Favourite Herbs: Roses

Roses

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Rosa spp.

Perennial of variable hardiness

Height and spread vary widely, depending on species.

Shrub, featuring fragrant blossoms on graceful green stems with dark-green leaves.

Try these!

Species roses (Rosa rugosa) are best for crops of rosehips, because they produce lots of edible pulp. Old garden roses or antique roses (Rosa alba, Rosa damascena, Rosa gallica) are known for their beautiful, fragrant flowers. Please see Lois Hole’s Rose Favorites for specific variety recommendations.

Planting

Plant large, well-rooted, container-grown roses from the garden centre.

How much: One plant of each type you enjoy.

When: Anytime during the growing season—from early spring to just before freeze-up.

Where: Full sun. Demands rich, well-drained soil. Space variable, depending on variety.

Care and Nurture

Roses are easy to grow! Try this basic advice: water once a week, fertilize once a month, prune once a year, and deadhead once in a while. Roses need more water than most plants. As a rule of thumb, give each rose 5 L of water per week for every 30 cm of height. Water only around the plant bases to reduce the incidence of powdery mildew and moisture loss through evaporation. Cut off damaged or diseased branches whenever you spot them. Fertilize once a month with 28-14-14 rose food. Use a fertilizer with chelated iron added to avoid veiny leaves. Ensure that the plants are well watered before freeze-up. For detailed care and nurture instructions, see Lois Hole's Rose Favorites.

Harvesting

For a lovely blend of flavours, pull a few petals from several different types of roses and combine. The darkest petals are said to be most flavourful.

For best flavour: Harvest mid-morning, after the dew has evaporated and before the day gets too hot.

Leaves: Not harvested.

Flowers: Just as the flowers open fully, well before they start to fade. Cut stem ten to twelve centimetres from base of flower; remove stem and greenery when you’re ready to use the petals.

Hips: Pick when they are red and plump, but not soft and overripe. Pull cleanly from the plant.

Preserving the Harvest

Petals should be used fresh. Wash the petals and remove the green or white heel at the base of each one. The petals may be preserved in butter, syrup, vinegar or crystallized. Prepare hips quickly after harvesting by slicing off the stem and blossom ends, cutting the hips in half, and scooping out the fibres and seeds with a spoon. The halves can be eaten fresh or dried on a screen in a shady, well-ventilated room.

Tips

  • I like to plant several varieties that bloom at different time of the season, so I have a continuous supply of flower petals.

To Note:

  • There are more than 10,000 varieties of rose. Three types of scents are recognized: old rose, tea rose, and myrrh. The Rosa centifolia varieties of roses have less scent than the Rosa gallica group. The best of all the roses for scent is the old cabbage rose.
  • Fossil records indicate that roses have existed for much longer than man—40,000,000 years! Roses were first cultivated in northern Persia. Cultivation then spread to Greece, and from there to Italy.
  • The word Rosa comes from the Greek word rodon, meaning red.
  • Cultivated roses to be used in perfumes are grown mostly in Bulgaria, Persia, and India.
  • The juice of the burnet rose has been used as a dye to colour muslin and silk a peach colour. When mixed with alum, it gives a violet colour.
  • It was once a custom to hang a rose over the dinner table to signify that all discussions were to remain confidential.
  • The national flower of Britain, the rose is a common insignia used in heraldry and in the Order of the Garter, the Order of the Bath, and many other Orders.
  • During World War II, soldiers and children alike ate rosehips for their high vitamin C content.
  • Shakespeare and his contemporaries ate rose petals in everything from teas to jellies.
  • The dog rose was probably named dagwood from the many thorns, or daggers, it produces. Another theory holds that the name comes from the plants supposed ability to cure rabies or mad-dog bites.
  • The ancients describe roses as having a deep crimson colour, which may be the origin of the fable that the colour came from the blood of Adonis.
  • Rose oil is very expensive. It is sometimes adulterated with palmarosa, or rose geranium oil. Oil of rose is light. The oil congeals at a temperature between 17 to 21° C.
  • In the late 16th and early 17th century, the oil Attar of Roses was discovered. There are records of Attar of Roses being imported and sold at great cost in 1694. It was an important perfume in those times. Rose cultivation in the Grasse area produces rosewater and French Attar. It takes the distillation of 10,000 pounds of roses to obtain 1 pound of oil.