The Fantastic History of Roses

Sep 3 16:56 2006 Anthony Finney Print This Article

Great read on the history of roses and what they mean.Things you never knew about roses.

Have you ever wondered if what you know about rose is accurate?Consider the following paragraphs and compare what you know to the latest info on roses.

"It was roses,Guest Posting roses all; the way". - Robert Browning"What's in a name? That which we call a rose; By any other name wouldsmell as sweet." - William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act 2 scene 2

Roses have a long and colorful history. According to fossil evidence,the rose is 35 million years old. Today, there are over 30,000varieties of roses and it has the most complicated family tree of anyknown flower species.

The cultivation of roses most likely began in Asia around 5000 yearsago. They have been part of the human experience ever since andmentions of the flower are woven into a great many tales from theancient world.

And there are so many beautiful stories that include roses through outthe ages that we all can recognize.

Greek mythology tells us that it was Aphrodite who gave the rose itsname, but it was the goddess of flowers, Chlloris, who created it. Oneday while Chlloris was cleaning in the forest she found the lifelessbody of a beautiful nymph. To right this wrong Chlloris enlisted thehelp of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, who gave her beauty; thencalled upon Dionysus, the god of wine, who added nectar to give her asweet scent. When it was their turn the three Graces gave Chlorischarm, brightness and joy. Then Zephyr, the West Wind, blew away theclouds so that Apollo, the sun god, could shine and make the flowerbloom. And so the Rose was.

In another story, an ancient Hindu legend, Brahma (the creator of theworld) and Vishnu (the protector of the world) argued over whetherthe lotus was more beautiful than the rose. Vishnu backed the rose,while Brahma supported the lotus. But Brahma had never seen a rosebefore and when he did he immediately recanted. As a reward Brahmacreated a bride for Vishnu and called her Lakshmi she was createdfrom 108 large and 1008 small rose petals.

Several thousands of years later, on the other side of the world inCrete , there are Frescoes which date to c. 1700BC illustrating a rosewith five-pedaled pink blooms. Discoveries of tombs in Egypt haverevealed wreaths made with flowers, with roses among them. The wreathin the tomb of Hawara (discovered by the English archaeologist WilliamFlinders Petrie) dates to about AD 170, and represents the oldestpreserved record of a rose species still living.

Roses later became synonymous with the worst excesses of the RomanEmpire when the peasants were reduced to growing roses instead offood crops in order to satisfy the demands of their rulers. Theemperors filed their swimming baths and fountains with rose-water andsat on carpets of rose petals for their feasts and orgies. Roses wereused as confeti at celebrations, for medicinal purposes, and as asource of perfume. Helliogabalus used to enjoy showering his guestswith rose petals which tumbled down from the ceiling during thefestivities.

During the fifteenth century, the factions fighting to control Englandused the rose as a symbol. The white rose represented York , and thered rose symbolized Lancaster . Not surprisingly, the conflictbetween these factions became known as the War of the Roses.

In the seventeenth century roses were in such high demand that rosesand rose water were considered as legal tender. In this capacity theywere used as barter in the markets as well as for any payments thecommon people had to make to royalty. Napoleon's wife Josephine lovedroses so much she established an extensive collection at Chateau deMalmaison, an estate seven miles west of Paris . This garden of morethan 250 rose varieties became the setting for Piere Joseph Redoute'swork as a botanical illustrator and it was here Redoute completed hiswatercolor collection "Les Rose," which is still considered one of thefinest records of botanical illustration.

Cultivated roses weren't introduced into Europe until the lateeighteenth century. These introductions came from China and wererepeat bloomers, making them of great interest to hybridizers who nolonger had to wait once a year for their roses to bloom.

From this introduction, experts today tend to divide all roses intotwo groups. There are "old roses" (those cultivated in Europe before1800) and "modern roses" (those which began to be cultivated inEngland and France around the turn of the 19th century).

Until the beginning of the 19th century, all roses in Europe wereshades of pink or white. Our romantic symbol of the red rose firstcame from China around 1800. Unusual green roses arrived a few decadeslater.

Bright yellow roses entered the pallete around 1900. It was theFrenchman Joseph Permet-Ducher who is credited with the discovery.After more than 20 years of breeding roses in a search for a hardyyellow variety, he luck changed when one day he simply stumbled acrossa mutant yellow flower in a field. We have had yellow and orange rosesever since

The rose is a phenomenal plant and is rightly known as 'the world'sfavorite flower'. No other flower has ever experienced the samepopularity that the rose has enjoyed in the last fifth years. Intemperate climates, roses are more widely grown than any otherornamental plant, and as cut flowers they are forever in fashion.

It has been estimated that 150 million plants are purchased bygardeners worldwide every year, and sophisticated breeding programshave produced a plant that dominates the world's cut flower market;the annual crop is calculated in tons. Roses have also made atremendous contribution to the perfume industry.

Roses boast an ancient lineage, and they are intricately entwined inour history and culture. As a motif, the rose has been and still isdepicted in many national emblems. It has been adopted by countlesspolitical factions, and even by businesses and several internationalevents. It is no wonder so many of the beautiful rose varietals aregreatly appreciated and cultivated by hobby gardeners around theworld.

Of course, it's impossible to put everything about rose into just onearticle. But you can't deny that you've just added to yourunderstanding about rose, and that's time well spent.

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Anthony Finney
Anthony Finney

Anthony Finney- Master Gardener Everything you want and need to know about gardening.

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