- Beautiful Rose-Purple Blooms
- Grey-Green Foliage
- Drought Tolerant
Driving through the rugged Portuguese countryside, our guide pulled off next to a rocky field blooming profusely with purple flowers. “You must smell our sheep.”
“Come again?” we replied.
He smiled. “You must smell our sheep. They smell amazing.”
We picked our way across the field to where a small flock of sheep were grazing. They were winding in and out of the flowers and had a sticky substance on them. We dutifully leaned in for a whiff. Definitely sheep smell…but also, something else. It was a sweet familiar smell. Expensive perfume?
“It smells like cologne, no?” our guide asked. “It is the flowers.” He waved his hand over the field.
The flowers were Purple Rock Rose (Cistus x purpureus) and they were lovely. Compact heat loving shrubs covered in very showy purple-rose blossoms with a maroon spot at the base of each petal and a center of golden-doubloon stamens. These beauties are the ancient source of labdanum, the base of perfumes since the Egyptians first oiled their beards. The oily sap was gathered by shepherds from the fur of their grazing sheep.
You don’t need a herd of sweet smelling Portuguese sheep to enjoy these great plants, though.
Purple Rock Rose is an easy plant to grow in any Mediterranean climate. It thrives in drought, poor soil and even a little neglect! They are awesome rock garden accents and are good massed together. They are evergreen and grow tall enough to be a wonderful background border plant. It has nice grey-green foliage that’s gives an extra texture to rugged conifers and shaggy perennials. Purple Rock Rose is great for the Hell Strips between the sidewalk and the street.
These evergreens bloom all spring and summer and add rich color wherever you put them.