Monday, January 2, 2012

Rose Hips. Winter's Gems

"Another fresh new year is here . . .
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.

As I’ve mentioned before, I am unable to post as often as I had previously or would like to but I plan to keep this blog active and someday hope to pick up the pace again. Sorry for the long lapses in posts, I hope you’ll stick with me. You can receive new posts via email if that’s more convenient for you by using the email button in the right hand column.

Thanks for reading! Looking forward to a new year of gardening with you.

In Bloom In My Garden Today: Heather (Erica carnea ‘springwood white’), Geum, Gaillardia (blanket flower), Daphne caucasica ‘Eternal Fragrance’ and ‘Summer Ice’, winter pansies, Alyssum, Sarcococca confusa

Author’s photos


Cindy said...

one of my favorite topics.

I am rose free at the moment (ironic as I stole my favorite rose buses and brought them to the new house) but I will be buying a rose bush here and there and getting back to it.

so you think I should be starting seeds soon too?

we need to chat on that. Never done much of that but I want a nice simple garden this spring!

Happy New Years and I'll be here with ya!

Kathy J said...

Dear Joan- let me be the first to say: What a lovely opening for your blog in this new year! LOVE the poem! (And, did Morgan see you while you were working on this?)

I thoroughly enjoyed your information about the roses and rose hips. I hope all your friends that read this know I am the friend with greatly neglected roses of all sorts, and you are the one that still likes me!!! Haha. You encourage me with your knowledge and joy of gardening, and I love you for it.

I say yes to being our best and singing songs of joy! May we know that each year is a blessed year. Cheers!

Joan said...

Hi Cindy!
No, don't try roses from seed unless THE ONE you want is impossible to find anywhere else. It will take nearly forever. Grafting from a branch is a wee bit faster but buying stock from a nursery is the fastest way to get your garden going.

I'm glad you were able to snag your favorites of your garden from the other house. Sometimes these things make a new house feel like home faster!

Excited to hear how your move in goes. Yay for you!

Thanks for sticking with me girlfriend!! Happy New Year to you too!

Joan said...

Hi Kathy!
Isn't that poem something to strive for?? It was meaningful to me this year too...glad it struck a cord for you.

Yes, I did see Morgan where I posted sweet to get a much needed hug from her. You are so blessed by her, as was I to have seen her.

Hahaha do you remember that day we ate that rose hip? Too funny! I tried one again from my garden yesterday, I even prepared it as I wrote in this post and still didn't think much of it. I wonder what rose hip jelly must taste like. I don't know any ladies from that era to tell me or give me pointers. Perhaps you must ask Irene if she did it!

Here's to songs of joy this year!

Cindy said...

oh I'm going to clarify...the seeds I was looking into starting were for a spring garden.

sorry to confuse you.
we have access to so many varieties of roses it would be silly to start them from seed.

and the roses I moved were from MY house to Guy's so boo...I don't get them back now.

but I know which ones I love the most and can go replace them so YAY either way

Happy Wednesday

Joan said...

Hi Cindy,
In your climate you could very well start seeds now. I start some cool temp vegies now like lettuce, peas, leeks and broccoli, tomatoes in Feb and hot summer vegies in March. If you are referring to annuals and perennials you could definitely start them now indoors. Refer to the requirements on the seed packet if you are going to sow them outdoors. Have fun!

I'm glad you can still find your fav roses in nurseries for your new garden! It's probably a good thing for you to get new stock now! They will be healthier and produce better than old stock. Even rose bushes have a shelf life. Good for you!

Debra Daniels-Zeller said...

What a great post Joan, I'm reposting it on Facebook! I love to see rosehips and wasn't aware they are fodder for squirrels and birds. How might a person make tea from rosehips. Do they need to dry first?

Joan said...

Hi Debra,
Thanks ever so much for the Facebook plug. How delightful!

As for rose hip tea...I've seen recipes for using both fresh and dried, though mostly dried hips. A fresh recipe said to chop them and simmer for 15 min. I've also seen recipes for dried hips (chopped or ground) to steep (not simmer) from 2-15 min. As with dried herbs, the dried hips will be more concentrated. The tea can be enjoyed hot or cold giving you the benefit of vitamins and carotene. Some say it's a tad sour so sweeten with honey if desired. I'd love to hear of your experimentation if you try it!

Shari B. (FitFeat) said...

I read this the day you posted it but didn't get a chance to comment. Since then when I was in the back yard, I have been checking out my roses, but I have to look a little closer because I don't see anything that looks like a rose hip! We have squirrels in the back and I'd LOVE to have them hanging out near the roses. It's been so darn snowy here since mid December it's hard to spend more than a minute outside! (And it's snowing again today, like CRAZY!) I'm ready for summer!

I loved this post!

Joan said...

Hi Shari!
Thanks for getting back to comment!
Don't worry if you don't see any hips...I think hybridizing has not only diminished fragrance in roses but also their hips. It seems the best hips are on the oldest, least tinkered with varieties. If the roses you have are showy hip producers they'd be there by now. It just could be the varieties in your garden.
Thanks for reading!