The rose, undoubtedly the most well known flower to symbolise love, devotion, and beauty, dates back 35 million years.
The Rose has more than 100 species spread throughout the Northern Hemisphere
It is first believed to have been cultivated some 5 thousand years ago in China. The Rose has a rich history and is said to even have carpeted Cleopatra herself's palace.
In Greek mythology, there are several myths describing the creation of the Rose, the most popular of which being that the flower was created by Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love. It was believed that the first rose bloomed where she found her lover, Adonis, mortally wounded by a wild boar. Ares, the God of War, was jealous of Adonis and had secretly sent the wild boar to harm him, when at the last moment he shared this knowledge with Aphrodite. Aphrodite rushed to warn Adonis but she was too late. Her tears mixed with his blood, and when they hit the ground a large, fragrant rose bush began to grow and bloom.
Similarly, according to Roman mythology, there was a beautiful maiden called Rhodanthe. Her beauty captivated many avid suitors who pursued her incessantly. Growing weary of their pursuit, Rhodanthe sought refuge with her friend Diane however she quickly grew jealous. When the suitors broke down Diane's gate to try to get close to Rhodanthe, jealousy turned to anger and Diane transformed Rhodanthe into a Rose with the suitors adorning said flower as thorns.
During Cleopatra VII reign, she utilised rose petals during public appearances
Cleopatra desired to be remembered as the goddess who smelled like Roses. She used them in her attempt to romance Roman general Mark Antony, which was successful we might add. Before visits from Antony, all fountains around Cleopatra’s palace were filled with rose water, and the queen’s personal chambers were filled ankle deep with rose petals.
Throughout Roman times, Roses were largely cultivated in the Middle East. The rose being very versatile had many purposes such as medicinal, celebratory, and glamorisation. Large public rose gardens were built in abundance in the south of Rome however after the fall of the empire, the demand for the flower fluctuated.
During the 15th century, the rose represented two factions who were battling to gain control of England. The red rose symbolising the area of Lancaster and the white symbolising York. This would subsequently be known as the “War of the Roses”. By the time the 17th century came around, French royalty considered the flower and its rose water to be legal tender. They were regularly used as barter or payment. In the 1800s, Napoleon’s wife Josephine cultivated an extensive assortment of roses at Chateau de Malmaison. The garden later became the location in which Pierre Joseph Redoute’s work as a botanical illustrator came to life. His 1824 watercolour collection “Les Rose” is still considered to be one of the most exquisite collections of botanical illustration.
A couple of fun facts about the Rose because it’s nice to learn something new everyday -
In the writings of Shakespeare, he refers to roses over 50 times
The sharp spikes on the stem of a rose bush are usually called “thorns” however these are actually technically prickles
The Emperor of China (551-479 B.C.) owned over 600 books on the culture of Roses
During Roman public games all the streets were strewn with rose petals
Our second, but no less important, flower of the month is the Clematis
Clematis is one of the most popular flowering vines, its growth and reach being widespread. Unlike the Rose, the Clematis flower does not play a part in Greek or Roman mythology however the symbolism attached to it is significant.
From Europe to Asia, the Clematis flower symbolises “a traveller’s joy”. It is believed this is derived from the fact that an individual wandering down a rural road in the height of summer won’t be able to miss the embellishment of large blooms along their journey. In Japan, the flower is often used in bouquets to wish travellers well on their adventures.
Similar to other flowering vines, the Clematis flower is affiliated with the devil. There is even one particular variety of Clematis called the Devil’s Darning Needle which is native in the US. This association is believed to come from the vine’s habit of killing neighbouring plants if its growth is not maintained. However, most garden varieties can be easily contained.
Another name for the Clematis flower is the Old Man’s Beard. It is understood this is due to the appearance of the fluffy, wispy seed pods combined with the vine completely covering a fence or structure that it can look like a giant beard waving in the wind. It is believed the symbolism of wisdom, age, and maturity is derived from this.
In the Victorian Flower Language, the Clematis flower symbolised cleverness and mental acuity
The Victorians admired how it could climb and spread even in difficult circumstances. The flower was a common gift to indicate that you enjoyed someone’s wit. However, as many of the fine thinkers in that era were poor, it also took on the meaning of poverty.
In Japan, the Clematis flower has been bred and cultivated for centuries. It is a part of the Hanakotoba which is the Japanese Language of Flowers. In the tradition of ikebana, Clematis symbolises moral and correct beauty. Furthermore, similar to Victorian society, it’s also affiliated with quick-witted people.
The name Clematis is derived from the Latin for climbing vine which is notoriously the flower's most distinctive feature. There are nearly 300 species of Clematis, and hundreds of cultivars that are commonly bred from just a handful of the species. The flower has two blooming periods; spring flowering and summer flowering. Spring flowering varieties will only bud on the previous season's older growth. It can start blooming while temperatures are still too cold for other flowers. Summer flowering varieties can bloom from June to October but they only produce flowers on new growth from that season.