2012 Herb of the Year – ROSE

The International Herb Association celebrates the Rose (Rosa species) as 2012 Herb of the Year!

Family: Rosaceae
Growth Form: Shrubs 2 to 30 feet (61 cm to 9 m)
Hardiness: Many routinely hardy to Zone 6
Light: Full sun
Water: Moist but not constantly wet
Soil: Well-drained garden loam
Propagation: Cuttings or grafts
Culinary use: Salads, desserts, tea
Craft use: Potpourri, sachets, topiary form
Landscape use: Shrubbery or rear of herb border

Rose Culture: Roses perform best in a garden location that provides full sun and good air circulation to help reduce disease and insects. Most roses do best in deep, fertile, moist but well-drained soils with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5. The choice of species or cultivar (as well as your climate) will dictate spacing between plantings. If rooting of the scion is desired, plant the bud union about 2 to 3 inches (5 to 8 cm) below the soil level; otherwise, be sure that the bud union sets above the soil level. Some gardeners prefer fall-planting, but in Zone 7 and north, some winters will be so cold that the fall-planted roses will not survive.

Do not fertilize newly planted roses; wait four to six weeks for the plants to become established. Roses are heavy feeders and require yearly feedings of about a cupful of 5-10-5 fertilizer per established rose bush sprinkled in a circle around the base, supplemented with monthly feedings of fish emulsion, manure tea, or other organic sources of nutrients for maximum growth. Robust roses may require additional fertilizer and is best to consult with your local nursery. Do not expect typical blossoms of a species or cultivar until the second year after planting. The blooms of the first year are smaller and sparser than are typical.

DIY Projects with Roses:

Rose Potpourri – First, collect petals from roses as the flower reaches fully open maturity, but before it turns brown. Air dry them until crisp on a screen, cookie sheet or any flat surface. Red roses, when dried, turn a rich burgundy color and look lovely in a ginger jar, candy dish or antique canister. For each quart of petals you collect, add 1 tablespoon fixative such as dry lavender, oak moss, sandalwood or orris root (available at many craft stores).


Next, add your favorite complementary spice. Cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, dried citrus peel and vanilla beans all make excellent choices. Last, add a few drops of essential oil or your favorite perfume. Seal the potpourri mixture in a jar (out of direct sunlight) and allow it to mellow for approximately 2 weeks. Shake the jar  every couple of days.

To use, add the potpourri to the stuffing of pillows or hang it in pomanders in your closet. Small sachets can be used in any drawer or as thoughtful gifts for friends and loved ones. An easy way to make a rose potpourri sachet is to place a small handful of the fragrant mixture in a vintage lace or linen handkerchief or other delicate fabric and tie the four corners with a satin bow or ribbon.

Topiary Forms: Dried rosebuds may be ‘glued’ to a variety of topiary forms for a fragrant and pleasing home decoration! Or, long-stemmed roses may be simply arranged and wrapped with pretty ribbon to form a topiary arrangement. Place in oasis and water to prolong life.

Culinary Use of Roses: The ‘flavor’ of roses  (Rosa rugosa or R. gallica officinalis) depend on type, color and soil conditions. Flavors reminiscent of strawberries and green apples, sweet, with subtle undertones ranging from fruit to mint to spice. All roses are edible, with the flavor being more pronounced in the darker varieties. Miniature varieties can garnish ice cream and desserts, or larger petals can be sprinkled on desserts or salads. Freeze petals in ice cubes and float them in punches also. Petals may be used in syrups, jellies, perfumed butters and sweet spreads. NOTE: Be sure to remove the bitter white portion of the petals and use organic, pesticide-free roses ONLY! 


1/2 to 1 cup chopped fresh or dried petals
1 pound sweet unsalted butter, room temperature

Finely chop flower petals and mix into softened butter. Allow the mixture to stand at room temperature overnight to allow the flavors to fuse. Chill for a couple of weeks or freeze for several months.


Makes 2 dozen petals. Candied flower petals were a favorite treat in Victorian times.  This easy-to-make confection can decorate cakes, petit fours and candied fruits.

 24 small, colorful, well-formed rose petals

2 egg whites, slightly beaten

1 cup superfine sugar

Brush both sides of the petals with a thin coating of egg white.  Sprinkle both sides lightly with superfine sugar and place on a tray sprinkled with additional sugar.  Sift a bit more sugar over the top to lightly cover any bare spots. Allow to set overnight a room temperature and use within a few days.


Flavored sugars are very easy to make, taste great and add a surprising note to just about anything you’d sprinkle sugar on. They can be mixed in a few minutes, will keep for ages and really transform plain Jane meals into a memorable experience! Flavored sugars also make easy, thoughtful gifts.

For best results, keep sugar mixes in airtight containers, so you don’t lose the aromatics to the outside air. A few ideas: rose petal, lavender buds, vanilla (pod), citrus zest (microplaned), orange cinnamon.

1 lemon, lime, or orange zest, flowers to taste

1 cup of sugar (Ilike to use raw, organic)

Bury/mix the flower/spice/zest into a cup of sugar. Store the sugar in a sealed container for 2 weeks, shake/mix occasionally, and then use for ages.

Sweet dreams of rose gardens…

6 thoughts on “2012 Herb of the Year – ROSE

  1. I’m so glad you post a blog about rosa rugosa. It took me years to find some plants to buy. I first fell in love with them when I found a Tasha Tudor print of her painting of them. I did end up buying the print. Next time I saw them was at the LL Bean store in Freeport, Maine. Mine are doing wonderfully and I’ve started many more plants from them. They smell so good!!!!! Thanks for all the tips on using the pedals.

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