Roses are one of the most iconic and symbolic flowers of all time. No flower in our history has become more associated with romance, love and passion quite like a rose. Our love affair with roses is not something that has recently come about, in fact, our relationship and connection with roses can be traced back hundreds of years to the times of the Greeks and Romans. The flower that has come to symbolise romance has adorned many of our cultures, religions and history and is still ever-present in modern society. Walk into any florist, mall or shop and you are guaranteed to see a bouquet of red roses on display.
What does the word rose mean?
The word rose comes from the French, which itself was taken from the Latin word Rosa that was from the Greek dialects rhodon. Today, associate roses with love, but over the centuries roses have held different meanings, including honour, faith, beauty, passion, wisdom, intrigue, devotion and timelessness.
The history of the rose
The earliest record of roses being grown for cultivation can be found almost 5,000 years ago in China. Since then roses have found themselves growing into many cultures around the world. While it cannot be pinpointed when we started to associate roses to the emotion of love, one of the earliest connections can be found in Greek mythology. The goddess Athena was often depicted both wearing and surrounded by roses. The same can be seen in Roman culture, with Venus, the goddess of love, romance, beauty and desire.
The love of roses spreads across the world. The beautiful rose has played a major role in poetry, religion, art, and literature; music, medicine, fashion design, perfume, and home decoration. Many high-end fashion designers such as Chanel, Dior and Dolce & Gabbana have featured roses over the years as a prominent symbol in their collections.
Types of roses
There are over 100 different species of roses and we have been cross-breeding and creating hybrid varieties for years. For a long time, the most popular roses were the hybrid teas and floribundas, but today the garden rose is the one we are familiar with. Garden roses can be grown in different colours and it is these colours that lead to new meaning and associations.
Quite possibly the definitive symbol or gift we give to express love. There’s has never been a more enduring symbol of love and passion in art and literature than a red rose. Some of the most famous appearances of a red rose can be found in Shakespeare plays referring to it over 70 times.
Pink roses are often considered appropriate for sending thanks, cheering up a friend or giving on an anniversary. Horticulturally, pink roses were the first colour roses to be cultivated, mostly because pink roses are common in the wild. The pink rose is also associated with love, however the dark hues of the petals have led to subtler meanings developing, such as gratitude and appreciation, while lighter hues are akin to gentleness and admiration.
White roses have traditionally been used to demonstrate the structural beauty and grace of the rose. They are to be given to a friend or romantic partner to symbolise a new beginning or to say goodbye. The soft white hue is thought to represent hope and good fortune for the future. Due to this white roses have become an essential floral piece at weddings and in bridal bouquets.
Yellow roses signify a celebration in friendship, bring joy and offering well-being. The warm colour of the petals has been likened to the sun. In Eastern cultures the colour yellow represents wisdom and power and yellow roses are seen as a symbol of that.