As the serene blue and white pallet of the Ohio Spiderwort and the White Wild IIndigo fade, bright fuchsia takes over. The Pale Purple Coneflower has been in bloom for a while, now joined by the matching Purple-flowered Raspberry, Showy Tick Trefoil, and the spectacular Illinois Rose.
Pale Purple Coneflower (Echinacea pallida) blooms earlier than the Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) with which we are all familiar. Pale Purple Coneflower is taller with narrower leaves, reflexed flower petals that are a lighter, brighter pink, and a more prominent cone. In nature, it is found in dry prairies, but it grows well in my mesic gardens..
I first saw the spectacular Purple-flowering Raspberry and the Illinois Rose at the Chicago Botanic Garden in July, 1999. I had never seen either one before and was enchanted.
Loose clusters of 2” rose-purple saucers filled with pale golden stamens decorate the Purple Flowering Raspberry (Rubus odoratus) in late June, continuing through July and sporadicly into August. Small flat berries follow in August and September–regrettably not as sweet or juicy as those of the more common Black Raspberries. It grows 3-4 ft tall and colonizes into large patches. It can be burned every spring along with the adjoining prairie and still grow back and flower.
Like all native shrubs, it has interest for more than one season–its large maple-shaped leaves turn to gold in autumn, while the arching, exfoliating stems are especially notable in winter. It also provides food and shelter for wildlife–it’s especially attractive to bees. In nature, it is found in partial shade along woodland edges. (This is an endangered species in Illinois and threatened in Indiana)
The lovely fuchsia pea blossoms of Showy Tick Trefoil (Desmodium canadense) exactly match the flowers of the Purple-flowering Raspberry–inadvertently noticed by me. Its flowers bloom on a 2-6’ terminal spire in late June. In the wild It is found in moist to dry prairie and along the edges of open woods. The blossoms are followed by flat segmented pods that “cling like velcro to ones clothing, hence another common name, “Sticktight” says Dick Young in his informative book, Kane County Wild Plants and Natural Areas.
The Illinois Rose, also called Prairie Rose or Michigan Rose (Rosa setigera), is the latest blooming and the showiest of our native roses. It grows 5-6’ tall and around; its heavily armed canes, however, can stretch out to 15’ long.
Abundant clusters of fragrant, deep pink blossoms, 2 1/2” wide, centered with golden stamens, cover the canes from late June through mid-to-late July.
The most spectacular display of the Illinois Rose that I have ever seen was a curtain of the deep pink roses spilling from the edge of Illinois State Highway 31, between Elgin and St. Charles, down a steep east-facing slope into Ferson Creek Fen. It was heart-stopping! I took photos–slides, actually–but the sun was so bright that it completely washed the color out of the roses.
I never again caught it at that spectacular moment. I did take some photos on July 5, 2011, but, as you can see, the rose is being overcome by many weedy plants, such as Tall Goldenrod, Virginia Creeper, and non-native grasses.
I borrowed the idea and planted Illinois Rose on an east-facing slope under White Oaks in Sleepy Hollow for a client several years ago, where they bloom prolifically.
Illinois Rose is found in nature along woodland edges and within savanna clearings, frequently with Iowa Crab and Wild Plum. It is especially showy in the limestone areas of the lower Des Plaines River valley, declare Swink & Wilhelm in Plants of the Chicago Region.
Illinois Rose was a favorite of Wilhelm Miller, a horticulture professor at the University of Illinois and author of an extension publication called, The Prairie Spirit in Landscape Gardening (1915). He suggested everyone in Illinois plant an Illinois Rose next to their front door as a symbol of their commitment to the native flora of Illinois. It was a favorite also of Jens Jensen, the Midwest’s premier Landscape Architect, who used it extensively in his designs, particularly along fences or spilling over limestone ledges.
The lustrous, dark green ovate tri-leaflets turn to brilliant orange and scarlet in the fall. Cherry red, 1/2” round hips ripen in September and last through most of the winter.
But aren’t roses difficult to grow?
Not these. I planted this rose at least 10 years ago; it has never been fertilized, watered, sprayed with anything, or dead-headed. Last spring, a friend repaired and re-painted the trellis; when he re-installed it, he very carefully wove the rose canes through the trellis, a much better look than using little wire plant ties.
Illinois Rose climbing my trellis.
I don’t know of any more spectacular flower than this. It is winter hardy and disease-free; it attracts bees, but Japanese beetles don’t seem to care for it.
In central Indiana the prairie rose runs over farm fences, along the roadside hedges, and in the open glades of the woodlands. Wherever it grows, it is a lovely bouquet, and its red berries over the snow in winter are as colorful as the rose is in June.
Siftings Jens Jensen
Jens Jensen, Maker of Natural Parks and Gardens Robert E. Grese
The Prairie Spirit in Landscape Gardening Wilhelm Miller
Enjoyable reading–I recommend them all.