From ancient times, roses have been the flower of choice in the gardens of the world, admired for their beauty and enjoyed for their scents. However, the rose was also prized for the many other benefits to be derived from this special flower, which contributed significantly to enhancing the quality of life.
The Romans learned how to enjoy roses for their culinary value, an art that has made a comeback in recent times. Edible rose petals serve as garnishes for salads, and they are used to make candies, marmalade, rose sugar, and even soups. Rose hips, which are berry-like fruit, are rich in Vitamin C, and a favored ingredient for the manufacture of jams and tea. Rose syrup is another popular product of edible roses.
Beauty and Medicine
Rose flowers have also produced beauty and medicinal products through the ages. Distilled, crushed rose petals were turned into essential rose oil. A byproduct of the distilling process, rose water, was an astringent as well as a scent. Rose hips were held in high regard as a source of medicinal powder. Red roses in particular were thought to provide the ingredients to fight fever and sore throats, among other ailments. Rose flowers remain key to aromatherapy products today.
The rose is called the queen of flowers, with good reason. Queen Cleopatra of Egypt is said to have been especially fond of rose flowers and petals to scent herself, her bath and surroundings, The reputation for eccentricity of the Emperor Nero may have been well-deserved if it is true that he arranged for rose petals to cascade down on his banquet guests to the point where they were covered from head to toe. The French Empress Josephine, wife of Emperor Napoleon, created a spectacular garden of roses at Malmaison outside Paris, which she started in 1804, collecting more than 2,500 species of roses over the next 25 years.
Whereas the Catholic Church once classified roses as pagan, it subsequently sanctioned the rose as part of its own ritual. During the Dark Ages, roses were cultivated in monasteries, thus preserving many species, which might otherwise have perished. In 1084, when Leo IX was elected pope, he instituted a ceremony of the golden rose, a token of his esteem for selected members of royalty. References to the Virgin Mary as "Rosa mystica" and to Saint Therese of Lisieux as "The Little Flower" honor their distinctive traditions of roses.
The tradition of ascribing a special meaning to each rose color stems from Victorian times. Red roses symbolize true love, and they are the gift of choice on Valentine's Day. Victorians considered yellow roses a sign of jealousy, though today, they are a sign of friendship. Orange roses represent enthusiasm, while green roses are said to signify fertility. Pink colored roses stand for gentility, grace and admiration, while white roses symbolize purity. Blue roses, the most recent addition to the range of true-colored roses, represent "the impossible dream."