7. Dog rose (Rosa canina)
Photo courtesy of Saxifraga. Photographer: Jan van de Straaten http://www.freenatureimages.eu
For our last edible shrub for improving urban biodiversity, we invite you to stop and smell the roses – the dog rose (Rosa canina) to be precise. A native rose prized for its flowers and rose hip fruit, this scrambling shrub is bound to win your heart. Found in the wild in hedgerows and woodland edges, the dog rose looks – and smells – stunning during summer with its elegant pink and white flowers. A vigorous grower, the dog rose will happily claim its space, if you let it, climbing up to 4 metres high. Its long overhanging branches create a striking, arched form. Canina stems from Canis,the Latin word for dog as it was believed that the roots of a dog rose could heal a bite from a rabid dog.
Take the time to savour the beauty of a dog rose in full bloom. This abundance of flowers, which are rich in nectar and pollen, makes the dog rose a favourite food source for bumblebees, wild bees and honeybees. Furthermore, the rose petals are an exquisite culinary ingredient. They make spectacular decoration on top of a cake and impart a floral hint to honey, vinegar, wine, jam, jelly and candy. Why not try making your own rosewater and rose syrup with your blooms too?
Another reason you’ll love the dog rose are its rose hips. Covered with oval red/orange hips which appear after the flowers, the branches make an attractive floral decoration – though remember to leave some for the birds. When the rose hips ripen in autumn, birds such as redwings and fieldfares will be feasting in your garden. Plus, the thorny branches provide them a safe haven from (urban) predators. Rose hips are a superfood packed with vitamin C. While they’re a wonderful ingredient, removing the seeds (which can be an irritant) takes some dedication. Your hard work will pay off once you’ve taste your delicious jam, jelly and syrup. Both the dried petals and rose hips make excellent tea.
Able to tolerate air pollution, strong (sea) winds, and rough handling, the dog rose is a tough cookie that thrives in urban conditions. In the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty/ Little Briar Rose, the princess falls into a 100-year-long sleep after being pricked with a needle. The castle becomes covered with thorny roses – can you imagine the city overgrown with these exquisite blooms? Now that’s good reason for everyone to stop and smell the roses.
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our seven edible shrubs for improving urban biodiversity and hope it has inspired you to create more urban nature in your city!