Roses have an ancient history. Their delicate petals, their beautiful hues, their enticing fragrances and their visual presence has inspired civilizations from time immemorial. Roses have been around for some 35 million years and evidence of their past glories have been found in the far reaches of the ancient world. Let’s explore their history further as we take a walk through the amazing Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon, where the ancient and modern find common blooming rights. To make your stroll even more memorable, steep some rose hips tea, sit back and relax to the sumptuous tones of Enya’s China Roses.
*And don’t miss the fantastic activities below the slide show!
Click on any image below to learn more about the history of roses.
Early nomadic tribes were the first formal gardeners, planting roses along their most traveled routes.1
Frescoes discovered in Crete from around 1600 BCE are the first known depictions of roses.2
Greek mythology says that the rose sprung from the tears of Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, and the blood of her dying lover Adonis.3
The Romans, who called Aphrodite by the name Venus, had her son Cupid use roses “to bribe the God of Silence” to not let Venus’ activities be known, turning the flower into a symbol for secrecy. Roman dining room ceilings sported roses to remind guests to keep conversations secret, or “sub rosa,” a term that today means confidentially.4
The rose, genus Rosa, comprises 190 species that grow in the wild throughout the Northern Hemisphere.5
Garden cultivation of roses began some 5,000 years ago, probably in China. The Romans grew roses throughout the Middle East and Roman nobility established large rose gardens in Rome. The Romans used roses for anti-aging cosmetics, in wine to offset drunkenness, as confetti and as medicines.6
Between 1455 to 1485, the War of the Roses was fought for control of England by the House of York (white rose as symbol) and the House of Lancaster (red rose as symbol).10
Jellies, powders and oils were derived from the apothecary rose, R. Gallica Officinalis, first recorded in the 13th century in Provins, France, which spawned a large medicinal industry.8
The wall of the Hildesheim Cathedral in Germany boasts the oldest living rose bush, thought to be 1,000 years old.9
Garden cultivation of roses began some 5,000 years ago, probably in China. The Romans grew roses throughout the Middle East and Roman nobility established large rose gardens in Rome. The Romans used roses for anti-aging cosmetics, in wine to offset drunkenness, as confetti and as medicines.7
In the 17th century roses and rose water were used as money by royalty in Europe.11
In the 1800s Napoleon’s wife Josephine had rose gardens extensively cultivated at Chateau de Malmaison outside Paris. In 1824, the garden was captured in Pierre Joseph Redoute’s watercolor collection “Les Roses,” even today one of the finest records of botanical illustration.12
13. It took until the late 18th century before cultivated roses were introduced from China to Europe, laying the ground for modern rose breeding.13
The first hybrid tea rose, “La France” by the French breeder, Guillot in 1867, resulted in the introduction of more than 10,000 hybrid tea roses by the late 20th century.
Look here at Pierre Joseph Redoute’s watercolors of “Les Roses.” Can you draw these delicate flowers? View some pointers here.
Want to create some more roses? Here’s a fun recipe you can try with instant chocolate pudding and a strawberry rose twist. If you really want to get adventurous, have an adult help you make this delicious dessert with homemade chocolate pudding.
Click here to read more about the War of the Roses.
Click here to visit a rose garden in Rome.