Rose Hips, Part 1: Food for Birds and People!

Winter lingers and will be here for a few more weeks (despite what Phil the Groundhog said). This got me to thinking about rose hips. I have to admit, it took me a while to understand their true beauty and value. But by now you should know, I am a bit slow…

My excuse is that when I got seriously involved with roses back in the early 80s, I was mostly involved in florist roses. At that time, hips (the seed pods of roses) were something only of interest to breeders, because hips meant seeds, which meant possible new varieties to germinate, evaluate, and hopefully bring to market. That was then. Today, there is a fairly large amount of cut rose breeding that is geared specifically to the production of rose hips. We even introduced one, called “Tutti Fruitti,” back in 2000 or so. Rose hips (and even thorns!) can have a great aesthetic value for people who live in areas where color in the landscape is hard to find from fall to mid-spring. It is a trait that has largely been ignored by the rose breeders from the warmer, sunnier climates that use to dominate the North American market. However this value is becoming more and more important as a new generation of home gardeners is as interested about the health and sustainability benefits of their landscape as they are with its aesthetic value. Rose hips score big on both counts since they are both a great source of vitamin C as well as one of the few reliable sources of food for birds in mid-winter.

Did you know that, once for ounce, rose hips carry more vitamin C than oranges and other citrus fruits? Some also carry significant amounts of Iron, Calcium or Vitamin A. You can prepare them as jam, or make tea, or use them as a condiment when dried. Since I am a terrible cook, it is safer that I direct you to Google to find the recipes and detailed information on how to prepare these tasty delights. Birds have known this for centuries and having roses which set hips in the winter is one of the main attractions for the sedentary birds who do not migrate in the cold winter months. It is another reason not to cut back you roses until late winter, albeit not the main one. Check back next week for part 2 of my rose hips blog, including which roses from Star® Roses and Plants/Conard-Pyle produce the most hips.

VP of License and New Business Development at Star® Roses and Plants

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