These woody perennials come in many different shapes, sizes and colours and have been much cultivated by gardeners. The nasty sharp bits are apparently not thorns but prickles, as they are outgrowths; whereas thorns are modified stems.
The rose hips formed after the flowers die are rich in vitamin C. They are eaten by birds and the seeds distributed in their droppings. The vitamin C content has made rose hips popular in folk medicine and for making jams or brewing as a tea. The petals may also be eaten, usually as candied decorations. For you culinary enthusiasts there are some recipes on this blog here.
The rose is a highly symbolic flower most often associated with love. It is also a recurrent symbol in Islamic Sufism and in Christianity. It has been the national flower of England since the reign of Henry VII. After the War of the Roses, Henry VII combined the red and white roses of the houses of York and Lancaster to form the Tudor Rose. For you history buffs there is more detail about the War of the Roses on this blog here.
Shakespeare, as we might expect, had a lot to say about roses, but we shall limit ourselves to the very pertinent point Juliet makes:
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
It is the character not the name that is pleasing and poor Juliet does not understand why she cannot be with Romeo just because of his family name. Parental disapproval of a daughter’s love choices echoes throughout history. William Blake’s “The Sick Rose” uses the heavy symbolism of the rose to allow us a glimpse into his troubled views on love:
O Rose thou art sick.
The invisible worm,
That flies in the night
In the howling storm:
Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.
Heady stuff indeed! The rose often appears in poetry symbolizing the rough and the smooth aspects of love which may be budding, beautiful, fragrant or worm ridden, withering and thorny. It is, perhaps, the most iconic flower there is.
I shall leave you with a collection of photographs of the roses that have been gracing our garden, you will have to imagine the scents.