, tri-parted leaves make a contrasting background to the flowers.

The canes may extend to 15’ or more in a season, making it a good candidate to train over a trellis, along a fence, or to cascade down a hill. It may also be grown as a shrub 5-6’ tall and around by clipping off the long canes.

In nature it is found along woodland edges and in savanna openings, frequently with Iowa Crab and Wild Plum.  It is especially abundant and showy in the limestone area of the lower Des Plaines River valley, say Swink and Wilhelm.  (Does anyone have a photograph of this to share?)

Here are some ways you can use them in your garden.













Climbing up a trellis.






Along a fence line




Cascade down a slope
















In a vase.  The blossoms become a deeper pink when they are in the house.




The other shrub is Purple-flowering Raspberry (Rubus odoratus)



The blossoms of Purple-flowering Raspberry are, quite simply, ravishing!  This photograph has not been color altered–the flowers really are this gorgeous.  Loose clusters of the luscious violet flowers centered with pale golden stamens appear in June and continue through July and sporadically into August.  Small, flat, red raspberries form in August and September–regrettably not as sweet and juicy as the more common Black Raspberry.  Its large maple-like leaves make a statement of their own and turn golden in autumn.  It increases slowly by underground stamens.

I’ve never seen it in the wild–it doesn’t appear to be native to Kane County where I live.










Combine Purple-flowering Raspberry with Showy Tick Trefoil, in bloom now also, in a part-shade situation.

Look on pages 26-31 in my book, Design Your Natural Midwest Garden, to see and read about a north-facing entrance garden that features the above plants.  Also look at the Jens Jensen back yard designs on pages 148-157 and the Fencerow design for more uses of the Illinois Rose and Purple-flowering Raspberry.

Both these shrub provide food and shelter for wildlife.  Regrettably, both are also susceptible to Japanese Beetles.


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4 Responses to Two Splendid Summer Shrubs

  1. Pat Clancy July 7, 2011 at 10:16 pm #

    I have the purple-flowering raspberry growing among some white pines that I had planted at the back of my property to screen a very tall house that had just been built. When the pines were small – 5 ft. when newly planted – I used the raspberry to fill in between. Now the pines are tall and full, but one of them suddenly died, and the raspberry has spread to fill the gap beautifully. Elderberry has also volunteered in this border, and I love it! It is almost as tall as the pines!

    In your book, you have used Illinois Rose as a foundation shrub. I like this idea but wouldn’t want to have to prune it all the time. How do you deal with it?

  2. Jon J Duerr July 8, 2011 at 2:05 pm #

    Pat I completely agree with you about these 2 shrubs! For too long the Prairie Rose was attacked because it is similar to the Multiflora rose then not blooming. Regarding Rubus oderatus, if it is found in Kane or Illinois it would be in a refugium of other northern species. It is a plant of the north woods, promarily around the northern Gt. Lakes.

  3. Susan Bohne July 24, 2011 at 12:51 pm #

    The purple flowering raspberry is found in Kane County at Trout Park in Elgin. As you know Trout Park is a refugia of plants species in particular the white cedar, Thuja occidentalis, that is common much further north. Due to the topography of Trout Park, it’s surface waters and it’s location along the river protection was afforded to the site from prairie fires. There are several clumps of the raspberry still doing quite well and you are right – the magenta blossoms are gorgeous.

    • PatHill July 24, 2011 at 1:25 pm #

      Thank you Sue and Jon for your expert opinions on the nativity of Purple-flowering Raspberry in Kane County. The imput from you and others is what makes this venture valuable to us all.

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