Week of June 18, 2023

Facts By Any Other Name


The rose is the national symbol of the United States, and six US presidents have at least one rose variety named after them (Washington, Lincoln, Kennedy, Hoover, Eisenhower, and Reagan). The first US president, George Washington, was also a rose breeder, and named a variety for his mother Mary.


The world’s oldest living rose bush is thought to have been planted in the year 800 AD, at the same time the cathedral it climbs (Germany’s Hildesheim Cathedral) was built. Nearly obliterated by Allied bombs in WWII, it recovered and now the “Thousand Year Rose” can still be admired by visitors.


Rose aficionados and breeders recognize three broad categories of roses. Wild roses have fewer petals and are less fragrant. Old garden, AKA antique roses, are hardier and more fragrant, but only bloom once per season. Modern roses, those bred after 1867, have a larger and more continuous bloom, but tend to be less hardy and fragrant.


Roses have gone to war, symbolically. The English Civil War of 1455-1485 was called the “War of the Roses” because it was fought between the House of York, whose symbol was a white rose, and the House of Lancaster, whose symbol was a red rose.


Though usually made of beads for durability, the rosary that devout Catholics pray on is named for a garland of roses, since the rose is a symbol of the Virgin Mary.


Both rose petals and rose hips, the fruit, can be eaten (ideally when grown without chemicals) and made into jams, jellies, and flavorings for many dishes.


The late famed English rose breeder David Austin spent 15 years and about $3M developing the Juliet rose, but then sold if for $5M, making it the most expensive flower ever sold.