Complete Guide to Growing Roses for the Kitchen

I adore roses. Not only do they give us the most glorious summer displays but they also supply us with nutritious rose hips in autumn. Rose hips (once de-seeded) can be used to make syrups, jams and jellies that are rich in vitamin C and make a great back to school tonic for the whole family.

Which Rose is Edible and Other Types of Rose?

Most varieties of rose are edible but the most versatile has to be to the ancient Rosa Rugosa. This shrub rose is very easy to grow, is winter hardy and produce large hips. The petals of the Rosa Rugosa are beautifully scented and can be used in herbal honeys, teas and beauty products as well as in cooking too.

Another favourite rose of mine is the wild rose Rosa Canina aka the Dog Rose. This will supply you with edible leaves, hips and petals as well as providing pretty flowers throughout summer. Some say that the hips from the Dog Rose are the tastiest.

Finally I should mention the damask rose (rosa x damascena). This old rose came to us from the Middle East where it was prized for its use in fragrant oils and rosewater. It has the most fragrant petals of all, intensified by the heat of the climate. However the damask rose can be a trickier plant for us to grow here in Ireland and the UK and the plant only blooms for a short period of time. I am tempted to give David Austen’s Ispahan or Marie Louise a go next year though just so I can harvest those fragrant petals.

Other types of roses include climbers, ramblers, standard, hybrid, English and floribunda.

How to Grow Roses

The two varieties of rose I will be planting this autumn will be Rosa Rugosa and Rosa Canina. Both of these shrub roses are perfect in hedges. They are very hardy so once planted wont need much help.

You will find a choice of bare-root roses or potted roses to purchase, depending on the time of year. Potted roses are available all year round while bare-root roses are available from November through to spring and are usually slightly cheaper and with an excellent root system. Bare root roses should be planted in late autumn or while the ground isn’t frozen. Potted roses can be planted anytime of the year as long as it isn’t too hot and dry or frozen.

How to plant a potted rose

Water your rose in its pot.

If your soil needs a boost, prepare the soil by digging in a little all-purpose compost. Dig a hole the size of the plant in it’s container and make sure that the graft union is covered over in soil. Loosen up the bottom of the hole to allow for strong roots.

Place a little well rotted manure into the hole and mix in with a spade. .

Some gardeners will recommend that you place mycorrhizal fungi grains in the hole as well. This helps establish the roots.

Place the rose plant into the prepped hole. Backfill the hole with soil and firm in the soil around the rose. Water well.

In spring a little more fertiliser can be applied alongside a mulch of rotted organic matter.

How to Plant a bare rooted rose

Rehydrate your root in some water for about half an hour.

Prepare your soil by digging it over with a little all-purpose compost. Dig the hole as above.

Dig a hole the size of the plant in it’s container making sure that the graft union is covered over in soil.

Loosen up the bottom of the hole to allow for strong roots.

Place a little well rotted manure into the hole and mix in with a spade. .

Sprinkle mycorrhizal fungi grains over the root. This helps establish the roots.

Place the rose root into the prepped hole. Make sure the entire root and a little of the stem is in the hole. Backfill with soil and firm in the soil around the rose. Water.

In spring a little more fertiliser can be applied alongside a mulch of rotted organic matter

For climbing roses make sure you point the roots away from the wall and the stem towards the wall.

Growing roses in containers

If you have limited space and want to plant a rose in a container, look for varieties suitable for this situation, as some roses will not flourish in smaller spaces. Patio and miniature types are best suited to containers. Use a well rotted manure mixed with a good compost in your pot and chose a deep pot to allow for happy roots.

Harvesting rosehips, petals and rose leaves

There are three main parts to harvest on a rose. Petals, rosehips and sometimes the leaf.

Rose Petals are best harvested once the flower has opened fully but before the flower has gone over. Only harvest scented leaves for the best herbal honey,

Rose Leaves are high in tannin, giving them a similar kick to black tea. Harvest only fresh, green leaves free from disease and use them in a infusion (LINK).

Rosehips will be ready in autumn to harvest. Simply pluck them off the plant once their red and plump. I advise to remove the hairy seeds as they can cause irritation. Rosehips can be used in vinegars, fruit leathers, tea, syrups, jellies…

Pruning Roses

Most roses will need pruning in late winter between February and March after the last frost, although miniature and shrub roses can be pruned in summer.

  • Put on gloves (essential!) and grab your pruners (with bypass blades for the best cut) and lopers and saw if you have a bigger rose bush.
  • Remove diseased or dead wood.
  • Remove weak growth
  • Remove crossing stems to create an open plant.
  • Cut at a horizontal and to an outward facing bud to avoid crossing and create a good shape.
  • Cut to a consistent height.

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