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Keeping it Hip & Rosy in the Autumn Garden

November 09, 2011
Wild Rose Hips Brightening a Duck Pond Thicket

Wild Rose Hips Brightening a Duck Pond Thicket

About a week ago I met with a new-to-me client. As we walked through her garden discussing what was what, she apologized (to me? to the plants) for having not cut all the rose hips off her rose bushes. Like so many novice gardeners out there, she was under the impression that rose hips were actually bad to leave on her rose bushes.

She was very pleased to learn that leaving her roses a little hippy for winter is actually a good thing!

Rose hips are the rose’s fruit. Even if you don’t choose to harvest the hips to make tea or sachets, they make for some lovely fall color on your plants. True, some roses don’t produce showy hips, but many do. So leaving them in place will help add interest to your garden as the plant puts less energy into producing blossoms come autumn.

And, while removing spent flowers during spring and early summer is just fine, removing the fruit that follows those flowers later in the season can actually be detrimental to your roses. The formation of fruits and ripening of them as the flower season wanes helps the plant prepare for dormancy. As the fruits ripen, the plant spends more energy on them than on additional flowers. Sure, more late flowers sound like a treat for the eyes and nose, but if they get hit by cold temps, the plant may suffer significantly. But, if a rose hip gets hit with frost, the plant should be just fine. Those hips are made to protect!

So, keep your rose garden hip for winter. Leave those colorful, little pretties intact to savor the beauty of the rose far into fall. And, when they’re fully ripe, pluck a few for a blast of homegrown vitamin C! Don’t worry, removing a few that are fully ripe won’t harm the plant. By spring, the plant would have let them go anyway to spread the seed stored in those lovely little pods.

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