The elusive blue rose has captured imaginations for years. Long a favorite of poets and writers, it is only in this century that the blue rose has become a reality. After many years of scientific research in the genetics of flowers, one company has finally brought this flower within the public's reach.
The Tradition of Blue Roses
Although true blue roses did not exist, it did not stop people from fantasizing about them. British poet Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem about a woman who gave up love because she was obsessed with finding blue roses. In the play "The Glass Menagerie," Blue Roses becomes a nickname for one of the tragic heroines, Laura. The Blue Rose was also the name of a group of artists in Russia in the early 1900s. In modern times there have been several movies centered around the symbol of the blue rose, including "The Thief of Baghdad," and the flower has featured prominently in a number of songs.
Because it was only an ideal, the blue rose has come to symbolize the unattainable, a desire that is just outside your grasp. It has also come to signify mystery, especially a mystery that can never be fully solved. In addition, it is linked to success and prosperity.
In 1840, British and Belgian horticultural societies posted a prize of 500,000 francs to anyone who could breed the first true blue rose. Until that time, blue roses were created by dyeing the rose after it was cut, or by injecting a blue dye into the bark at the base of the plant, a process first described in the book "Le Livre d’Agriculture," by Ibn al-Awwam. In this book, al-Awwam discusses blue, or azure roses, that could be found in the Orient, and describes the method used to obtain them.
In 2004, after 14 years of work, two agricultural genetics companies, Florigene of Australia and Suntory of Japan, were finally able to engineer a true blue rose. The rose was created by transplanting a gene which produces a pigment known as delphinidin. This blue pigment, found in blue pansies, resulted in a blue blossom when added into the genetic make-up of the rose.
Suntory and Florigene plan to continue to develop and refine the biotechnology that allowed the creation of the blue rose. As they breed and combine the best and most interesting qualities of each plant, they may produce a variety of cultivars in different shades of blue. One thing that is certain is that the blue rose is no longer unattainable.