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Roses say so many things, I love you, thank you, sorry... and more. It seems that the scent, appearance, colour and style has almost a universal appeal. Especially in May and June when this magnificent shrub excels like no other. The rose is the national flower of England. But why are so many people in love with roses?
Potted history of roses
Far from representing peace, and long before logos were in common use, the rose became a symbol of war. The wars of the roses (1455 to 1487) saw opposing 'houses' trying to gain control of the English throne. when a picture of a red rose was assigned to the House of Lancaster and a white rose was used to represent the House of York. Eventually, the Houses of York and Lancaster were united and the Tudor rose symbol arose as a result.
There's no doubt that a rose produces the most exquisite flowers.
Symbolism of flowers
Roses have been around for a long, long time. We do like a bit of history. According to fossil evidence, there were roses around some 35 million years ago. This is a flower that is grown all over the world, in every country with a suitable climate. The rose is referred to by Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet 'What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet'.
Most people love the sight of roses growing in different countries because it is evocative of home. We love roses partly because they are so recognisable and also because they excel at giving us wonderful flowers. For hundreds of years the rose has been widely recognised as a symbol of love, sympathy or sorrow. This relates to the fact that it has been around for so long. The blooms lend themselves to cutting and will last for a considerable amount of time in a vase or bouquet, or indeed, in a wreath.
What's the symbolic meaning of rose colour?
Red roses are a traditional symbol for love and romance.
Pink roses mean happiness, admiration and gentleness.
Yellow means bright, cheerful and happy.
White roses symbolise innocence and new beginnings.
Orange is for energy and excitement - possibly relating to passion.
Lavender roses can be used as a reminder of your love.
Peach and apricot colours are often used as a form of appreciation, in other words, 'thank you'.
Multicolour blooms are a novelty. They represent fun and frivolity.
So many different varieties
There's an abundance of rose variety across the world. Over 30,000 in fact! These derive from around 100 species. Most of our garden roses are hybrids and they are cultivated by crossing species with other species. They are relatively easy to cross and are generally selected for good health, colour, appearance and of course, scent.
Different types of roses
There are many different types of rose, but the main categories here in the UK are hybrid tea; floribundas; climbers (including climbing and rambling roses), dwarf (often called patio roses), and miniature. The hybrid tea and floribunda forms are also known as shrub roses.Confused? You don't need to be! It's all about shape and form and even some of the simplest forms could be considered the most beautiful.
Hybrid tea roses
Hybrid teas have large, lush flowers and can be viewed as the 'gold' standard of the floral world! The blooms stand on long, single stems. These are great for cutting and for entering into rose show competitions! The bush itself tends to grow between 90cms tall through to about 220cms tall and up to 175cms wide, depending on the cultivar. One of the most famous hybrid tea roses is called 'Peace', but there are hundreds from which to choose.
Floribundas can be identified by their clusters of flowers, rather than individual blooms. The bushes themselves are generally slightly smaller than hybrid teas and although there are more flowers, these are not as large as hybrid tea flowers. They make spectacular bushes in the garden, however, and can be covered in an abundance of blooms. As for all roses, the scent can be amazing, but it does depend on the variety.
Climbing and rambling roses
Climbing and rambling roses both produce long stems and they grow several metres tall and wide. They need tying to supports as they are not self-clinging. The main difference between the two is that climbers tend to produce flowers for a longer period, but fewer blooms at any one time. Ramblers can be smothered in blooms but only for a short period of time, usually in June. They bloom just once rather than repeating. Rambling roses are often more vigorous and grow ultimately taller than climbers.
Dwarf (or patio) roses and miniature roses
There's no prizes for guessing that patio and miniature roses are smaller than hybrid tea, floribunda, climbing or rambling roses. They do make great gifts and many people even keep miniature roses indoors. They are basically small versions of roses that rarely grow more than 60cm high. Patio roses are ideal for pots on the patio, whilst miniature roses are generally smaller still. There's no reason why you can't plant these out in your garden but they'll need to be positioned at the front of beds where you can see them.
Different species of rose
There are over 100 species of rose so there's just about a colour or style for everyone. Most have five petals, but some have just four, such as Rosa sericea. Double blooms are becoming popular as they give you more flower power - although they are less loved by insects as the nectar is harder to reach.
After the flower comes the fruit and some roses are grown more for their colourful hips than their flowers. These are loved by birds and can add great biodiversity to a garden. The berry-like hip is generally red, purple or even black. Most can be used to make rose hip syrup, jam, jelly or tea because the hips are so rich in vitamin C. The hip also has minor medicinal uses and is sometimes used in food supplements and included in skin products.
It's easy to see why the rose is the nation's favourite flower! You can plant container-grown roses all year round and bare root roses are often available for planting during autumn and winter when the plants are dormant.