In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
October, 2001
Regional Report

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Luscious rugosa rose hips make great jelly and jam

Rugosa rose hips are at their prime

Fall and winter fruits are magnificent right now, inspiring me to plant even more next year. I?m not referring to the typical apples or pears, but to more unusual fruits like rose hips.

Some of the beauties this time of year, even though a little bittersweet, are the bright red and orange rose hips that remind us of the long-gone glory of roses. The largest hips are on the rugosa roses, and mine are filled with huge red-orange globes that are now softened somewhat by frost.

Not only do these provide striking color throughout the fall, but they are also delicious in tea and jelly. I have quite a few rugosas planted in my yard, so I usually leave the most prominent ones to enjoy the color and harvest those in the back so I can make rose hip jelly.

With the multitude of choices available in rugosa roses, there is a color and size available for every landscape need. These hardy shrub roses are resistant to black spot, the plague of hybrid tea roses, they sweetly perfume the air, frequently bloom all summer and don't require winter protection. The flowers range from white and yellow to pink and red and come in single (one layer of petals) or double forms (many layers of petals). An added bonus is rich autumn color, usually shades of orange, red and yellow.

Rugosa roses' best feature, especially in my garden, is their low maintenance requirement. They need only occasional pruning, usually once a year. Since one of their attributes is an attractive shrubby form, I treat them as a shrub rather than as a rose. All they need is for the older stems to be cut at the ground and the remaining stems trimmed so that the plant has a pleasing shape.

Another superb reason to use rugosa roses is their winter hardiness. They grow from their own roots instead of being grafted and are hardy to much lower temperatures. They do not need the elaborate protection of mounding soil and mulch around a graft. Hybrid teas are usually tender cultivars grafted onto hardy rootstock. If a hybrid tea rose dies to the ground in a severe winter, the shoots that start from below the graft are from the rootstock, often an undesirable rose such as multiflora. If a rugosa rose dies back to the ground in a particularly bad winter, the shoots that appear at ground level will be identical to the ones lost.

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