Rose Hips

Antique Climbing Rose in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Antique Climbing Rose (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

When visiting a garden surrounded with exquisite rose blossoms, we seldom think about the health benefits to be gained from such a beautiful plant.  Yet, when the blooms fade, precious vitamin enriched pearls form in their place.  These showy reddish-orange orbs not only add ornamental value to the fall/winter garden, they are also chock full of healthy benefits, if you choose to partake.  Rose hips, said to contain substantial concentrations of vitamin C and bioflavonoid, are popular worldwide for a variety of uses such as: boosting the immune system, reducing joint pain, lowering cholesterol and skin treatments for aging, scarring and hyper pigmentation.  The Chinese used hips medicinally dating back to 470 A. D., even our native Indians used them for a multitude of ailments, from respiratory infections to healing salves.

Rose Hips in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Late season Rose Hips (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Many of us have seen bottles of vitamin C with the label showing rose hips as an ingredient, but there is probably little to no real rose hip in over the counter vitamins.  Yet there are other ways to ingest this valuable supplement, if you are so inclined! Hips should be harvested when they have turned a deep red, which is late in the season, usually after frost.  You want them to be firm, so share the softer ones with our native critters.  Hips can be brewed (whole) in teas, but I also found web sites for recipes to make jams, jellies, syrups, sauces-even vodka and wine!  If you have the culinary knack and desire, perhaps you’ll want to explore some of these options as well.

An heirloom shrub rose in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

A fragrant heirloom shrub rose (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

As far as quantity, Rugosa (Rosa rugosa) appears to be the hip producer of choice. However, I also found other recommended hipsters, such as Apothecary rose (Rosa gallica) and *Sweet Briar rose (Rosa eglanteria *potentially invasive in Europe) if your mission is strictly for fruit. These are not my favorite roses (especially if you’re only going to grow one or two).  Instead, I’m a huge fan of heirloom roses, the old hardy dependables that may not be quite as showy (you won’t find multi-colored petals or florescent orange shade selections) instead offering incredibly intoxicating fragrance.  And, if mother nature is somewhat generous with water allocation, you’ll have faithful blooming from spring through fall, ultimately leading to lush hips . . .

Beautiful Winter Rose Hips in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Beautiful winter rose hips (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Heirlooms, a term for roses that date back before 1867 (now that’s longevity) are also noted for minimal pest care (spraying and chemicals) and don’t require much fertilizing to produce reliably.  I adore Rosa ‘Louise Odier’, an 1851 French introduction, this is an own root rose; rock hardy (zone 5-no protection) intensely perfumed, pale pink bourbon with rich green foliage and a dense shrub form.  I prune out stems in the early spring and toss some organic fertilizer once or twice (when and if I remember) and Louise rewards me amply year after year.  Because she’s not grafted, there are no pesky suckers coming up trying to take over.  Give Ms. Odier, or one of her heirloom sisters, a look, they’re quite beguiling . . .  And, they’ve got voluptuous hips ♥


  1. Jean ONeill says

    Heard of them but I never thought much about or knew what rose hips were…. interesting, especially the vodka receipe – will let you know if I accomplish – thanks

    • Wouldn’t that be wonderful to have a cocktail to keep us healthy and happy? If you come up with a tasty concoction, I’ll be sure to pass it along! ~Cheers!

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