By Marion McParland and Wendy Lam
The thought of Valentine’s Day evokes the quintessential blossom of love — the rose. No other blossom conveys emotion as well as this petaled beauty. Be it the drama, the fragrance, legend, or tradition — the rose is the go-to gift on February 14 to show someone how much you care. In fact, more than 250 million roses are produced annually for Valentine’s Day according to the Society of American Florists. Here, PHS spotlights the rose, a flower that can express deep emotion without saying a word.
Roses were cultivated 5,000 years ago in the ancient gardens of North Africa and western Asia. Poetry, Greek legends, and Victorian prose have all focused on the rose’s beauty, power, and intoxicating scent over the centuries. The history of giving your loved one Valentine’s Day flowers began in the 18th century as a custom of sending floral bouquets to convey non-verbal messages. Since then the rose's popularity has only grown.
While we all know red symbolizes love and romance, you may not realize that distinct colors represent other emotions. Symbolic meanings have been assigned to flowers for centuries, but it was only during the Victorian era that the practice of using flowers to send secret messages became popular in England. In 1819, a book called La Language des Fleurs by Charlotte de La Tour, gathered for the first time the symbolic meanings of flowers from diverse cultures. For instance, pink roses symbolize gratitude and grace, yellow says friendship, and white is the essence of innocence and purity. Want to wish someone well after an injury? Easy! A colorful mix of roses should do the trick.
Regardless of the color you chose to gift, know that roses can maintain their beauty for a long time after being cut, which adds to their popularity around Valentine’s Day. “People love their symbolism and tradition,” says Renee Tucci AIFD, PFCI, floral enthusiast, educator and all-around flower consultant. She recommends feeling the head of the rose if you’re able to purchase your flowers in person. The firmer the feel, the fresher it is. When you get your roses home, trim just under an inch off the end diagonally to help them absorb water. Read the food packet instructions carefully, and keep your roses in clean, cold water, changing frequently. Place them away from direct heat, like radiators, in your house.
For those who want to extend their love of roses past Valentine’s Day, Michael Marriott, one of the world’s leading rosarians, will teach an online workshop "Roses: A New Approach" on February 24.