Most roses produce hips in autumn. From the wild dog roses of the hedgerow to the highly-developed Hybrid Teas in the garden, hips contain a rose's seed and their bright colours attract the birds to eat and distribute them. But some roses develop far more colourful hips, in larger numbers, that last much longer than others. The best of these are as colourful as their flowers.
Two species usually come to mind first, Rosa moyesii and R. rugosa. The rich, blood-red flowers of R. moyesii are followed by large red flagon-shaped hips, while the fragrant flowers of R. rugosa are followed by red hips like cherry tomatoes.
Hybrids and cultivars of these species are the best known and the most effective in gardens. R. ‘Geranium’ is a more compact hybrid of R. moyesii with bright red flowers and larger hips, while R. moyesii ‘Alba’ has blushed, white flowers and R. ‘Rubra’ has wine-red flowers.
R. ‘Blanche Double de Coubert’ is a R. rugosa hybrid with a long season of semi-double, white flowers which overlap with the red hips but beware of another R. rugosa hybrid, ‘Roseraie de l’Hay’ – it produces few hips.
Another that’s close to a wild species that I would especially pick out is R. macrophylla ‘Master Hugh’ whose orange-red hips are probably the largest of all and follow rich pink flowers.
Roses with exceptional hips are also found among the older shrub roses:
R. ‘Nymphenburg’ has large, orange-red hips following salmon-pink flowers.
R. spinosissima ‘Ormiston Roy’ has deepest maroon hips following yellow flowers.
R. ‘Penelope’ is a long-flowering Hybrid Musk with richly scented creamy-pink flowers and uniquely coral pink hips.
R. ‘Scharlachglut’ has huge numbers of pear-shaped red hips following scarlet flowers.
All these roses are suitable for most gardens, although some are definitely back-of-the-border plants. But if you have the space, the vigorous rambling rose R. filipes ‘Kiftsgate’, and the less overwhelming ‘Rambling Rector’, both have huge heads of small white flowers followed by cascades of small red hips.
Of course there’s one obvious thing that stands out about these roses – apart from their colourful hips: unlike most other roses, they should never be dead-headed. And if you forget dead-heading your other roses for a season, you may see fewer flowers but some varieties will reward you with a colourful show of autumn hips. Give it a try!
Planting companions for Roses
Roses: choosing the best
Illustration shows: Watercolour of Rosa 'Nymphenburg', Rosa moyesii, Rosa 'Penelope', Rosa filipes 'Kiftsgate', Rosa rugosa and Rosa 'Ormiston Roy' by Graham Stuart Thomas