Beloved by many, roses (Rosa spp.) are a favorite garden flower, and the characteristics of the rose flower, including its shape and cherished scent, make it easily recognizable. Roses have been cultivated for millennia and have a vibrant history that dates back thousands of years. Although they are predominately thought of as a token of love, roses come in a wide variety of types and colors, and can mean many things.
Rose Flower History
Fossil evidence shows that roses have been around for about 35 million years, and have been purposely cultivated in the Middle East, Europe and Asia for the past five thousand years. In 1455 there was a war named after the flower, the Wars of the Roses, an English civil war where white roses symbolized the House of York and red roses symbolized House of Lancaster, both of whom were fighting for control of the country. The rose became a prized garden commodity during the 17th century and was even considered legal tender. Josephine Bonaparte, wife of Napoleon, was also really into the plant and collected many different varieties at her home estate, Château de Malmaison.
Characteristics of the Rose Flower
Roses come in many different varieties, and the characteristics of the rose flower can vary based on those varieties. Although many of us are familiar with the traditional red rose, other hues, including white, pink, dark mauve, yellow and varying shades in between, can be just as beautiful. Some roses have petals that are bi-color or tri-color. Hybrid roses can have various patterns on the petals, including speckles and stripes.
All roses feature soft, smooth petals that are often doubled, meaning they have multiple sets of petals. The petals come in a range of shapes depending on the variety with everything from pointed to rounded petal shapes. The number of petals also varies with some having only a few petals and others being loaded with petals that overlap to create the layered rose look. You can find petals that are flat and others that are curled, either up or under.
There are several different sizes, from tiny tea roses to larger varieties. They can inhabit your garden as a shrub or as a climbing plant that is trained to scale trellises. Their stems are typically loaded with thorns, but you can find thornless varieties. Some types of roses need pruning to maintain their shape and keep them healthy. Sharp pruning shears make the job easier.
Symbolism of Roses
A single red rose is the classic token of love, but other types of roses have their own way of professing different emotions. Pink roses, for example, can signify happiness or a desire to be believed. A white rose can symbolize innocence or purity, and a yellow rose can signify a loss of love. A red rosebud can signify purity, and a white rosebud can symbolize girlhood. By contrast, a bouquet of mature blooms can represent deep gratitude.
In the early 20th century, the phrase "sub-rosa," meaning "under the rose," came into popularity. It was used to indicate secrecy or privacy due to the ancient tradition of using a rose during a meeting to symbolize the confidence of the participants.
Monica Beyer freelance writer whose work has appeared in SheKnows, GOOD Magazine, Good Housekeeping, and others.