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Roses: Uses, Symbols, and Varieties

Updated on October 30, 2015

Of all the flowers in the world, the rose will never lose its touch. Its beauty and scent has never failed to impress and has been used to symbolize a number of ideas, beliefs and strong emotions all over the world.

A Brief Background

The word ‘rose’ itself is French, which may have come from the Latin counterpart rosa. From the family Rosacae, it has over a hundred different species that come in different forms. With the familiar flowers in different shades of reds, whites and yellows, these shrubs are characterized by the stems that climb and trail with sharp thorns. A lot of the species have proven to be native to the Asian region, but there are some that come from Europe, Northwest Africa and North America. Their sizes are different as well, with some of the flowers growing from small, compact buds and sometimes growing to large flowers when in bloom. They are very easy to grow as hybrids which are often used to be developed as garden roses.

The Rose and Its Uses

Roses have always been popular as ornamental plants, considering how they make any garden pleasant not only because of their beauty, but because of their sweet scent as well. Known to be a favorite in some of the best gardens in the world, roses were first cultivated as flowering plants as early as 500 BC. They were most popular around Mediterranean countries, as well as in Persia and China. Today, its cut flowers are harvested and prove to be among the favorite flowers to be added to bouquets used for many different occasions.

Roses are also used in perfumes. The oil from roses is taken by steam and used to distill crushed rose petals. Rose water is also used not only in creating perfume but also in cooking, medicines, cosmetics, and even in religious practices. The rose hip is known as a good source of Vitamin C and is used to make jam, marmalade or jelly. It is also brewed to be used as tea and could also be turned into rose syrup. Rose syrup is used in the US in making scones and marshmallows, while it is popular in India for its use in making rose-flavored ice cream. In the UK, it has been used as a traditional confectionery as rose creams, which is rose-flavored fondant that is usually covered in chocolate.

The rose has also been used as an herbal medicine. Its vitamin content has made it a popular food supplement. Although there have been studies that show its potential as a possible way to control the growth of cancer, its most popular medicinal use is its potent effect against a number of stomach problems.

The Rose as a Symbol

One of the things that have made the rose so popular is its symbolism. It is always a favorite subject in art and would usually appear in paintings and illustrations. From small things such as stamps to bigger figures that serve as architectural elements, the rose gives artists the inspiration that they need to create masterpieces. It is seen as a symbol of love, royalty, beauty, death and war. It is also used to represent famous people throughout history.

In ancient Greek mythology, the rose was used a number of times to symbolize different emotions and traits. For example, the purity and innocence that Aphrodite is known for was symbolized by a white rose. With her blood changing the white rose into a red one, the red rose was known to symbolize her passion and desire for Adonis. The white rose also stands for secrecy, as Harpcrates gave this to Eros to bribe him to remain silent. Roman mythology used the symbol of the rose just as importantly, seeing it as a sign of resurrection when used in funerals.

Christianity also uses the symbol of the rose for a number of ways. Secrecy is something that is common to Greek mythology and Christianity in terms of the rose as a symbol. A rose is carved on the ceiling of meeting rooms to show that everything discussed under it is “sub rosa” (under the rose) or a secret. A red rose is seen as a symbol for the passion and resurrection of Jesus, and for the purity and motherhood of the Virgin Mary. The liturgy is also represented by a rose.

Aside from these references to mythology and religion, the different colors of roses have also come to symbolize a number of different things. The most popular of them all is the symbol of the red rose, which is seen as a representation of love. The number of red roses that you give can also changes its meaning. A single red rose is often given to tell a person that you love them, while a dozen can show extreme gratitude. Twenty-five red roses are said to be a congratulatory statement, while fifty roses express unconditional love.

Pink roses are also considered as a sign of gratitude. For some, the meaning would also differ depending on what shade of pink the rose is. Deep pink is used to show appreciation, while light pink would show either admiration or sympathy. Peach roses are seen as a sign of modesty.

Yellow roses represent friendship. More often than not, they are given to newlyweds, to mothers who have just given birth, and to graduates. Although yellow was seen as a sign of jealousy in the past, it is now used to show people important to you that you care about them.

White roses are often used in weddings to show purity of intention. Very light shades of pink can also be used in this sense.

The Most Popular Rose Varieties

There are a number of rose varieties that are favored over the others. These are often considered as the pride of prize-winning rose gardens and are also seen as more valuable than the others. One such example is the Gallica Rose. With this French rose bearing its roots from as far back as the mid-12th century, it is still seen as one of the best flowering roses to this day.

Damask roses are among the smallest rose groups. Historically, it was believed to have been brought from Persia around the year 1260. The Summer Damask flowers once during the summer, while the Autumn Damask flowers a second time in autumn. The Autumn Damask is the first type of rose in Europe that produced two crops of flowers during the summer.

Albas or white roses usually flower in June. Although it is unsure what and where they came from, the greatly vary in form and size from other kinds of old roses. They usually grow much larger than regular roses, which is why they were once known as “tree roses.”

Other old roses that are popular among enthusiasts are Centifolias or Provence Roses, Moss Roses, and Chinas and a lot of their hybrids. Bourbon Roses, Portlands, Noisettes and English Roses are also among their favorites. These roses are seen to grow in some of the best gardens in the world, and a lot of time and effort are put into growing them to maintain their natural beauty.

With the significance of the rose in many aspects, it is truly one flower that has proven to be more valuable than any other. It is no wonder why it is still favored among all other flowers, considering the things that it represents and the big mark that it has made in history.

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