Like all good adventures, this one started at my desk, as I was reading through one of my favorite books in the world, The Complete Medicinal Herbal by Penelope Ody. The page on roses has long been one of my favorites, and upon remembering I’d seen some wild roses along the road here in rural Vermont I decided I’d love to try making my own rosewater. On a rainy Sunday, I slipped on my rain boots (sufficiently scuffed from my days in Southeast Alaska) and headed out with clippers in hand.
I brought my husband along and we scouted out several locations along a back road where there were walls of the plant on the side of a hill and began carefully clipping the buds and collecting petals that had already fallen in the area. It would have been easier had everything been dry (as it was when I took this first picture below the day before).
Here I am obsessing over the beauty of these fuchsia blooms. I’ve always been a plant-nerd (I used to be a trail guide and naturalist in AK). These blossoms are a deep magenta when they first start to bloom, and then after a day or so start fading to a softer pink. SO pretty!
I was soon caught up in the magic of the woods, the rain pattering on all of the large maple-like leaves, and the colorful petals like gems among all the green. I found one spot that was particularly enchanting with a moss covered log and brook rushing down the side of the hill. Little faeries frequent the area…I can just tell.
When I got home I laid them all out to dry a bit on some brown paper and this is when I began to notice that they didn’t have that heavenly scent I had anticipated…that intoxicating wild rose scent…just wasn’t there. Outside I was so caught up in the excitement of gathering them that I didn’t take much note of it. I did some searching online and found out that these are actually called Purple Flowering Raspberry (Rubus odoratus). Still of the family Rosaceae, but I was looking for more of a Rosa rugosa. I was of course a little disappointed, but figured, what the heck I’ve collected all these petals, why not see what I can make anyway!
The fact that I had on matching nail polish was complete coincidence by the way, I must really like this color.
I ended up with about 2 cups of loose petals (about 1 cup pressed) and put the kettle on. Once it was simmering, I poured two cups of hot water over the petals, covered, and let steep in the glass bowl for 30 minutes (once they start turning whitish they’re ready). I used a clean (retired) T-shirt under a regular strainer to create a super-fine strain.
I ended up with a gorgeous tonic / mist / thing… It doesn’t have much scent but wow is it pretty. I used a spray bottle from Evanhealy that I’d used up (unlike me they know their stuff when it comes to making an amazing face tonic!) and actually had enough to fill two bottles and about 1 extra cup to spare. I’m storing the spray bottles in the fridge and they make a lovely refreshing hydrosol even though they don’t smell like much. I’m sure like other roses they’re full of vitamins though and as the berries of this plant are edible I don’t see a problem with it. I wish I could find more info on Rubus odoratus…I wonder if it would be a healthy tea? I took a small sip…didn’t taste like much.
With the extra I decided to dye a piece of silk (I’ve been experimenting with hand cut/pressed silk flowers for my accessory line Violette & Iris) and have always wanted to try using natural plant dyes. This was the perfect chance! The piece of silk turned out a pretty light lavender color and I can’t wait to make a headpiece with it! This might have been the most useful part that came out of the whole day.
I fully enjoyed being in the presence of these flowers, working with their color and creating something spontaneously. I’m still on the lookout for actual wild roses. I hope you enjoyed this little adventure with me and if you’ve made your own tonics / hydrosols from wild botanicals I’d love to hear about it! xo – Naomi