Some of the best roses to grow for large decorative hips are species and old garden roses. Plants of Rosa rugosa are considered to be reliable producers of medium-large hips, in a color range of orange-red to deep bright red. They're extremely easy to grow and are almost completely free of insect problems or disease. In fact, it's best to leave these natural growers alone once established. They resent chemicals or heavy applications of fertilizers of any kind. A spring top-dressing of lean compost is generally sufficient to conserve moisture and maintain cooler temperatures in the root zone area, allowing these plants to grow lush and bloom-laden and to finish their growing season with plentiful and decorative autumn adornments.
Rose (Rosa 'Mont Blanc') is fully winter-hardy, displays lovely white and deliciously fragrant 4- to 5-inch double blooms and plump orange-red hips in autumn, and has the added distinction of being one of the few hip-producing roses that will bloom repeatedly in part shade. It's also one of the most useful rose plants in the mixed garden bed, due in part to the fact that it's fully covered with deep-green wrinkled leaves all the way down to the ground.
Hybrid Rose (Rosa 'Bonica') is a pink and fully double, cluster-flowered, hip-producing, and nicely rounded shrub rose that is winter hardy to zone four. This rose also carries a light, mild and pleasant scent.
Single-flowered Rose (Rosa 'Geranium') features large, orange-red to dark red bottle- or flask-shaped hips with small spines. This rose is taller, fully winter-hardy, and shade tolerant and it sports nearly thornless canes.
In addition to their ease of growing and beautiful blooms, hipped wild or near-wild hybrid roses provide an effective wildlife habitat. The hips provide a healthy and plentiful food source, and the plants' bushy habit and prickly thorns shelter valuable songbirds and their nests. More songbirds in the garden mean fewer bugs and bug-borne disease transmission that might otherwise pose a problem for the gardener.
Rose hips are rich in many vital nutrients, and can be used as a healthy dietary supplement, most notably as an extraordinary source of vitamin C, nearly 60 times the amount found in citrus fruits. Supplemental doses of vitamin C can help lessen the risk of contracting serious respiratory infections, and may even protect against the common cold. A once-daily cup of rose hip tea can also strengthen the vascular system and repair body tissue damage caused by extended illness or chronic overuse. In addition, an extract of rose hips can ease mild rheumatic pain and joint inflammation, and it nourishes the skin.
Bright and colorful, rose hips are a lovely addition to holiday decorations. Gather hips and use with moss, Baby's Breath, and magnolia or holly leaves to dress up a wreath, string them with pine cones as an evergreen garland, or add them to a simmering kettle of your favorite potpourri.
The best selection of plants that produce large hips can be found in catalogs and online sources that specialize in species and old garden roses. There are very few nurseries or garden centers that carry these types of plants.
Cross section view of developing rose hip; Frank Vincentz, Wikimedia Creative Commons
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