Thursday, June 26, 2008

Rose History

Roses are the most revered flower in the world today and have probably always been the most revered flower. Ancient civilizations revered them for their beauty, aromatic oil, and medicinal powers.
Rose petals have tannin, which is an astringent, and were used to control bleeding. Rose petals were also used as an infusion for diarrhea. Rose oil and rose water were used in China for stomach and colon problems. It would be easy to write a book about the many early uses of roses.
Modern rose classification refers to wild varieties of roses as ‘Species’
roses. Roses belong to the family Rosaceae (plums, apples, almonds, etc.), and the genus Rosa. Wild Species Roses contain many different varieties. They have colorful five-petaled flowers, usually bloom once in the summer, and are usually very hardy.
Hybridization and other ‘meddling’ has added many beautiful colors and other traits, but has often created weaker plants. As an example, grafting one kind of rose onto a different rose root stock is a common practice, which often creates a rose that is more prone to pathogenic attack.
The oldest rose fossils that have been found are in Colorado. They were alive 40 million years ago. Wild roses grow naturally in many parts of the northern hemisphere; from India and the Tigris-Euphrates River Valley to Egypt; and from Siberia and Europe to the Americas. In the Americas, they grow from the snows of Canada to the tropics of Mexico.

However, wild roses are found most frequently in temperate climates and, amazingly, do not seem to be native to the southern hemisphere.
Roses were the most sacred flowers in Egypt and used as offerings for the Goddess Isis. They have also been found in Egyptian tombs, where they were formed into funerary wreaths. Confucius, who lived from 551 BC to 479 BC, reported that the Imperial Chinese library had many books about roses.
Indian sages referred to roses in ancient Sanskrit literature. Ancient Samarians of Mesopotamia (in the Tigris-Euphrates River Valley) mentioned roses in a cuneiform tablet written in approximately 2860 BC. Obviously, roses were used and cultivated long before they were documented by early cultures.
Roses were also cultivated by the Grecians and Romans. It is possible that Romans introduced cultivated roses to England and France. The English were already cultivating and hybridizing roses in the 15th Century. That’s when the English War of Roses took place. The winner of the war, Tudor Henry VII, created the Rose of England (Tudor Rose) by crossbreeding other roses.
Cultivated roses were brought to the Americas by the 16th Century.
In the early 1800s, Empress Josephine who was now divorced from Napoleon, created a rose garden with every known variety. She also encouraged the crossbreeding of roses.
Besides Species Roses, there are now two other important categories—Modern Roses and Old Roses. Modern roses are generally accepted as roses that were developed from 1867 to present (1867 is the generally accepted date of the first hybrid tea rose). Old Roses are roses that existed before 1867. There are 15 categories of Old Roses and 10 categories of Modern Roses.
You can find a lot more fascinating rose history if you spend time on the internet or visit your local library.

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