And the winner of the first rose to bloom this year award is….Hansa! This beautiful rugosa is an all year blessing to the garden: in spring it blooms profusely sporting pinkish purple flowers with a mixture of old rose and clove fragrance. Once the bloom fades, big round rose hips form. In the fall the foliage turns coppery orange and in the winter the ripe bright orange rose hips are quite striking against the snow.
Hansa is a cold weather rose, hardy to zone 3. It tends to dislike hot weather and does better in the northern regions, where it is extremely disease resistant. It is not a patented rose and you can get an entire flower bed worth of it over one winter. I started a cutting last fall and it rooted immediately. I couldn’t make an accurate assessment on the success rate for starting this rose from cuttings, but of all the roses I tried this was the one that seemed to root effortlessly. For additional information about how to start roses from cuttings, see the “Take Rose Cuttings” article.
Like all rugosas it has a wide and kind of unruly growth habit perfect for filling an empty spot at the back of a sunny border. It grows 5 to 7 feet tall, so make sure to plant it in a location where that would be a feature.
As you probably know, roses are cousins with apples, plums and raspberries, and definitely edible. The rose hips are a rich source of vitamin C and have a pleasant tart tangy flavor, reminiscent of cranberries. They can not be eaten raw, because the rose seeds are imbedded in a thick mat of itchy fiberglass like filaments, but the fruit can be boiled and strained and used in syrups, jellies and teas. The strained fruit pulp and juice mixed with honey makes for a delicious breakfast treat.
The coloring of rose hip jam (bright jewel red or orange) and its tartness makes it a prime ingredient for dessert baking. It is particularly decorative in pastries with many thin layers or as a healthy and natural coloring for frosting. Here is the recipe:
Rose Hip Jam
– 1 lb of prepared rose hips
– 1 cup of water
– 3 1/2 cups of sugar
Prepare the rose hips by cutting them across and scooping out the seeds and filaments. Wash them well and set them to simmer with one cup of water for at least 20 minutes, until they are very soft. Press the mixture through a very thick sieve and/or a cheesecloth.
Add about 3 1/2 cups of sugar to 1 lb of rose hip pulp and simmer as you would any jam to obtain the proper consistency ( the jam needs to thicken until a droplet dropped on a cold plate keeps its shape).
Let it cool down, pour into sterilized jars and enjoy.