Susan has written us this excellent blog post about this month's flower - the Rose.
Rose – Rosa species
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
William Shakespeare, from Romeo and Juliet
What comes to mind when you read or hear the word “rose”? Fragrance? The color pink? A single, five petaled variety that enables you to see the stamens? Or the voluptuous cabbage roses that have multitudes of petals so packed together that it is impossible to count them? Hybrid teas? Valentine’s Day? Your grandmother? Whatever that image or sensation, there is something you can recall. Who has gone through life and not encountered a rose in one form or another?
Roses are native to every temperate continent on earth. There are roughly 300 rose species and anywhere from 13,000-16,000 varieties, depending on the source. Every culture from antiquity to today has held roses in high esteem. They have been cultivated in some parts of the world for over 3000 years. Beloved and treasured for its beauty, fragrance and medicinal qualities, the rose began its worldwide spread from China. Traveling through Ancient Persia, India and Syria, it was introduced to Egypt, Greece and Rome. Roman soldiers brought rose plants with them to France and England. Cultivated roses were brought to North America by the first colonists.
Roses have symbolized beauty, youth, love, passion, purity, innocence, secrecy, war, and more. It is said that Cleopatra filled her pillows with rose petals and once created a carpet, 20 inches thick, of fragrant rose petals to greet her lover, Antony. The Romans hung wreaths and garlands of roses from the balconies at their games and feasts, showered their guests with petals and sprinkled them in their baths.
Associated with Harpocrates, the god of silence, the rose became an emblem for silence and secrecy. During Roman council meetings, a rose was hung above the meeting table, symbolizing confidentiality of all that was discussed. From this we get the term sub rosa, Latin for “under the rose”, and means “in secret” or confidential. (Write “sub rosa” on a letter next time you send it!) The classical ceiling rosette decoration is an extension of this tradition and is still used today, though its meaning has long been forgotten.
In India, rose petals were crushed and molded into beads, then strung to create prayer malas. Eastern Christian monks adapted this tradition in the third century, renaming them rosary beads. For instructions on making your own rose beads, contact me and I will email them to you. You can find instructions on the web, no doubt, as well.
Roses were distilled and used as a base for perfumes. Today, attar (the essential oil of roses) is used in the majority of women’s perfumes. You can make your own Rose Water following this simple recipe:
Rose Water Recipe*
1 ½ cups bottled spring water
⅛ cup 100 proof vodka
1 ½ cups fresh, organically grown fragrant rose petals
1 quart glass jar
Place water, vodka and rose petals in clean glass jar. Cover and shake. Store in refrigerator for one week; shake daily. Strain out rose petals. Pour into an atomizer, perfume bottle or decanter. Apply with a cotton ball or spritz on. Store up to two weeks.
*based on recipe by Kate Carter Frederick, as appeared in the 1999 Simply Perfect Roses magazine published by Meredith Corporation, Des Moines, IA, USA.
Roses as Food
Rose hips (those of the Dog Rose being the best) are used to make jam, syrup, wine and tea. They can also be used in muffins and quick breads. Through the ages, rose petals have been a popular cuisine item, used in tea sandwiches and to flavor whipped cream and egg whites in desserts. Some contemporary recipes using roses can be found here
As previously stated, there are thousands of rose cultivators. Here are a few that are common to the English countryside, which is the flower theme for 12 Months in View.
Dog Rose, Rosa canina – Native to Europe and parts of the United States. It grows six feet and four feet wide (1.8 m x 1.2 m). White to pink flowers, up to 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter bloom in summer and are followed by clusters of bright red fruits, called hips. The hips of roses contain high doses of vitamin C. They were harvested from the countrysides during World War II. So valuable to the country were they, the dog rose became a patriotic symbol.
Field Rose, Rosa arvensis – A common hedgerow plant, this rose grows 12 ft x 8 ft (3-3.7 m x 2.4 m). Single white flowers, 1.5-2 inches (4-5 cm) in diameter bloom in July, followed by rounded hips loved by birds.
Sweet Briar or Eglantine Rose, Rosa rubiginosa or R. eglanteria – This is Shakespeare’s Eglantine rose. Growing 10-12 feet (3-3.5 m) tall, this species has scented foliage as well as fragrant flowers. The leaves have a strong apple-like fragrance. Showy hips in autumn attract birds.
"I'd rather have roses on my table than diamonds on my neck." -Emma Goldman
“The rose looks fair,
But fairer we it deem
For that sweet odour
That in it doth live.”
“Oh! No man knows
Through what wild centuries
Roves back the rose.”
- Walter de la Mare
“The roses are drooping with the fatigue of being so beautiful.” – Aude Kamlet
“There should be beds of Roses, banks of Roses, bowers of Roses, pillars of Roses, arches of Roses, fountains of Roses, baskets of Roses, vistas and alleys of the Rose. – Reverend Samuel Reynolds Hale, 19th Century Horticulturist
Create a journal page or a blog post about your recollections of roses. If you grow roses, list the varieties.