The beautiful, pale pink to white blossoms of the Dog rose (Rosa canina) or Feirdhris in Irish which brightened up the hedgerows in June have now turned to scarlet rose hips which are very noticeable. (1a;1b) These are rich in Vitamin C and were collected in England during the Second World War to make syrups for pregnant mothers and children to build up their immune systems. They are also used to make jams, wines, teas, soups and jellies.
The seeds inside the fruit are surrounded by hairs which gave rise to the name “itchy backs” because school children played practical jokes on one another by breaking open the rose hips and placing the seeds down each other’s backs. These were very irritating when they touched the skin. Finches will eat these seeds and birds such as blackbirds, thrushes and visiting waxwings will eat the hips. Field mice eat the flesh of the hips. (2)
Dog roses can be propagated by either a seed-sowing method called, stratification, or by taking hardwood cuttings. Both can take place from October onwards.
Stratification is a process whereby seeds are subjected to frost and rain outdoors to break their dormancy. If wild rose seeds are stratified in October, they won’t germinate for eighteen months.
To stratify the seeds remove them from the hips using gloves. (3) Place some drainage chippings in the bottom of a pot and cover with sand. Fill with an equal mixture of peat free compost and horticultural sand. Cover with sand. Aim to have a 3:1 ratio of mixture to seed.
Keep the pot outside until the spring following the next spring after stratifying. Remove the seeds then and sow them in small pots of compost.