Is there any flower as beloved as the rose ? Or one that has been featured more often in song, poem, and verse than the luscious rose ? Demure in soft shades of apricot, peach, pink, yellow and white, and bold and blazing in deepest red, roses, from miniature to voluptuous, are a joy to behold, and a summer favorite.
According to the website www.herbs2000.com the rose most likely originated in Central Asia about 60 to 70 million years ago, during the Eocene epoch, and spread over the entire Northern Hemisphere. Early civilizations, including the Chinese, the Egyptians, the Phoenicians, the Greeks, and the Romans, appreciated roses and grew them widely as long as five thousand years ago.
About 500 B.C. Confucius wrote of roses growing in the Imperial Gardens and noted that the library of the Chinese emperor contained hundreds of books about roses. It is said that the rose gardeners of the Han dynasty (207 B.C.-A.D. 220) were so obsessed with these flowers that their parks threatened to engulf land needed for producing food, and that the emperor ordered some rose gardens plowed under.
The early Phoenicians, Greeks, and Romans all grew and traded in roses ( and olive tree cuttings ) which they brought with them as they traveled and conquered. As a result, roses spread throughout the Middle East and elsewhere in the Mediterranean.
Charlemagne (A.D. 742-814) grew roses on the palace grounds at Aix-Ia-Chapelle, but it was primarily the monks who kept roses alive, growing them and other plants for a variety of medicinal uses. Monasteries of the Benedictine order in particular became centers of botanical research.
During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, soldiers returning from the Crusades in the Middle East brought back tales of extravagant rose gardens, as well as sample flowers. Travel increased everywhere, and traders, diplomats, and scholars began to exchange roses and other plants. Interest in the rose was rekindled. Across the Atlantic many separate strains of roses had arisen in the wilds of North America. Of some 200 rose species now known worldwide, 35 are indigenous to the United States, making the rose as much a native of North America as the bald eagle. These roses include Rosa virginiana, the first American species mentioned in European literature.
For detailed information on the history of Chinese 12 Flowers of the Months tea cups, please read my post from January 1st, 2010.