The Budding Gardener

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The language of the endearing rose

By Michelle Thompson

Valentine’s Day is almost here and with all that love comes a whole lot of flowers.

Roses still hold a high place of honor in the hierarchy of gifts that symbolize love. For the United States alone, over 250 million cut roses are produced for Valentine’s Day.  Most roses imported to the U.S. come from Columbia and Ecuador, typically arriving and traveling through the Miami International Airport.

Temperature controlled cut flowers continue on to wholesalers after inspection.

It’s a logistical miracle getting summer blooming flowers in February distributed across the country in a perfect stage of bloom.  The stakes for long travelled distances in time for Valentine’s Day are higher prices.

The genus rosa is, according to fossil evidence, 35 million years old with over 300 species and 30,000 varieties worldwide.  Rose cultivation was well underway in China by 500 BC. The Romans and other European civilizations also grew roses. Large public rose gardens, as a sign of opulence, were popular in Roman times.

Roses were used medicinally, as confetti at celebratory events, as an ingredient in skin care and in perfume. Since the time of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, roses and love have been synonymous. Symbolic meanings have endured across cultures over thousands of years. 

In the 18th century, cultivated roses traveled to Europe. Here the symbolic meanings of flowers were perfected.  During Victorian times roses played a role in the professions of love.  Victorian etiquette deemed it unacceptable to openly share feelings and emotions of love or interest.                  Floriography, the language of flowers, communicated a not-so-secret code. Suitors send messages of their intentions through floral arrangements and bouquets.  Each color has its own intended meaning.

The red rose, for example, is a traditional symbol of love and romance.  It means passion or true love and is given to those we love or would like to romance. 

The pink rose is for someone you admire, are happy to know or have a warm affection for.  Pink also symbolizes grace and appreciation. 

The yellow rose is associated with joy, friendship, happiness and cheer.  Orange roses represent fascination and pride. 

The white rose signifies charm, innocence, new beginnings and honor.  It is also a gesture of sympathy and remembrance.

As Valentine’s Day draws near, be assured that there will be an abundance of roses in colors to convey your intended message to friends and loved ones.

February Garden Rose Tips:  Prune repeat bloomers.  Do not prune roses that only bloom in spring.  Remove diseased or yellowing leaves on plant and from the ground.  Apply compost or organic fertilizer.

Michelle Thompson is a Galveston County Master Gardener, past president  of Heritage Gardeners of Friendswood Garden Club and a docent at the new Houston Botanic Garden.

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