People have been passionate about roses since thebeginning of time. In fact, it is said that the floors of Cleopatra’s palace were carpeted with delicate rose petals, and that the wise and knowing Confucius had a 600-book library specifically on how to care for roses.
The rose is a legend on its own. The story goes that during the Roman Empire, there was an incredibly beautiful maiden named Rhodanthe. Her beauty drew many zealous suitors who pursued her relentlessly. Exhausted by their pursuit, Rhodanthe was forced to take refuge from her suitors in the temple of her friend Diana. Unfortunately, Diana became jealous. And when the suitors broke down her temple gates to get near their beloved Rhodanthe, shebecame angry turning Rhodanthe into a rose and her suitors into thorns.
In Greek legend, the rose was created by Chloris, the Greek goddess of flowers. It was just a lifeless seed of a nymph that Chloris found one day in a clearing in the woods. She asked the help of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, who gave her beauty Dionysus, the god of wine, added nectar to give her a sweet scent, and the three Graces gave her charm, brightness and joy. Then Zephyr, the West Wind, blew away the clouds so that Apollo, the sun god, could shine and made this flower bloom. And so the Rose was born and was immediately crowned the Queen of Flowers.
The first true primary red rose seen in Europe was “Slater’s Crimson China” introduced in 1792 from China, where it had been growing wild in the mountains. Immediately, rose breeders began using it to hybridize red roses for cultivation. Ever since, the quest for the perfect red rose has been the Holy Grail of rosarians: a fragrant, disease-resistant, long-lasting, long-stemmed, reblooming, perfectly formed rose with a clear non-fading vivid red color. Absolute perfection still hasn’t been attained, and of course never will!
There is a special rose language invented as a secret means of communication between lovers who were not allowed to express their love for one another openly. In the mid 18th century the wife of the British ambassador in Constantinople described this in her letters, which were published after her death. These letters inspired many books on the language of flowers, each describing the secret message hidden in each flower. A red rose bud stands for budding desire, an open white rose asks “Will you love me?”, an open red rose means “I’m full of love and desire”, while an open yellow rose asks “Don’t you love me any more?”