The Killer Rose

Along with the Great white shark and Bengal tiger, Rosa filipes ‘Kiftsgate’ should be avoided by all sensible human beings. It is predatory and hungry, but beautiful, like the tiger. Which is why I love it, despite the danger.Never was there a rose more averse to control. Forget any thought of being able to train it nicely over a building or small tree. In its first years it may submit, but thereafter you will find yourself wrestling with an alligator.

I risked life and limb for this boring photograph. That’s a single shoot of fresh growth. The tape measure reads 7 feet, 3 inches (2.2m) and it still has at least a month of growth left in it.

More to the point, every 4 inches or so is embellished with one of these toothed weapons.  I have chosen a shot which does not show the bloodstains.

‘Kiftsgate’s’ tendrils reach out in every direction. If they find a tree, or anything they can grab and climb,the end is nigh. I have grown this rose forty feet up into a sturdy spruce. Anything more fragile will succumb.  Here, you see them seeking to entrap and gore the passing cyclistHere, they are auditioning for a Spielberg version of ‘Day of the Triffids’, complete with menacing clouds. As with many things in life which are both deadly and beautiful, r.filipes ‘Kiftsgate’ has moments that make the peril worthwhile.It is the height of social irresponsibility to bring more of these predators into the world. But I can’t resist. They are just so easy. Stick the prunings into the ground, and at least half will sprout. For a year or two they will do little or nothing, and you may be deceived by their tranquility. Take my advice: be on your guard….

Ground rules for Kiftsgate:

  1. Never plant this rose in a small garden
  2. Never try to grow it up anything smaller than a forest tree
  3. Never grow it unless you own a powerful hedge trimmer with an extra long blade
  4. Never succumb to the thought that it would look nice covering the shed
  5. Only give it away to people on whom you seek revenge.

I leave you with this apt quotation from the Kiftsgate Court website:

Miss Elizabeth Coxhead, in her 1975 RHS article ‘Two Women’s Garden’, writes ‘in spite of its obviously ominous habits visitors adore it and clamour for more rooted cuttings than Mrs. Binny can possibly supply. We want it for the garage they say gaily, and will not heed the warning that presently they may not be able to get at the car.

If ever Kiftsgate house and garden should fall into decay, the Kiftsgate rose will seize its chance, it will become the ramparts of a Sleeping Beauty palace, all by itself’.


Update 22/06/12

Of the three cuttings I stuck carelessly into the ground, one has survived and is already throwing out new growth. I’ll pot it up before its roots grow too big and then decide what unfortunate person to give it to in the Spring!