Ahh the everlasting rose! Love it or hate it, the rose is probably the world's most loved flower. And so classic! How did all this rose mania start?
An Ancient Symbol with Practical Uses
The rose appears in myth and legend in almost every culture in the Northern Hemisphere.
The cultivation of roses originated in Persia around the 8th century, accompanied by an extensive rosewater trade. From 810 BC, the famous Rosewater trading post in Shiraz, Persia, was exporting rosewater to China and throughout the modern Middle East. Used in cooking and medicine, rosewater was prized for its anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and skin nourishing properties.
Meanwhile, across the Mediterranean Sea, the Greek Goddess of Love, Aphrodite, was called the creator of the rose. In one tale, her lover Adonis was mortally wounded when hunting a wild boar. She hastened to his side and from the mixture of his blood and her tears grew a superb, fragrant, blood-red rose. How lovely!
And in ancient Indian literature, the rose usually symbolizes beauty and creation. Vishnu, the supreme God of India, formed his bride, Lakshmi, from 108 large and 1,008 small rose petals.
Roses in the Garden
As the avid gardener knows, roses possess infinite variation.
The very first rose, as nature gave us, was very simple. It had only five colorful petals! The rose bush was, and still is, a hardy plant. It's always one of the few flowering plants that lasts through the winter, providing food for birds and a refreshing burst of winter color.
Fossil evidence shows the rose to have originated in China, but it spread throughout the Northern hemisphere by the 18th century where European gardeners began hybridizing the plant. In 1798 Napoleon’s wife, Empress Josephine, created one of the greatest rose gardens in the world, with every known variety of the time cultivated there.
Today, there are over 150 species of roses and thousands of hybrids. Just walk down the grocery store flower aisle and you'll see an incredible variety!
An Unforgettable Perfumery Note
One of the first perfumes ever made, Attar of Roses
, was a simple blend of Rose and Sandalwood, created during the Mughul empire in modern day India and Pakistan. Our own Attar of Roses uses that same timeless formula!
An experienced perfumer can differentiate among rose absolutes from India, Egypt, Morocco, France, Bulgaria, and Russia- just like a sommelier can distinguish wines from different regions! Moroccan rose is complex, but sweet and musky due to the long, hot summers that favor maximum flowering. Bulgarian Rose has a honeyed sweetness, with fresh, floral top notes.
The process of harvesting rose oils is expensive and time-consuming, as roses emit their most potent fragrance on a sunny day, and flowers must be protected during transport to extract the most from their sensitive petals. It takes 4 tons of roses, or 2 million flowers to make 2 pounds of rose oil!
No wonder the rose has been prized for generations! Love it or hate it, the rose has a beautiful story to tell.