Here are a few traditional recipes for edible roses plus an unlikely organic gardening tip.
Almost every original homestead in the Midwest — sooner or later — had at least one rose bush somewhere near the back door. Sure, roses are pretty to look at and the real old-fashioned variety (unlike many of the current hybrids) are unbelievably fragrant . . . but your grandmother grew them for other reasons too: She made rose water and sachets from their petals and she even cooked with them. That's right . . . COOKED with them.
See the edible rose recipes at the top of this article.
This organic gardening tip can change your saddest rose bushes into the showpiece of the homestead.
My beautiful New Dawn rose (Inter-State Nurseries, Hamburg, Iowa) spent the first three miserable years of its life just trying to stay alive because — if I had tried to make every mistake in the book — I could not possibly have been more successful. I not only planted the newly arrived rose in the shade of some large hackberry trees but — being pressed for time — I just dug a hole in the ground, stuck the rose in, watered it and hoped for the best.
The plant grew very little and put out only a sickly looking pale pink bloom or two each spring to remind me that it was still there in the tangle of honeysuckle which eventually surrounded it and almost choked the poor thing to death.
Then one year in early spring, having a little more time than usual, I decided to transplant the New Dawn rose to the other side of the fence where it would receive more sunshine. And this time, having learned more about such things, I carefully prepared the ground by digging a hole as big as a bushel basket two feet deep and filling the first foot back with well decomposed cow manure and the last foot with compost mixed with peat moss and sand.
At the time, I had on hand a pint jar of iron cuttings which my husband had saved for me (these can usually be obtained from a machine shop) and — remembering what he had told me about his father intensifying the color of roses with iron filing — I thought I would just give this a try . . . Accordingly, I thoroughly mixed in the filings with the soil, compost, peat and sand.
Then I dug up my sad looking, weak little rose plant and transferred it to its new location. It's just a "nothing" rose I thought . . . probably will die . . . but what have I got to lose? It certainly wasn't producing anything where it was so I figured the chance was worth taking.
I watered the plant well and continued to do so until it was established and new growth was evident. That new growth came on surprisingly fast but I wasn't really impressed until the first buds began to show in late spring. They were amazingly pink — a deep shell pink — and of exquisite texture. Their fragrance was almost unbelievable.
That was just the beginning of a new life for the climbing rose. In the years that have followed New Dawn has grown so riotously that I've had to cut it back many times. And it has truly lived up to its catalog description, "Blooms constantly from late spring to frost." It does exactly that. As of now it is simply covered with buds and full blown roses; it will bloom only somewhat less during the summer months; and in the fall there will be another tremendous show of blossoms.
Soon now, after the first profusion of blooms are gone, my New Dawn will start to send out long canes. These I will bed down, secure with a peg or flat stone and cover with soil — leaving the tip of the cane sticking out of the ground.
As young shoots grow from this layered stock I'll continue to add more fine soil, mixed with compost, around the base of the shoots. This I'll keep doing until late summer by which time the base of each lateral cane will be covered with 6 inches or more of soil. In the late fall I'll cut the new stock away from the parent plant and remove it to whatever location I have decided upon.
This is an easy way of producing new plants because layers, in a sense, are cuttings which are rooted before they are removed from the parent plants. They are easier to re-establish than cuttings which are not so rooted. They also have an advantage over grafted plants for there is no danger of suckers growing from the understock and spoiling the named kind; if suckers do appear they are from the named kind and may be left. In fact such suckers may be welcomed as additional plants for you never have too much of a good thing — if it is a fine rose.
I have layer-started many roses including Blaze, scarlet-crimson, Paul's Scarlet, New Dawn and the delightful old-fashioned rose, Seven Sisters, which grows in clusters of tiny pink buds and blossoms. This last rambles all over the place and often layers itself . . . actually rewarding me for being a somewhat untidy gardener and letting it have its own sweet way.
I like this for it is nice to have extras of Seven Sisters to give to welcome friends who stop by to talk "gardening" with me. And people love it for this rose is not easy to find any more. My start was brought to me by a neighbor who is a carpenter. He found it growing in the country by the fence of an old abandoned ranch house which he had been employed to remove. Perhaps it was the pride and joy of a pioneer housewife who brought it from her home in a covered wagon to plant in the newly opened land called "Indian Territory." At least I like to think so.
While I love all my roses I am especially partial to the climbers because of their generous blooms. One year my climbers supplied all the roses for the Mother's Day decorations at the church and schools and churches often ask me for decorative bouquets. Cutting never bothers the climbers; they just send out more shoots and seemingly grow bigger and stronger.
To conserve moisture I keep all my roses heavily mulched with grass clippings and old hay during the summer months. This is probably another reason that they bloom so luxuriantly.
I am absolutely convinced that growing roses is easy — even in our hot, dry Oklahoma climate — if careful preparation is made and a good feeding and mulching program faithfully followed during the growing season. I'm also convinced that iron filings should be included in that feed and, each fall, I now regularly dig in a few filings around the main stems of my roses. The bits of metal are thoroughly pulverized and mixed a foot or so into the soil, the mulch is replaced and the roses are "bedded down" for the winter.
The time it takes to pursue this simple plan is very small and the rewards — blossoms, rose petal jam, candied rose petals, rose water and sachets — are great.
Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!LEARN MORE
At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).
You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.