“Would you appoint some flower to reign
In matchless beauty on the plain, The Rose (mankind will all agree), The Rose the Queen of Flowers should be.”
Sappho, 600 BC

Fossil evidence suggests that the rose is 35 million years old. Its cultivation is though to have originated in China over 5,000 years ago but the earliest written accounts of rose gardening come from the Sumerian records at Ur.  Roses have also been discovered in the tombs of ancient Egypt and on Minoan frescoes on the island of Crete.  Roses were grown, used (medicinally and otherwise) and traded extensively across the Roman Empire and beyond.  The flower was a symbol of some of  the much of the excess of the Roman Empire, as peasants were made to grow roses rather than food so the upper classes could engage in such actions as filling baths and fountains with rose-water, siting on carpets of rose petals for their feasts and orgies, and using them as confetti at celebrations.  Upon its fall, cultivation continued in the Europe in monasteries and in the Middle East.  In Europe the popularity of the rose did not take off until the Crusades in the 12-13th century, when returning Crusaders brought back varieties of the Damask rose.  During the 1600’s the flower was in such demand that both rose plants and rose water could be used as legal tender by royalty.  Rose cultivation and gardening grew so widespread, that by the 1800’s there were over 1000 varieties of rose.  This practice has continued today, with over 30,000 varieties. 
For a short list of subspecies in the genus Rosa, try here… 

*  Tradition holds that Cleopatra carpeted the floors of her palaces with rose petals.
*  Confucius was rumored to have a 600 book library specifically on how to care for roses.
*  Shakespeare refers to roses more than 50 times throughout his writings.
*  The world’s oldest living rose, located on the wall of the Hildesheim Cathedral of Germany, is thought to be 1000 years old…and is so large, it is the size of a tree.
*  The rose has been official National Floral Emblem of the United States since 1986.
*  Napoleon’s wife Josephine loved roses so much, she grew more than 250 varieties and had new rose varieties smuggled through the blockades of French ports to add to her collection.
*  Nebuchadnezzar used them to adorn his palace and in Persia, where they were grown for their perfume oil.
*  The compass rose is a design often used to display the cardinal directions, it takes its name from the flower that it resembles.  The predecessor to the compass rose was called the wind rose and it names the Greek names of the winds as the compass points

Roses play an extensive role in mythology.  One Greek myth claims the rose was created by a goddess of flowers and nymph, Chloris. Upon finding the body of a nymph in the woods, she turned her into a flower. She called upon the gods, and Aphrodite gave the flower beauty as her gift while Dionysus added nectar to give it a sweet fragrance. Zephyrus, her husbands and god of the West Wind, blew the clouds away so that the sun could make the flower bloom.  In another myth Aphrodite is said to have created the rose which arose from her tears and the blood of her lover Adonis.

Romans are said to believe white roses grew where the tears of Venus fell while she mourned her lover Adonis.  The thorns of the rose are have grown in response to the “sting” of a stray arrow shot as Cupid was stung by a bee stung and let one fly in surprise.   These thorns were later said to cause Venus to prick her foot on a thorn as she walked through the garden, turning the roses red with her blood.  Roman mythology also tells the story of an beautiful maiden named Rhodanthe whose beauty caused suitors to pursue her against her will. On the run and exhausted, Rhodanthe took refuge at the temple Diana who became jealous. When the suitors broke into her temple grounds, it was the last straw, and she turned Rhodanthe into a rose and her suitors into thorns.  Yet another myth has Cupid offering a rose as a bribe to the God of Silence.  He made the flower into a symbol for secrecy and dining room ceilings were often decorated with roses,as a reminder to keep things sub rosa (literal meaning “under the rose”) or confidental.

Early Christians equated the five wounds of Christ symbolically with the five petals of the Rosa sancta. Yet because of the extravagance of the Romans regarding the flower, the early Christian Church hesitated at using the flower as a religious symbol.  Eventually, due to the continued usage of the flower by Christians (despite the ban by early Christian leaders) the red rose was declared a symbol of the blood of the martyrs and the white rose symbolized purity, specifically that of the Virgin Mary (if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em).   Other stories in the Judeo-Christian mythos claim that the rose originated in the Garden of Eden.  One such story claims that thorns developed in response to the banishment of Adam to remind them of their sins and their fall from grace…the thorns were representative of their toil in the outside world and the beauty of the flower, a reminder of what they had lost.  Yet another story claims the original rose growing in the Garden of Eden was white, but turned red as it blushed with shame upon Adam and Eve’s fall from grace.

A Hindu myth tells of Brahma (the creator of the world) and Vishnu (the protector of the world) arguing as to which flower had the greater beauty: the lotus or the rose. Vishnu was in favor of rose, and Brahma supported the lotus, having never seen a rose, and doubting anything was as beautiful as the lotus.  Upon viewing the rose, Brahma agreed with Vishnu and created a bride for Vishnu she was created from 108 large and 1008 small rose petals, and she was called Lakshmi.

The rose, with its world wide historical appeal, has been cultivated into many different varieties, in addition to the 150 naturally occurring species.  Roses are divided into several different types: hybrid tea roses, climbing roses, floribundas, shrub roses, old garden roses and mini roses.  Different roses have different bothanical charachteristics, growing requirements and even properties.  The oldest garden rose, commonly grown in monasteries during the Middle Ages, is called the apothecary rose (Rosa gallica officinalis), and it was used to cure a multitude of illnesses, while the Bulgarian oil-bearing rose (Rosa Damascena) has been grown for the distillation of rose essential oil for the perfume industry since the 1600’s and is considered one of the most fragrant.  Today there are literally thousands of cultivars in color and type.Even so, members of the species share some charachteristics.  The leaves are pinnate and 2-6 inches in lenth and generally in leaflets of 5-9.  Almost all species are decidious, but a few cultivars are evergreen if grown in warm enough weather.  Species roses generally have five (usually white or pink)petaled flowers (and a corresponding number of sepals), though Rosa sericea only has four, and cultivars can have many more.  Beneath the petals are five sepals (or in the case of Rosa sericea, four).  The rose has an inferior ovary, that developes into a berry-like fruit called a rose hip.  Many cultivars do not produce hips, because their flowers are tightlyand deny access to pollenating insects. Ripe his are generally red, or in some cases, dark purple to black.  Most roses have what are generally called thorns, but are really called prickles, though a few species of roses have prickles without points. 


I once had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalogue: no good in a bed, but fine up against a wall.” –Eleanor Roosevelt






When it comes to gardening roses, I only have one thing to say…

Roses are tricky.
Nothing I have ever seen has ever convinced me otherwise.

I mean really…Confucius had over 600 books on how to grow them…and that was several thousand years ago…

The basic needs of a rose to successfully be grown in a home garden include: location, soil fertility/drainage and watering, correct planting, and proper maintenance (pruning, fertilizing, mulching, winterizing, and pest control).  For persons interested in gorwing roses, google your local Rose Society…

Personally, the best reason for growing roses (aside from looking at them and sniffing them) is the ability to harvest them.  Harvesting depends on the part of the rose that you wish to harvest—the flower, or the hips.  When harvesting, gather petals before flower is completely open.  Allow the flower to dry completely and store promptly in a cool dark place.  Harvesting flowers for a combination of both garden enjoyment and practical use is best done upon repeat blooming plants in a process called deadheading; while you will lose some of the smell and active ingredients in the flower, you will have the aesthetic enjoyment of a beautiful garden plant. When harvesting blooms in this manner, it is important to know where to cut, and how to cut properly if you want more blooms to form. 

To harvest hips, on the other hand, one needs only to wait for the blooms to die off and the hips to ripen.  This will occur after the first fall frost. When picking, remember that orange hips are not quite ripe while deep red hips are overripe—basically you want something in the middle. Overripe hips are sweet and tasty, but have lost much of their vitamin C (remember, ascorbic acid is tangy).  After picking, allow them to partially dry, until the skins begin to feel shriveled.  When that occurs, separate the seeds from the fruit by cutting the hip in half and scraping away the seeds. Allow the hips to dry completely.  Store them in a cool dark place, or in the refrigerator for 3-4 months…or store them in the freezer for as long as you want.  Some sources say that you can puree and dry rose hips to make a powdered or ground form, but chemical analysis has shown that fruits cut in half lose less than 50% vitamin C in 18 months storage, while the ground drug lose 100% in 6 months.

Roses are purported to have some medicinal qualities, such as assisting with headache, dizziness, mouth sores, and menstrual cramps as well as nerve tonic, sedative, antidepressant, and anti-inflammatory properties, they are more often used for their cosmetic and aromatic properties.  Rose hips are generally the medicinal herb of choice.  They are good for their nutritive (vitamin c, tannin, pectin, rosin, fruit & fatty acids) qualities and for being a mild diuretic, laxative, mild astringent, general debility & exhaustion aid, as well as helps infections of the upper respiratory tract,  gastric inflammation,  diarrhea, acne & skin irritations/inflammations.  During WWII rose hips were harvested in Britain as a source of vitamin C due to the limited ability to import citrus fruits.  The rose hips of the Dog Rose (Rosa canina) and Rugosa Rose (Rosa rugosa) are among the highest sources of vitamin C.  There are no known containdications, and The German Commission E Monographs lists no known risks of rose hips.   However, some large scale commercial herbal preparation workers have developed severe respiratory allergies, with mild-to-moderate anaphylaxis as a result of inhaling rose hip dust.

There is no recent clinical evidence on which to make dosage recommendations. Classical use of rose petals was 3 to 6 g daily.  However dosage for rose hips is dependent on the desired amount of vitamin C, if it is being used for that purpose.  Fresh rose hips contain 0.5 to 1.7% vitamin C (generally around 1,250 mg per 100 g).    Rose hips also contain vitamins A, B 1 , B 2 , B 3 , and K. Other ingredients include pectin (11%), tannins (2% to 3%), malic and citric acids, flavonoids, red and yellow pigments, especially carotenoids, polyphenols, invert sugar, volatile oil, vanillin, and a variety of minor components.

Rose Hip Tea

Crush 1 cup of dried rose hips and place into a covered container. Add one tsp. to 1 cup of boiling water. Brew for 3-5 minutes. Sweeten as desired.
You can also use 3-4 fresh rose hips that have been chopped. Add the boiling water and brew as usual. Some people like a very strong tea-you can brew up to 30 minutes and reheat the tea if necessary before sweetening.



One Perfect Rose
Dorothy Parker

A single flower he sent me, since we met.
    All tenderly his messenger he chose;
Deep-hearted, pure, with scented dew still wet–
    One perfect rose.
I knew the language of the floweret;
    “My fragile leaves,” it said, “his heart enclose.”
Love long has taken for his amulet
    One perfect rose.
Why is it no one ever sent me yet
    One perfect limousine, do you suppose?
Ah no, it’s always just my luck to get
    One perfect rose.






In addition to medicinal uses, roses have long been used in potions, spells and other mixtures corresponding with love, luck, healing, love divination, protection and prophecy.  Roses also correspond with the feminine, the element water, the deities Hathor, Eros, Cupid, Demeter, Isis, Adonis, Harpocrates, Aurora, Aphrodite and Venus.   Rose water or oil can be added to pre-ritual bath, or prior to a love spell.  Rose hips or beads can be strung and worn as an amulet/talisman to attract love.  Roses can also be used to attract luck and rose leaves can be tossed into a burning flame to attract luck.  Rose petals can be sprinkled around the house to bring tranquility, and plants planted to attract faeries.

Roses also carry a separate set of symbology dealing with their color. Red roses symbolize love and beauty, white roses symbolize signify spiritual love, purity and innocence, yellow roses once symbolized jealousy, but now (thanks to the modern florist industry) signify joy, gladness, “get well” and friendship, orange (and coral) roses imply desire and enthusiasm, lavender roses signify enchantment and love at first site, and pink roses signify grace, elegance, appreciation and joy.

Jet-black roses only exist in the imagination…or as a product of artificial dye.  There are however, some varieties that are a deep red that are called black.  Some say black roses represents death and can thus be used as a symbol to express vengeance towards a foe, but a more optimistic camp has emerged, claiming that black roses symbolize rebirth. Similarly to the black rose, the commercially sold blue rose is really a white rose that is cut immaturely from the plant and cultivated in a blue dye solution so that the blue can grow into the petals as well as the leaves and stems.  Rose cultivars that are called “blue” are generally lavender or purple as roses lack the gene that produces a true blue color in flowers and chemical composition of the rose petals suppresses the physical expression of that gene anyhow.  Blue roses in the language of flowers, represent mystery and, quite aptly, attaining the impossible…as the genetic possibility for true blue roses has been created (though the actuality is still in the works) as  product of genetic engineering by Japanese and French scientists

Rose Oil (infused):
Rose petals (dried and crunched)
Safflower oil
Vitamin E capsule (optional)

Run the rose petals through the food processor, or a mortar and pestle until crunched up (this gives the oil more surface area to attack).  Combine in equal volumes the Rose petals and safflower oil (chosen because it has one of the lightest scents of a carrier oil) with the contents of one vitamin E capsule (to prevent rancidity).  Allow to infuse for 3-6 weeks.  Strain.  Repeat with fresh roses until you have desired smell strength.  The recipe I have actually involves infusing by the moon cycle and repeating for three successive cycle…depending on your use, this might be preferable
Rose oil is NOT essential oil…it is infused oil…and it is FANTASTIC (and cheaper)…

Rose Water:
Materials: canning pot/crab steaming pot/etc with a rounded lid that can be inverted, ceramic bowl, brick
2-3 quarts fresh rose petals (or other fresh flowers), water, ice cubes or crushed ice Take your pot and place the (CLEAN!) brick in the center of a large pot and place the bowl on top on the brick.  Put the petals around the brick in the pot and just barely cover the roses—or other flowers.  Place the lid upside down do that the rounded part points downwards and turn on stove.  Bring water to a boil, then toss ice in the top of the lid and turn stove down to simmer.  Every 10 minutes or so, stop and dump rose water from center bowl into a container to store and replace ice.  Continue until your rose petal “soup” will have lost its potency

Rose Petal Vinegar
2 cups white wine vinegar (heat to near boil)
1 cup rose petals
3 or 4 whole cloves
Gently wash and drain rose petals thoroughly. Carefully remove the white/yellow part of the petals (just snip with scissors). Gently crush the petals to bruise a bit.
In a sterilized jar, place the rose petals and cloves. Pour hot vinegar over top, roughly mash the petals a bit with a wooden spoon and seal immediately.
Set aside for 10 days (room temperature and dark). Shake occasionally.
Strain vinegar and discard the cloves and rose petals.
Using small decorative jars (sterilized), pour the vinegar and seal.

Myrrh, calamus and rose salve recipe from Henriette’s Herbal…

Rose Water Wine

1 cup rose water
water to make 1 gallon
juice of 2 lemons NO RIND
1 campden tablet
1 teaspoon nutrients
1/16 teaspoon tannin
2 pounds granulated sugar (about 5 cups)
1 package wine yeast

Combine all ingredients except the yeast. Stir to dissolve sugar. Specific Gravity should be between 1.090 and 1.100. Let sit overnight.
The next day, add yeast. Stir daily until frothing stops — about 3 days. Siphon into secondary fermentor and place air lock.
For a dry wine, rack in three weeks, and every three months for one year. Bottle.
For a sweet wine, rack at three weeks. Add 1/2 cup sugar dissolved in 1 cup wine. Stir gently, and place back into secondary fermentor. Repeat process every six weeks until fermentation does not restart with the addition of sugar. Rack every three months until one year old. Bottle.
When wine is 6 to 12 months old, bottle. Wine is ready to drink one year after the date the batch was started.

From )

Lavender Cookies with Rose Water Icing

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon lavender, crushed
1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
For Icing:
2 cups powdered sugar
5 1/2 teaspoons water
6 1/2 teaspoons rose water
(Serves / Yields About 4 dozen)

Preparation Instructions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, lavender, flour, baking powder and salt.
Drop by teaspoons onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes.
While the cookies bake, prepare the icing by mixing the powdered sugar with water and rose water. Drizzle over the cookies after they have cooled.

Rose Beads

(btw…it is said that these were traditionally used to make rosary beads…hence the name…however, the name more likely comes from the symbology of the rose and its assosciation with Mary…the actual origin of rose beads are uncertain…)

Collect a ton of fresh rose petals.  Macerate (mortar and pestle or blender/food processor) them and simmer in just enough water in an iron pot or skillet (iron reacts with the roses to make a dull ebony color when the process is complete) to cover them and simmer very low for about an hour.  Let the petals cool and repeat.  Grind the petals everyday for about 10 days-2 weeks until a clay-like consistency paste forms.  Dip your fingers in rose oil (for added fragrance, and to help prevent stickage) Roll the paste into beads (plan size for shrinkage to about half size).  Using pins or florist wire, “string” beads, leaving them separated, to dry.  Drying will take 1-2 weeks, the beads can be polished and strung and used for prayer beads, or for wearing. 

For more info and some variations…

For more info on pagan prayed beads…try this book


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