Tag: attractive hips

Showy Rose Hips

I’ve always said that roses are the hardest working shrubs in the garden. From the earliest in spring, they provide ornamental interest to the garden, plus food and habitat for insects, birds and other wildlife. In the fall and winter, they demonstrate this work ethic with their ripening fruit – the rose hip.

As I write this, it’s early October in my garden. While some of the less sensible hybrid roses are still sending up soft new shoots and flower buds, the species roses have been planning for winter all season: hardening off the wood from this year’s stems, and slowly ripening hips from the clusters of flowers they wore in May and June. If you’re not familiar with the species roses here’s the short explanation: these are the native wild roses from around the world. Unlike the hybrids often seen in gardens, they usually bloom all at once for a few weeks early in the season. Some of my favorites really put on a fall and winter show with their hips, and I’ve featured them in the video below:

What’s a gardener to do with all these rose hips?

If you’re like me, I just enjoy them as seasonal decor of the garden. The birds, rabbits and other small critters will snack on them as they soften. I only do minimal pruning and tidying in the rose field in the fall – small birds take refuge in the canes and brambles in large numbers. Sometimes, we’ll have a spell of hard winter weather and the snow and ice will cover the rose hips for a beautiful display.

If you’re a little more inclined to forage for yourself, you can collect the rose hips and use them for tea, syrup, jelly or even wine. They’re sweet and fragrant, with a flavor somewhat like an apple or quince – they’re also very high in vitamin C. Herbalist recommend them for heart health and arthritis – and they’re also supposed to be good for the common cold.

In my opinion, the best hips for harvest are the big, juicy hips of Rosa rugosa:

Some of the rose hips featured in the above video are definitely not for eating. The Scots rose, Rosa spinosissima and its relatives have attractive black or purple hips, but they’re rather dry and mealy inside:

One more rose I have to add a photo of is Rosa roxburghii, the chestnut rose. It’s a very large shrub (almost a tree), with finely divided leaves, and these large spiny hips that distinguish it from all other roses:

‘Complicata’ and ‘Veilchenblau’

I don’t have a very good excuse for pairing these two roses together: one’s a gallica, the other a rambler, one has huge flowers, and the other has tiny ones. However, they were both in bloom on the back fence of our farm at the same time, so let’s just call it a marriage of convenience. Here’s a quick video to see what these roses are all about:

Now the more in-depth description of each, for those who want a little more detail.

‘Complicata’ is a rose of unknown parentage, but is presumed to be a hybrid of Rosa gallica and Rosa canina. It’s and old rose, but not ancient – known to be around since around 1800, but not much before that. It can be used as a large mounding shrub, or trained up as a climber. Here’s a close-up of some of the flowers:

The individual flowers can be up to 4″ across, and are a luminous pink with white centers and prominent yellow stamens. In mid-spring, the shrub blooms all at once in large clusters.

Later in the season, when the flowers have faded, ‘Complicata’ is covered in large round hips. This is an adaptable shrub: it can be grown in full sun or part shade, and is extremely cold-hardy.

‘Veilchenblau’ is about the closest thing to blue that I’ve seen in a rose that doesn’t involve dye or genetic modification. Bred a little over 100 years ago from a multiflora rambler, this is one is a little space-hungry – to the point of voracious.

The buds and newly opening flowers are cerise in color, but soon fade through to the “violet blue” for which it is named (in German). ‘Veilchenblau’ is a once-bloomer, but the bloom period is so spectacular that it earns its this rambler a large place in the garden for the whole year. In addition, the long stems are thornless, making pruning and management a lot easier. Full sun or part shade will suit its needs.

For both of these roses, save your pruning until after flowering, then prune for both shape and size.

The Scots Rose

The earliest group of roses to bloom in my landscape are the Scots roses and their close relatives. For those who are not familiar with this group of roses, they deserve a formal introduction – but maybe skip the handshake on account of the thorniness.

The species rose that they are all related to is Rosa spinosissima. Native to the British isles, northern and western Europe, and western Asia, it’s picked up a few other names from the people who live around it. I know it as the Scots rose, Burnet rose, or the Scotch Briar rose. It’s noted for growing in sandy or rocky places, usually near water. It is very tolerant of drought, shade and cold winters – making it quite a useful rose in the landscape. The Scots rose flowers in white, with prominent yellow stamens for a period of around 3 weeks starting in May (here… maybe earlier in warmer climates).

The ornamental features of this rose doesn’t end with the flowers – that would be quite a let-down, given how early in the season it finishes blooming. The Scots rose also has finely divided leaves (up to 11 small leaflets on a leaf), which are also a deep green color and have toothed edges. The foliage makes for quite a fine textured shrub compared to most modern hybrid roses. The other really cool ornamental feature is the fruit, or hips. The fruit swells and ripens through green, red, brown, and finally to a striking black. The cut branches with black hips make for interesting winter decor.

As much as I appreciate the species roses itself, what I really find exciting is that breeders have been able to use the genetics of the Scots rose to hybridize these excellent landscape characteristics into shrubs with diverse flower forms. Here are some examples:

Above: ‘Suzanne’. Soft pink. I think in the video I called it an Erskine rose, but it’s actually Skinner.

Below: Austrian Copper – not a Scots rose, but a genetic relative with some similar characteristics.

Above: ‘Betty Will’

Below: ‘Prairie Peace’ I can’t stop taking pictures of this rose when it looks like this!

Altissimo revisited

‘Altissimo’ was flowering early this season – and that’s when I first wrote about this distinctive rose. The trick is that ‘Altissimo’ never stopped blooming. When selecting roses for the local farmer’s market, I had a hard time not bringing this rose every week. The individual flowers don’t last too long, but the rose reblooms so quickly and consistently, I always had one in bloom. Here it is in early September with fresh flowers still coming. This is in a 1 gallon pot – once established in the landscape, it’s even more floriferous. Feed it well, and clip off spent flowers regularly for best performance.

If you’re like me, you probably won’t be completely vigilant about deadheading, and ‘Altissimo’ will reward you with beautiful large orange hips. Altissimo rose hips

Rosa spinosissima

This tough little species rose has the honor of being the first species in my greenhouse this year to put in a full flush of flowers. Sure, there’s the odd rose that has thrown a flower bud or two, but the Scotch Briar beats them out by filling its branches with flowers and buds. Here it is:

This rose, like many others that have been cultivated for centuries in gardens, has accumulated a few names: Pimpernell Rose, Scots Rose, Burnet Rose amongst others. (See more on rose naming here)

As I grow more roses, I learn to appreciate them for their differences. Unlike the red, soft, fleshy new leaves of a Hybrid Tea, the Scotch Briar grows tiny dark green leaves with 7 to 9 leaflets with finely cut edges, giving it a very different texture in the garden. The stems are dark brown, and the hips, when they set, are a very attractive and distinctive flat black.

Low growing, disease resistant, and drought tolerant, the Scotch Briar is very much a landscaper’s shrub. No wonder its genes have been used in such garden classics as Stanwell Perpetual, and in the breeding of hardy roses like the ones bred by Agriculture Canada.

We offer this rose in 1 gallon pots for $10.



The simplicity of this rose makes me think that it’s close to a species rose, but nobody knows for sure. It’s classed as a gallica, maybe for lack of better information. While most near-species roses are nicest grown as a free standing shrub, I think you’ll find it rewarding to give ‘Complicata’ something to climb. You’ll find nicer pictures out there, but here’s one I snapped in the garden (aphids and all!):Rosa 'Complicata'

The blooms are dark pink at the edges, white nearer the center, with prominent yellow stamens. What you can’t see here is how large they are! The only other single I know to compete on bloom size is ‘Altissimo‘. The large size of the flowers, their simple form, wonderful scent, and the fact that it blooms in one main flush of flowers makes this a stunning shrub (or better, a climber) in early Summer.

‘Complicata’ can grow to 10 feet with some support, or to a lax shrub of 6 feet or so. It also sets hips after blooming, for fall/winter interest. We sell ‘Complicata’ for $10 in a 2 gallon pot.

Rosa glauca

One of the great things about this species rose is that it’s attractive for more than one feature. The rose goes by more than one species name, the other common one being Rosa rubrifolia. Sometimes the latin name will reveal something about the plant, and in these two names, there’s a bit of a contradiction: glauca means grey, and rubrifolia means red-leaved. Both are sort of right, and both are sort of wrong. The leaves are green, and yes, there’s a matte grey or blue tinge to them, but there’s also a red or purple tint in the veins and stems. Okay then… that makes the leaves greenish, bluish, greyish, purplish, reddish and then usually yellowish before they drop. That’s a lot of color!

Rosa glauca


The flowers are attractive, but small and simple. They have five petals, which are darker pink towards the edges and lighter towards the center, where they give way to the prominent yellow stamens. When the flowers are finished their early-season display, the plant goes to work on setting a large crop of red hips, which can decorate the plant well into the winter.

Depending on how and where you grow it, Rosa glauca can be a 4 foot shrub, or grow to as high as 10 feet. It will grow happily in part shade, and like most species roses, will accept less than perfect soil conditions. I sell it in a 1 gallon pot for $10.