Grapevines and roses

July 10, 2013 / Local Interest
Oltrepò Pavese, Lombardia

While visiting a wine region like the Oltrepò Pavese south of Milan, you may notice that at some vineyards there are rose bushes planted in front of each row of grapevines. Why, you probably wonder?

Roses and vines at Santa Maria della Versa
Roses and vines at Santa Maria della Versa

Tradition has it that wine farmers knew from experience that roses function as an early warning alarm for diseases that affect the vines. The roses become ill just a bit earlier than the vines and so, noticing the illness in time, the farmers could treat the vines in time to avoid losses. The roses are just like the canaries that are used in mines to signal dangerous gasses. It is not quite clear whether this really worked well, although it was later confirmed that the powdery mildew (oidium) fungus that affects the roses is related to the one that attacks the vines.

Nowadays vines are resistent to many diseases and are treated in advance. The roses are there for mere historical reasons and because it’s just beautiful.

Rose nei vigneti

Stef Smulders

by Stef Smulders

Stef is a Dutch expat now living the dolce vita in the Oltrepò Pavese wine region, an undiscovered Tuscany 50 km south of Milan. 

With husband Nico & dog Joia he runs a B&B Villa I Due Padroni (

Stef has just completed his first book about his experiences in Italy during the first few years (in Dutch).
An English translation will appear later in 2016. Interested? Send me a mail and have a look at my Facebook page.

9 Responses to “Grapevines and roses”

  1. Stef — Funny, I was curious about the same thing during my recent visit to southwestern France. Around St. Emilion, vineyards have rose bushes fronting each row for the same reason — early warning sign that something may be wrong on the vines. Nice post.

  2. Susan Caracciolo Keane

    I live on the North Fork of Long Island, NY and it is wine country. All of the vineyards are also planted with rose bushes…pretty and practical.

  3. Linda Boccia

    Having worked in the wine industry both wholesale and retail at the wineries for twenty some years I can mostly agree with the above comments about the roses. They ARE beautiful and still serve as an early warning of possible pest and mold ect. problems. In California most growers still plant the roses. Although we have quite stable weather, depending on the growing region, there are insect pests that can affect the vines, especially the glassywinged sharpshooter. It devastates the roots and stunts growth of the vines often skipping one row in favor of another.

    Grape cultivation is centuries old and perhaps the Greeks, Romans and other early cultivators had less biological or insect pests, but roses are still a necessary, if mostly decorative, element of most growers.

  4. Beautiful, yes. But I also learned in the Napa Valley of California that the colorful roses also attract bees which are helpful in pollinating the grape blossoms.

    • Bees are not needed for pollination of vines. They will not increase yield. Vines are basically pollinated by the wind and gravity. They serve as an early warning system for certain mildews that can potentially affect the vines.

  5. Ken Borelli

    hopefully the deer, if they have any in the wine growing regions of Italy , will eat the roses first and warn the farmers!!! where i live the deer are a major concern( San Jose Ca.) Venison (sp) anyone!


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