Summer, sunshine and roses. What a delight they are to have in the garden with the variety of colors, blossom shapes and fragrances. Long a symbol of love, war, politics and beauty, roses have worked their way into our hearts and into our cuisine.
A little history first. Fossil evidence date roses back nearly 35 million years, with cultivation beginning nearly 5,000 years ago–likely in China. Now there are 100-150 estimated species of Rosa growing wild or cultivated on nearly every continent. The Romans and Middle Eastern cultures used roses for medicinal purposes, celebrations, perfume, as confetti at celebrations or to honor royalty. Well, who doesn’t want to walk on a path sprinkled with roses?
Rose oil and water was considered legal tender for trade and payments during the 7th and 8th centuries–not quite as crazed a trend as the Dutch tulips bulbs. And there was the famous “War of the Roses” in the 15th century– the red rose symbolized Lancaster and the white rose was the symbol of York.
In the early 1800’s botanically illustrator Pierre Joseph Redoute’s completed “Les Rose,” a collection of watercolor paintings from the roses in Napoleon and Josephine’s gardens at Chateau de Malmaison. This work is still considered one of the finest botanical records of roses.
Personally, roses hold a dear place in my heart. My grandfather was a master gardener and cared for several public rose gardens as well as his own. Grandma would harvest the petals for potpourri and jellies. And my parents kept a very neat rose garden right outside the front door. Pretty magical to be able to loose yourself under an enormous Austrian Copper rose bush for a nap, to fill vases with roses, to be able to identify each rose just […]