Yellow Lady Banks
(Rosa banksiae lutea)
By Jan Parsoneault

Photo © Copyright Kitty Belendez, All Rights Reserved.

Does it look like a rose? Does it smell like a rose? In full bloom, most people ask, what's that? I have to have it! All roses don't look like your normal hybrid tea rose. As a matter of fact, this rose has many advantages. Most would say, Oh, it's only a once bloomer, forget it, it's not worth it. Yellow Lady Banks may bloom only once, but when she says "my turn," she has the stage all to herself. 

In early February, when most roses are still asleep, Yellow Lady Banks has thousands upon millions of green buds. Then like popping popcorn, small bursts of yellow starts everywhere. You better look every day because you'll miss the sight. At this time, this most likely will be the only color and the only blooms in your garden. It is such an incredible mass of profusion of blooms to behold. The blooms of Yellow Lady Banks are borne in corymbs of full, double, butter yellow, petals reflex back, having a slight scent of violets. 

This year was exceptional. Most of April the rose blooms were so thick along the canes that the small, narrow lance-shaped, moss green foliage wasn't even visible. 

Each year is different. Yellow Lady Banks can bloom late January to about the end of April or mid-May. Then she becomes a beautiful plant specimen with compound olive green leaflets. And you get about 6" of dry yellow fallen petals blanketing the soil and everything else below. So now you can mingle other neighboring climbers through these canes.

Another advantage? Okay, what can a rosarian ask for? Yellow Lady Banks is vigorous, clean, densely growing with very graceful, pliable arching canes. Reaching out, they just sway and float upon a light breeze. Another plus? Okay, if anyone knows me, by the time I have pruned, bent, and tied my climbers to where I want them, I'm usually running to Costco for my case of Neosporin. I give about a pint of blood. But, Yellow Lady Banks is thornless and prickleless. Just pure soft canes.

Another benefit? Okay. When Yellow Lady Banks is done blooming, she gets her pruning, and when the annual great pruning season starts for the rest of the roses in January, she gets left alone. One less rose to prune. Just skip her, and I really like that. 

Yellow Lady Banks is also a great rose to exhibit at shows. I like old garden rose classes. I have won the Genesis Award with her, and there's a class of three OGR sprays that I've won with her. 

Yellow Lady Banks (R. banksiae lutea) has one of the highest American Rose Society Roses in Review scores at 9.1. It is double yellow, 1824.

Other related species are also top rated:
R. banksiae alba-plena, (White Lady Banks) about 1807, is a double white, rated 9.2.
R. banksiae lutescens, is single yellow, dated 1816.
R. banksiae normalis, is single white, dated 1877.

The Royal Horticultural Society was looking for good garden plants to bring back to England. In 1803 William Kerr was sent to China and found the double white form of the species. In 1807 he brought back the first plants. This white form was named for the wife (Lady Banks) of the director of Kew Gardens, Sir Joseph Banks. He was a well-known English collector who traveled and sailed on the "Endeavor" with Captain Cook. 

Later, J.D. Parks, the introducer of 'Parks Yellow Tea-Scented China Rose', brought back from China the double yellow form in 1824.

These roses need lots of warm sunshine to thrive. It needs to be on sunny walls in the south of England to survive winter cold and frost. 

Most OGR's have some kind of interesting history behind them. We may travel to auctions or even up the  coast for a rose, but for OGR's some will travel the world. 

I like having roses in my garden dating back to the 1700's and 1800's. It's unique and novel. As the late Graham Stuart Thomas once said, "The Banksian Rose gives us unique beauty, they are exceedingly vigorous and their flower clusters have been quoted in garden journals giving the number of fifty thousand." 

This year with my Yellow Lady Banks, I believe it!

Data, quotes, and botanical information from:
The Graham Stuart Thomas Rose Book, by Graham Stuart Thomas.
The Old Rose Adventurer by Brent C. Dickerson.
My Yellow Lady Banks Rose, the author.

Originally published in "Rose Ecstasy," bulletin of the Santa Clarita Valley Rose Society, Kitty Belendez, Editor. 

© Copyright Jan Parsoneault. All rights reserved. 



Photos © Copyright Kitty Belendez                      

For questions about 
Santa Clarita Valley Rose Society, contact:
Rose Society
Updated December 31, 2015

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