Buy Into The Rose Hip Hype

Heritage rose hip (Photos by Josephine Borut)
Heritage rose hip
(Photos by Josephine Borut)

Due to the unusually warm November that we had on Long Island, many of us had roses in our gardens almost into December. But eventually our plants decided to call a halt to sending out blooms and began to offer us yet another dimension of botanical beauty in the garden—rose hips. Wildlife is attracted to our gardens, if we provide them food and shelter. One food we can offer songbirds and small mammals is the nutritious rose hip. Hips provide wildlife a good source of vitamin C and needed proteins throughout the fall and winter. Our additional reward is the enjoyment of wonderful roses throughout the growing season.

The bonus of the rose hips (carriers of the seeds for future propagation and breeding) is that they are also valuable for other purposes; they are utilized in crafts, foods and to enliven the winter landscape. Gardeners who have culinary skills often make their own jams and specialty herbal teas with rose hips. Frequently, rosarians intentionally resist the temptation to deadhead their roses in the fall (removing the spent flower heads as they wilt) in order to provide a natural food source for both migrating and resident birds as well as other animals.

Queen Elizabeth rose hip
Queen Elizabeth rose hip

Different varieties of roses produce hips that vary in shape (round, oval, pumpkin, flask, and bottle), size (from tiny to very large) and color (ranging from lemon yellow to violet-black). If you wish to grow roses that will produce beautiful hips, the old fashioned and species roses offer the greatest variety of hips. Many roses are good hip producers, however, some of the best hips are on the species roses, old garden roses and shrub roses. Species and other old garden roses are often single-petal flowers with fragrance; these roses intermingle well in any perennial border.

Rugosa and Hybrid Rugosa roses produce large numbers of flowers and therefore many rose hips which are large, tomato shaped hips with relatively thin skin. Since the birds are very fond of eating rose hips throughout the winter months, please remember not to use any chemicals on your roses but particularly on Rugosa roses because they do not tolerate spraying well and will blacken and die. The newer Knockout rose series also produce multitudinous flowers and hips though they are often quite diminutive in size.

Sally Holmes rose hip
Sally Holmes rose hip

Consider purchasing some of the following roses this spring to add rose hips to your winter wildlife garden. Here are some star hip-bearing performers of different shrub sizes that can fit into any garden: Schneezwerg, a hybrid Rugosa that is a pure white, disease resistant, very fragrant rose that grows to 3-feet and flowers continuously throughout the summer; Frau Dagmar Hartopp, a hybrid Rugosa that is light pink, fragrant, grows to 5-feet and flowers continuously; and Dortmund, a hybrid Kordesii that is a disease resistant, crimson with white throat rose that grows to 8-feet or more causing gardeners to train it as a climbing rose. It makes an impressive splash in the back of a border and is repeat blooming. Some others to consider which produce wonderful hips are: Rosa glauca, Rosa canina and Buck shrub roses such as Carefree Beauty or Carefree Delight both growing to 4-feet, but offering only slight fragrance.

Whether it is because you want to provide for birds and wildlife or just want some additional color to add winter interest in your garden, consider investing in roses that produce hips.

Josephine Borut is currently on the board of directors of the Long Island Horticultural Society and is a past board member of the Long Island Rose Society. She is a current member of The American Rose Society, The Herb Society and The Long Island Horticultural Society.

Josephine Borut
Josephine Borut

The Long Island Horticultural Society meets on Sunday afternoon, with doors opening at 1:30 p.m. at Planting Fields Arboretum in Oyster Bay. During January through March, the organization meets in the Hay Barn building. The next meeting is Feb. 21. The speaker is Rusty Schmidt, Landscape Ecologist at Nelson, Pope & Voorhis. His topic will be “Playing in the Rain within a Rain Garden.” For more information, go to

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