Rugosa rose tolerates adversity without flinching. It's unbothered by salt, whether from road de-icing or sea spray or by winter cold as low as minus-50 degrees Fahrenheit. Just about the only thing that will kill this plant is weeds.
Throughout the growing season, this rose is bedecked with beautiful and fragrant carmine petals. Occasional bushes have white petals. The whole rugosa rose bush is quite attractive, forming a mound about 6 feet high and wide, with leaves that are bright green and crinkled. The stems are completely covered with prickles and bristles.
About this time of year, another ornament of this plant starts to peek out -- the hips, as the fruits are called. These cherry tomato-sized, orangish red, shiny hips festoon the plants even as flowering continues and hang on the bushes well into winter unless you harvest them.
Rose hips are edible, having a refreshing, brisk flavor even if they are seedy. Halve and spread them out to dry in the sun or a warm oven for later use in tea. Or simmer a cup of fresh hips in a cup-and-a-half of water and let the mix stand for 24 hours before straining for a tasty juice to add to fruit cobblers, fruit drinks and fruit soups. The juice and the dried hips not only are tasty, but also are nutritious with about 50 times the concentration of vitamin C as fresh oranges.
This rose is as unfazed by poor soil or summer heat as it is by salt or winter cold. It's native to the Far East, but now is naturalized along ocean coast where it thrives in almost pure sand. You will not find black spot, mildew or other maladies that afflict hybrid tea roses on rugosa roses.
Rugosa rose even gets on well year after year without pruning. Eventually, oldest stems lose vigor and plants become leggy. Then winter pruning of some of the oldest stems down to the ground induces new, vigorous shoots.
Although run-of-the-mill seedling plants are quite satisfactory, even with occasional white flowered ones, breeders have attempted further improvement. Belle Poitevine and Scabrosa are varieties with very large hips. Topaz has yellow flowers and Blanc de Coubert and F.J. Grootendorst have double flowers. Rugosa rose has also been hybridized with other rose species to produce such varieties as Sarah van Fleet, Sir Thomas Lipton and Mme. Georges Bruant.
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