As a Persian proverb goes, “The world is a rose, smell it and pass it to your friends.”

Our love affair with the rose goes back as far as 500 BC, when we began cultivating the beloved flower. The rose has been around for about 35 million years and grows naturally throughout North America. Many people lobbied for the native marigold to be our nation’s floral symbol, but the mighty and fragrant rose prevailed in 1986, becoming the official flower of the United States.

Most species are native to Asia, with smaller numbers native to North America, Europe and Africa. Widely grown for beauty and fragrance, the rose is used for commercial cut flower crops, commercial perfumery, and as the perfect landscape and garden plant.  Rose hips (the fruit of the rose which forms at the base of the flower) are nutritional and rich in vitamins C, E, and K, as well as pectin, beta-carotene and bio-flavinoids, which produce an antioxidant effect that protects and enhances the immune system.  People have used rose hips for medicinal purposes since ancient times to improve cholesterol, blood pressure, and digestive efficiency and weight management.  They also provide a special winter treat for our feathered friends and wild animals.

Roses are red, pink, yellow, blue, coral, salmon, lavender, orange and white, with many shades and blends in between. Colorful and descriptive terms are used to identify them, such as buttery, velvety, neon, blushing and luminous, to name a few. Sizes range from compact miniatures to climbers that can reach up to 20 feet. They fall into classifications, such as hybrid teas, grandifloras, floribundas, shrubs, rugosas, English old world, own root and tree types. The American Rose Society (ARS), founded in 1892, sets standards and guidelines for rose shows. They are graded on hardiness, quality, disease resistance, scent, floriferousness, and overall health. Over 40% of all roses sold in the U.S. have won All American Rose Selections (AARS).

Tips on growing successful roses:

  • Select a site in full sun with well-drained soil, free of competing tree and shrub roots.
  • Select recommended plants for your geographic location from a reputable nursery or garden center.
  • Use compost and/or a good-grade, peat moss when planting. Never allow plant to dry out while in the planting process.
  • Proper pruning is vital. Check with your local “garden expert” for when and how much to prune.
  • Feed generously and watch for insect and disease.
  • Winter watering and mulching is need in many areas.

In the arts and poetry, roses have always been a symbol for love and beauty. Over 500 individuals, both real and non-fiction characters, have had rose cultivars named after them including Abe Lincoln, Betty White, Billy Graham, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Casanova, Elvis, Ronald and Nancy Reagan, Dick Clark, Ginger Rogers, Lucille Ball and Rosie O’Donnell. Many “cause” roses have been developed to raise money and awareness for cancer, our military and other worthy causes. So when you travel, make it a point to “stop and smell the roses.”  Visit rose gardens throughout this great nation, from Disney to the White House, and every small town and big city in between.

Tell us about your rose garden.