Another year to live!
To banish worry, doubt, and fear,
To love and laugh and give!
This bright new year is given me
To live each day with zest . . .
To daily grow and try to be
My highest and my best!
I have the opportunity
Once more to right some wrongs,
To pray for peace, to plant a tree,
And sing more joyful songs!" ~ William Arthur Ward
New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day were a stellar days here in the Pacific Northwest! They were crisp, cold and gloriously sunny with just a few wispy clouds overhead. The blue skies gave promise of joy in the New Year.
As we started on a long, hilly walk Saturday I noticed a squirrel in my rose bush in the front yard. It was eating the rose hips. I’d noticed some birds doing the same thing last week but I can’t say I’d ever seen a squirrel eating them. It stayed for quite a while before moving on to the seeds of my neighbors lilac tree.
When I started gardening I was told you must keep rose hips from forming or they would take strength from the rose, weakening it year after year. Now I believe quite the opposite. Rose hips are simply the seed pods that form once the flower is finished. For the plant it is one method of survival to form seeds to drop and grow more of itself. In fall when the day length shortens and temperatures drop it is also a signal to the plant that it’s time for it to power down for a dormancy period…like winter. A dormant plant will not succumb to winter’s damaging temperatures, or at least will have a better chance of survival.
The key is to know when to cut the faded flowers off and when to leave them to form hips. Keeping your roses deadheaded does indeed keep the blooms coming. I deadhead my roses all spring and summer, but once fall is well underway I stop deadheading. Let the flower whither on the stem, let the petals fall and in time you’ll see the rose hips forming.
Not all rose varieties have showy hips. Some are very small and not colorful. As you peruse the catalogs and nurseries, look specifically for reference to hips in the plants information tag if you want the lovely winter jewels for your garden. Some are as big as cherry tomatoes as seen in this picture. This is not my rose but I believe it is a Rugosa variety.
These are the lovely orangey hips from Bonica.
These are the hips the squirrel and birds were feasting on. I often tuck stems of these tiny bright red hips into my Christmas decorations.
You may have heard of how high rose hips are in Vitamin C. They are often used as the main source of Vitamin C in commercial supplements. I’ve eaten one once and found it bitter. My friend found it rather tasty. Now I know we picked it too early, as they sweeten after the first frost. Rose hips are used in many recipes of jellies, jams, tea, purees, sauces and syrups. Culinary rose water is made from the flower petals however. Harvest your rose hips after the first frost and prepare them by trimming off the stem and blossom ends, cutting them in half and removing the seeds then washing them well. I must stress how important it is to grow your roses organically whether they are used for your food or allowed as food for wild life. Chemicals are not needed to grow great disease free roses and many pesticide chemicals are systemic, traveling through the plant’s tissues. They cannot be washed off.
Minimal fall garden cleanup such as this gives a bounty of seeds and berries and hips in my garden for the wildlife to feed on during the winter months. And it provides endless hours of entertainment for me. Bird watching aside, I’m also getting ready to start some seeds on the window sill for spring planting. Oh and by the way, thus far the bees are faring well.