In the Garden:
Mid-Atlantic
November, 2000
Regional Report

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Rose hips are pretty enough for a seasonal bouquet.

Red Ripe Rose Hips

These short and gray days of late fall are the time to give some of our spring-blooming trees and shrubs a second look. Some plants surprise us with their "off-season" performance. For instance, while we normally treasure roses for their spring and summer blooms, they also produce fabulous fruits for a welcome splash of late-season color.

Colorful Rose Hips

On roses, the fruits are called hips. The hip is what's left on the plant once the flower fades and the petals fall off. Rose hips are usually red or orange, contrasting brightly against the foliage and standing out among the bare twigs once the foliage drops. Some are particularly colorful and decorative, attractive enough to find a place in seasonal flower arrangements.

All about Hips

Depending on the variety, some rose hips glisten like tiny, shiny beads while others may be about the size of a grape or larger. Among the rugosa group of roses, the fruits are large enough to remind me of their botanical cousin, the apple. This explains why, if you cut open a rose hip, you will find seeds that look suspiciously like apple seeds. And a bit like Johnny Appleseed, birds spread rose seeds after eating the hips, which may explain the occasional rose popping up uninvited in your flower bed.

Edible Hips

Although a bit seedy, rose hips are edible. They are rich in vitamin C and can be dried to enjoy later in winter in rose hip tea. Rose hip jelly is another time-honored culinary use for these fruits, but if you should be tempted, make sure to keep the sugar bowl handy - hips can be a bit tart. Also, a word of caution: use only rose hips from plants that have not been sprayed with pesticides.

Although I do like eating them, I usually leave the rose hips in the garden, where I admire their cheery display for months until the local birds make them slowly disappear.


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