When I proposed that we write about different rose hips for this week’s blog Caroline’s response was ‘Oh, is there more than one sort then? Honestly I ask you, how can someone who can spot a ‘Happy Hour’ sign half a mile away be so unobservant about the natural world?
Rose hips are one of autumn’s most attractive phenomena, and lend that all important ‘dash of red’ that artists have long known will give a lift to otherwise soft and fuzzy scenes, and there is a whole community of different ones, mainly arising from species roses, which are the unadulterated wild roses we have sequentially pinched from other countries.
In the social hierarchy of rose hips the Downton Abbey slot is occupied by aristocratic Rosa moyesii, a romantic wild rose with sumptuous, other-worldly, single vermillion flowers, brought back from China by the gentlemen plant hunters of the 19th century. Arrogant and rangy this rose knows it is a cut above the rest. I have the hybrid called ‘Geranium’ which produces elongated flasks of a rich orangey red with a little tuft at one end, but apparently the best hips are produced by an eclectic variety known as ‘Highdownensis’ grown from seed by Sir Frederick Stern and found only in the garden he created in a chalk pit outside Worthing, Highdown, from whence it is named.
Middle class ranks of rose hips are occupied by species roses such as Rosa glauca. This is a rose that, like Kate Middleton, Never Puts A Foot Wrong, and could actually have been bred by John Lewis himself. Ferny, glaucous- grey leaves give way to clusters of pretty pink flowers with white centres, followed by neat hips of deep scarlet. I have actually grown Clematis ‘Princess Kate’ through my Rosa glauca and like to think they have a good old natter together.
But it is the proletariat roses, our own wild species like dog rose and eglantine, that seem to have the most fun with their hips. Jaunty and carefree they smother themselves with bright little beads of red that drape our hedgerows right up until Christmas and beyond. As children we used to crush the hips, pull out the hairy stuffing and use it as itching powder to stuff down peoples necks ……..
Yes, and deeply annoying it was too, Laura. My younger sisters acted often like rural versions of the Bash Street Kids, indulging in giggly mischief and in need of the firm disciplinarian hand that I could provide…
That hairy coating on the seeds inside a rosehip is the reason, I think, why they are not more used for drinks and jellies and so on. They ought to be! Rosehips contain 20 times more vitamin C than oranges, they are a wonderful antioxidant and contain more flavonoids than blueberrries, apparently. But who can face the fag of halving each hip, removing their seeds and their tickly coats, grinding and boiling and straining, then stirring in the powdered basilisk-wing etc. etc ? Certainly not me. With my official title of ‘World’s Most Reluctant Cook’, I’m happy to admire their bright shiny colours and leave the flavonoids to the birds.
Rosehips develop when you don’t remove the spent rose flowers so I’d have thought Caroline would be more familiar with them (I can’t imagine she’s overly diligent about deadheading her roses) and many will develop attractive ‘seed-pods’ if left on the plant. Not all of them. Hybrid Teas, for instance, generally have too many petals to be pollinated and are thus virtually sterile.
If your rose is a once-flowerer, like all Laura’s examples are, leave the dead flowers on, and see what happens. Lots of them, Hybrid Musk roses like ‘Buff Beauty’, ‘Felicia’ and ‘Penelope’ especially, will all reward you for your indolence. Also, I shall stop dead-heading repeat-flowerers like ‘Westerland’, ‘Sally Holmes’ and Growbag fave ‘Bonica’ round about now – they will all be waggling their pretty little hips before long, as coquettish compensation for another summer gone forever. And even ‘Kiftsgate’, that hulking brute of a rose, is flaunting more sparkly hips than an episode of Strictly Come Dancing.
Yes, hands up, I know all about Happy Hour and, sometimes as a direct result, can be a bit sketchy on remembering to deadhead but then I don’t have many roses.
Being in Scotland you’d expect me to grow the Scottish or burnet rose Rosa pimpinellifolia, especially since it loves to grow near a shoreline but to be honest it’s a bit dainty for my ‘hood beside the North Sea, and its black hips a tad gothic for what I already find quite a gloomy time of year.
It’s very lowbrow I know (and L and E will roll their eyes), but I like common or garden Rosa rugosa with its fat, red, child-bearing hips. I grow it because it’s as tough as old boots and I stick it in front of other less robust plants which shelter in its lee. What a relief, no staking, wiring, tying in, propping up or pruning required for this big mama it just gets on with delivering flowers all summer and hips all autumn.
I don’t really know much about the different types of hips and haven’t a clue what a flavonoid is, but no doubt Elaine will tell me. I recently sent both my cleverclog sisters this photo from Facebook, knowing they would have to self identify themselves.
NB Louise’s plant of the month is a very different proposition and an absolute stunner.