Romance of the Rose

By Diane Brueckman

(This article first appeared in The Gateway Gardener January/February 2007 issue)
A picture of a pink tea rose

Pink Tea Rose

The rose has fascinated mankind since the beginning of recorded time. In the beginning the rose was grown for food and medicine but soon found its way into all aspects of life. Three thousand years ago the Greek poet Sappho in her  Ode to the Rose referred to the rose as the “Queen of Flowers.” Today, the highest honor in a rose show is to win Queen of the Show. The Greeks and Romans showered rose petals on their guests at their feasts.

Roses became a symbol of secrecy to the Romans. When early citizens were having clandestine meetings, they would place a bouquet of roses over the door, hence the term sub rosa, meaning “confidentially. The rose was the flower of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. She is said to have embalmed the Trojan hero Hector, who was slain by Achilles, with rose oil.

There is even a Roman myth to explain why there are no blue roses. Flora, the goddess of flowers, is said to have asked the gods to create the perfect flower, one that all the other flowers would try to emulate. One condition was that there was to be no blue rose because at the time of the Romans, blue symbolized death.

By the Middle Ages roses were a symbol of all that was good. They were prominently used in religious paintings, women’s clothing and architecture. Knights presented their Ladies with a rose before going into battle as a symbol of their love, and royalty often used the rose in coats of arms, especially in England.

Today florist roses come in a wide range of colors (see sidebar), including some bi-color roses. Fragrance has also been reintroduced into some of the florist roses. At one time florist roses were strictly bred for long vase life. As in garden roses, the fragrance gene was illusive and seemed to work against the longevity gene. Now, by popular demand, the breeders are working to get both longevity and fragrance. Unfortunately, red roses do not have fragrance yet but some of the other colors do, so ask your florist.

Please check your local florist before ordering from the direct ship places at Port-of-Entry. Local florists get their flowers from major wholesalers, who follow a cold chain management program. What that means is the roses may take longer to get to St Louis from the Port-of Entry, but they are not subjected to the ups and downs of temperature. The roses go directly from a climate-controlled environment on the plane to a refrigerated container for inspection and then directly into another refrigerated truck for delivery to their final destination. The roses are never subjected to radical changes in temperature. Roses shipped by cold chain management will have a longer vase life for your loved ones.

When you receive your roses be sure to keep them away from direct heat or a sunny window. Do not change the water in the vase, just keep it filled and enjoy your roses for up to two weeks.

The Language of Roses

Today roses are the traditional Valentines Day gift, especially red roses that signify romantic love and enduring passion. Other colors are available but check the meaning to be sure it is what you intend to convey. Although the language of roses is fun, the recipient just might prefer her favorite color.

Pale pink = grace, gentleness, gratitude, a joy to behold

Deep pink = thank you

Lilac = love at first sight

White = truth and innocence. Also “I miss you.”

Coral = Desire

Peach = appreciation, gratitude and sympathy

Orange = enthusiasm and desire on the part of the sender

Yellow = friendship and freedom. They are more appropriate for congratulations than a declaration of love.

Mixed bouquets:

White and Yellow = harmony

Red and Yellow = happiness and celebration

Red and White = bonding and harmony

Two entwined roses suggest an engagement or marriage is imminent.

Diane Brueckman is a retired rosarian with Missouri Botanical Garden, and currently owns Rosey Acres in Baldwin, Illinois. You can reach her at (618) 785-3011.