Do you love roses?

I do.

For those of you who have been following me for any length of time, you know that my love affair with roses is something that I like to share with others. For that reason, on a lovely day in May, I made a visit to the Old West town, Tombstone, Arizona.  

This historic town has two different attractions that appeal to me and my husband. He loves old westerns, and walking along the main street and seeing where the famous gunfight took place is something he enjoys. While it’s fun to explore the real-life places from long ago, my favorite destination lies just a block off of the main street…
 
At first glance, you would never know that a famous plant resides beyond the front door of this historic inn that is now a museum. However, it is in the backyard of this building, the “Rose Tree Inn”, which lies the “World’s Largest Rosebush“.
 
Due to my love of roses, and having heard of this famous rosebush I am excited to see it in person.
 
As you walk into the little museum, you feel as if you have stepped back into time within its rose-scented interior. As I venture toward the back where the rosebush is, my first impression is of a beautifully shaded patio area.
 
 
Over the patio, the outer branches of the rosebush create dappled shade.  
 
As you make your way toward the main part of the rose bush, the sheer enormity of its size begins to be evident.  
 
 
In the center of the branches, you can see the large, twisted trunk of the rosebush.
 
It is really hard to get the scale of how big it is from pictures – but look at how small the door looks off to the right side.
 
 
Now, see how big it looks with me next to it in the picture, above. Note – I am fairly tall at 5’9″.
 
The trunk is approximately 12-feet around and very shaggy with strips bark falling off. It definitely looks old.
 
This photo is taken with a flash, which lights up the area considerably. In actuality, it is very shady underneath.
 
 
Even when you stand right next to it, you can’t quite believe the enormous size.
 
This rosebush is not only the world’s largest – but it is also very old. For that reason, the history of the rosebush and how it came to be in Tombstone is quite interesting.
 
 

History

The rose came from Scotland in 1887, which makes it over 130 years old. A young Scottish immigrant and her husband moved to Tombstone in 1885.  Her family sent their homesick daughter a box filled with cuttings of her favorite rosebush from home.
 
She gave one of the cuttings to her friend, Amelia Adamson. Together they planted the rosebush in back of Amelia’s boarding house where it has obviously flourished in its new surroundings.
 
Years later, the rosebush began to get attention with its large size. Consequently, it was declared the world’s largest in the 1930’s.
 
Now, the Tombstone rosebush reaches over 8,000 square feet!
 
 
To get an overall view of the rosebush, you walk to the other side where there are steps to climb. Because the only part you see underneath the patio are its branches, the view from above is quite different. As a result, you have a clear view of the lacy foliage and flowers in the spring.
 
 
Can you imagine how beautiful this would look in bloom? It is said that roses absolutely cover the entire upper part of the rosebush with fragrant, white flowers…

 

This is a close-up of the flowers from a different Lady Bank’s rose.

 
As you can imagine, holding up a rosebush this large isn’t easy. Therefore, metal rods form a checkerboard pattern that are large wooden posts hold up.

I spot a bird’s nest within the branches.

After I finish with my photos, I stroll back into the museum where I notice row of small rose bushes.
 
 
Above them is this sign…
 
 
Well, I don’t describe myself as an ‘impulse buyer’,  I just have to buy a cutting from this historic plant.
 
 
I do have a good spot for it where it can grow up on the wall in my side yard. Because it can’t climb without support, I will provide a trellis for it to grow up on.  Lady Bank’s roses also make great ground covers.
 
Although this rosebush was an impulse buy, it requires less maintenance than more traditional roses. I certainly can’t wait to grow a piece of the world’s largest rosebush!
Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a horticulturist, certified arborist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."

11 replies
  1. Jean Campbell
    Jean Campbell says:

    Imagine! I didn't know Lady Banks Roses came in anything but yellow. How fortunate that they sell cuttings so you can have a piece of this historic plant.

    Tombstone and all the movies about the gunfight at the OK Corral are some of my favorites.

    Reply
  2. Sabrina Campbell
    Sabrina Campbell says:

    Thank you for this, Noelle! My family and I live in El Paso and being transplants to the area (we moved here from Germany thanks to Uncle Sam)we like to venture out and explore the region and have taken our out of town visitors to Tombstone on occasion, too. Our last company were my mom's childhood friends from her native Germany, and the "Wild West" was fascinating to them. Too bad we were focused on the Gunfighters, the rose bush would have been wonderful to see. We'll definitely stop in next time were come to town. We have both the yellow and the white Lady Banks in our backyard – the white is about 25 years old at this point and arches over an arbor seat. When in bloom, it is like sitting in a wedding bower. Truly lovely!

    Although I have not visited the worlds largest rosebush, I have been to see the worlds oldest – reputed to be 1000 years old – in Hildesheim, Germany. I included the wikipedia link for you here.

    //en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thousand-year_Rose

    I enjoy your blog and am excited to have found someone interested in sustainable gardening/landscaping with native plants. I love your ideas and hope to incorporate some soon.

    Reply
  3. Indie
    Indie says:

    I've seen pictures of this rose before – it is absolutely amazing! That is just crazy how big the trunk is. What a great thing to be able to visit!

    Reply
  4. Unknown
    Unknown says:

    We moved to a property and the owners of the 100 year old homestead had let the property (5 acres) become over grown. After clearing quite a bit we discovered several lady banks roses had taken down trees… We are currently pruning to train it somewhat but the diameter of the bottom vine was about 6 feet around and about 30 feet tall , going to take sometime to prune all these things … Might be able to compete with this place if we give them love…. Boerne, Texas

    Reply
  5. Unknown
    Unknown says:

    We moved to a property and the owners of the 100 year old homestead had let the property (5 acres) become over grown. After clearing quite a bit we discovered several lady banks roses had taken down trees… We are currently pruning to train it somewhat but the diameter of the bottom vine was about 6 feet around and about 30 feet tall , going to take sometime to prune all these things … Might be able to compete with this place if we give them love…. Boerne, Texas

    Reply
  6. Denise
    Denise says:

    Very nicely presented. I’ve heard about it for years & hope one day to visit. I saw a large yellow today & thot of this grand lady!! Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  7. Chris
    Chris says:

    My husband I visited Tombstone last year. By luck their Lady Banks rose was in bloom! What a site. I too couldn’t resist planting one of the $12.95 plants.

    Reply

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