Specialist rose books often call hips “heps”. The word originally came from the Middle English “hepe”. Dialect names for wild rose hips are more extravagant and include “hedge-pedgies”, “nippernails”, “pixie pears” and “pig’s noses”.
Hips are a rich source of vitamin C and can be taken as a syrup or eaten. Connoisseurs claim that the Rugosa hips have the best flavour and are the least fiddly to prepare. Each one must be top and tailed, then cut in half to remove the seeds and irritating hairs. Then they are stewed, dried or pounded into a paste for freezing.
To get good rose hips, don’t deadhead or the plants can’t produce seeds. Also, prune only once, in late winter or early spring, to the desired shape or simply remove some of the oldest branches. Leaving well alone will pay the best dividends.
To propagate, cut off the hips when they’re fully coloured but before they shrivel. Bury them in trays of moist compost outdoors in the cold. Frost is essential for germination, which is why a hard winter can result in a forest of seedlings around roses that are left unpruned. In late winter, sort out the hips and squeeze their contents into a bowl of water, where they’ll either float or sink. Only the seeds that sink are fertile and worth planting and should be sown in pots in a cold frame.
Most wild roses are problem-free. Otherwise, keep a lookout for black spot and spray accordingly. Let birds pick off any aphids.
These can be grown in your own garden beds or in a greenhouse, with the latter option being better for those worried about cold temperature or poor weather.
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