A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE ROSE AS A MESSENGER
The countdown to Valentine’s Day is already underway, so it’s the perfect time to discuss the flower most closely associated with this important holiday: the ROSE.
Cultivation of roses dates back thousands of years when they were first farmed in different parts of the world, including the Mediterranean, Persia, and China. The Roman Empire popularized the rose as a source of perfume and party decor, particularly in the Middle East, and it was the Romans who introduced what would become the world’s most popular flower to European countries like France and England.
However, it wasn’t until the Victorian era in England that the rose would become a modern symbol of love and affection. Floral bouquets were widely used to deliver messages to love interests, though they were also used in a wider system of floriography (ie, a “language of flowers”) to convey other forms of relationship or to demonstrate emotions with floral associations.
Given the special status of roses among other botanic choices and the newly extensive cultivation of the flower by the middle of the 1800s, using roses for all sorts of messaging became more and more common, especially in terms of the rose’s color. Traditionally, rose colors were dominated by red as a symbol of passion and status (think tuxedo corsages), but the flower’s other typical colors became associated with other feelings: pink, for instance, began to stand for gratitude, white implied innocence, and yellow conveyed tidings of friendship and happiness.
VALENTINE’S DAY AND ROSES
As for the rose’s use on Valentine’s Day, this was a joining of the flower’s growing popularity and greater accessibility with the movement away from Valentine’s Day celebration as a strictly religious holiday. Instead, the St Valentine’s story of love took on a more secular note and became a calendared opportunity to demonstrate emotion. To reinforce this message, the number of roses given also became important, with a dozen flowers preferred for a proper bouquet to signify the volume of affection equivalent to the whole 12 month calendar year or the 12 signs of the zodiac – in other words, constant and committed.
The availability of landscape roses for use on Valentine’s Day is limited by the holiday’s place on the winter calendar when most rose bushes are dormant, so rose bouquets are typically composed of greenhouse grown flowers.
But why limit your demonstrations of love and affection to a single wintery day? Instead, why not plant your own source of these powerful messengers that could help you say what you feel at other, warmer times of the year?
If you’re ready to move to the next level of commitment, planting a rose might be the logical next step. However, different kinds of roses will give you different kinds of flowers, so understanding the various types of roses available is critical.
DIFFERENT ROSES MEAN DIFFERENT BLOOMS
For instance, if building Valentine’s-worthy single stemmed bouquets is your goal, then planting a HYBRID TEA rose is the best idea. Hybrid teas have long been bred to yield a flower with a distinctive stacked whorl of petals, resulting in a rose shape that is widely recognized. They also tend to grow into decently sized bushes at least 4’ tall, often up to 7’ high.
Hybrid teas don’t always grow single stemmed blooms though; instead, blooms form within a bigger bloom structure with two or more flowers, often up to five. When they bloom like this, hybrid teas resemble their very similar cousins, GRANDIFLORA roses. Where hybrid teas form single stems more often, grandiflora roses will form single stems less so. Otherwise, grandiflora blooms also feature the distinctive stacked petal structure of the hybrid tea and the two blooms are often indistinguishable from one another. In some cases, grandiflora roses grow into larger bushes reaching 8-9 feet, but there are plenty of varieties that stay the same size as most hybrid teas.
Another form of rose is the FLORIBUNDA, and as the name implies, this form yields an abundance of blooms, nearly always multiple clusters of five or more flowers. Floribunda roses also feature a variety of flower shapes, though usually simpler in structure and petal count than hybrid teas or grandifloras. Floribundas tend to grow into low to moderately sized bushes.
FRAGRANT OR NO?
A common expectation about roses is that they always feature a distinctive fragrance profile. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, particularly as the historical cultivation of roses tended to favor different rose flower shapes and colors, with strong fragrance often bred out of the equation. Nevertheless, each rose form has a reasonable number of fragrant cultivars, and most hybrid teas, grandifloras, and floribundas feature at least a slight scent.
PLAN TO CELEBRATE VALENTINE’S DAY AGAIN THIS JUNE
Northern Utah offers a uniquely friendly place to grow roses, with our less humid conditions and bright sunshine contributing to excellent growing conditions. As such, we can expect roses throughout the growing season, with our first big bloom flush in late May to early June, followed by sporadic blooming during the warmer months. Fortunately, we get a second big bloom flush in September that projects rose season well into October.
With all these flowering opportunities in mind, you can rest assured that the world’s most beloved form of floriography could be as close as your own backyard – and the magic of a wintery Valentine’s day can carry throughout the sunny days of summer.