Guest Author - Connie Krochmal
Flowers, flowers everywhere. Yes, blossoms are gorgeous, but there are many other wonderful kinds of florals we can use. Take fruits, for example. These are sometime neglected, and deserve much more attention than they normally receive. Of the many different kinds of fruits, rose hips are an excellent choice.
Rose hips develop from pollinated rose blossoms. In order for these fruits to grow, avoid deadheading the plants. Otherwise, there will be no rose hips.
These fruits come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, and colors. In size, they range from tiny bean-sized ones up to about that of a grape tomato or slightly larger. So far as colors are concerned, they come in rich warm tones, including yellow, orange, and red as well as burgundy red. They start out green, but as they mature they will typically begin to change color, most likely in the late summer and fall months.
The word hip apparently came from an old English word, hepe.
In Britain, rose hips often grow wild in hedges. There, they’re known by numerous names, including some very entertaining ones. These include pig’s noses, and nippernails. Also called hedge-pedgies, the word hedge probably refers to the fact that the fruits are often harvested from hedges. Rose hips are also known as pixie-pears. At one time, fairies were called pixies in England, so pixie-pears might imply that the fairies were fond of these fruits. Unless the wee folk like extremely tart fruits, I doubt they would consume many rose hips.
Not all rose plants produce these fruits. If you want to harvest rose hips from your own cutting garden, it is best to choose varieties that are known to produce outstanding fruits. Garden catalogs will often specify whether a rose variety is known for its hips. One of the best is the Rugosa rose (Rosa rugosa). There are many varieties of this plant available. Rather low growing, these plants are often used for informal hedges. Rugosa rose tends to be very thorny, so I like to be careful when I’m working around the plant or collecting the fruits.
As rose hips have become more popular as a floral, rose breeders are at work creating varieties with interesting fruits. Among the most outstanding is called Rosa Pumpkin. In this case, the name really is quite descriptive, for they’re shaped like miniature pumpkins. Floral designers like Rosa Pumpkin because the stems have such a long vase life. In fact, florists have found that the stems will last for several months if they are stored properly. For that purpose, they strip the leaves from the stems, and put them in cold storage.
So far as I know, Rosa Pumpkin plants aren’t available from retail sources in the U.S. However, you can likely buy cut stems at your local florists, or can place a special order if they don’t have them in stock. Rosa Pumpkin does have thorns, which point downwards.
Rosa Pumpkin fruits are orange. They’re round, and about an inch in diameter. They’re produced on the first year’s wood. Rosa Pumpkin rose hips ripen in bunches on the stems. Once all the fruits have ripened to orange on a stem, it is ready to cut.
At this time, there doesn’t seem to be much commercial production of rose hips for floral purposes in the U.S. However, the same isn’t true in Italy and elsewhere in Europe. There, the growers are gradually increasing their acreages. As a result, the cut stems are now available in the Netherlands flower auctions. So there is hope that they will soon be more common in the future. Until then, our best bet is to grow our own if we want lots of them. At the moment, rose breeders are also working on dwarf rose hip-bearing varieties that can ideally be sold as pot plants when the hips are ripe.