Roses: Top tips for colour­ful hips

Gardening Australia - - CONTENTS -

In win­ter, when all the rose petals have fallen, the colour­ful rose­hips left behind are lit­tle treats that can be cooked up into de­li­cious recipes, writes JACKIE FRENCH

Win­ter is bare rose time, with their thorny legs and leaf­less branches. Or you might have a few sparse flow­ers if you are lucky, sunny and have cho­sen the few that bloom (a bit) in win­ter. There is a dis­tinct lack of colour and in­ter­est in the rose gar­den over the win­ter months ex­cept, that is, for the hips. Th­ese are the seed cap­sules of the rose that turn red, orange or even yel­low when all the petals have fallen.

Rose­hips be­come sweeter and some­times softer in the win­ter cold, though they will never be truly soft. They are ed­i­ble in a ‘pick care­fully and cook a lot and you will end up with some­thing de­li­cious’ way. Do not try munch­ing them straight from the bush or you may break a tooth or even get prick­les stuck in your tongue or gums.

Nearly all roses pro­duce hips, and they range from small to enor­mous, but big­ger does not nec­es­sar­ily mean sweeter or more flavour­ful. Some of my favourite rose­hips come from the wild (and weedy) dog rose ( Rosa can­ina), with its bright orange-red oval hips. They are small and hard, but ex­cel­lent in cook­ing. The rel­a­tively dingy rose­hips of the climb­ing ‘Ophe­lia’ and ‘Sou­venir de la Mal­mai­son’ roses that grow out­side my study are good, too.

But if you are look­ing for the fat­test, most spec­tac­u­lar hips of all, like small red ap­ples hanging on bare bushes, you prob­a­bly want to choose a Rosa ru­gosa or one of its hy­brids. My favourites are ‘Alba’, ‘Scabrosa’, ‘Rugspin’ and ‘Fru Dag­mar Has­trup’.

Ru­gosas are tough. Many bloom only in spring, or in spring with a lesser re­peat in au­tumn, but those flow­er­ings are stun­ning and pro­lific, and the gi­ant red hips a joy. Ru­gosas laugh at drought once es­tab­lished – they grow and flower even if you for­get to feed them, though of course they grow faster and bloom more when treated well. They don’t need prun­ing, spray­ing or cos­set­ing in any way. They do best in full sun ex­cept in semi-trop­i­cal ar­eas, where they do bet­ter in dap­pled shade in the af­ter­noon. Plant them 2m apart, and you’ll have a hedge thorny enough to keep out all but the most de­ter­mined in­trud­ers.

Ru­gosa roses vary from white to red through mauve and pink, usu­ally sin­gle but some­times dou­ble. But re­mem­ber that if you pick too many of the flow­ers, you’ll get few hips, and af­ter you have tan­gled with the ex­tremely thorny stems on most va­ri­eties, you will prob­a­bly only pick a few each sea­son. But that gives you the best re­sult of all – glo­ri­ously fat hips.

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