Roses! It’s no coincidence that this flower takes a starring role in such a diverse array of films as well as countless other movies, books, and TV shows.
Throughout the history of the world, roses have symbolized love and romance, arguably earning the biggest cultural impact of any flower ever. To fully understand what makes this flower such a symbol of romance, let’s take a look at the fascinating history of roses and how they continue to impact global culture today.
For 35 Million Years, Roses on the Rise
You probably associate roses with modern customs like Valentine’s Day and weddings, but these incredible flowers are actually way older than the human race. According to fossils analyzed by the University of Illinois, roses evolved over 35 million years ago! It wasn’t until the Roman Empire, however, that people began to cultivate and harvest their own roses. Early Romans actually used the petals for many diverse purposes, including confetti and medicine, and the rich proudly displayed roses in their personal gardens.
When the Romans fell, roses seemed to go with them, until the late 15th century when the British re-discovered the once iconic plant. British nobility began using roses as a symbol of different political and socioeconomic factions, with white, red, and yellow roses all referring to different groups, a practice that actually led to a full-blown war.
The War of Roses was fought for 30 years until the Tudor family–wearers of red roses–eventually won back the throne. This war brought international attention to the rose, and it soon became so powerful that people actually began to use it as currency. This affiliation with the nobility eventually caught the eye of Napoleon, whose famously romantic rose gardens cemented the rose’s symbolism of high-class love and romance.
Red and Yellow and Orange–Oh My!
Today, the same color varieties of roses exist, and while they no longer symbolize royalty and certainly cannot be redeemed as currency, each variety has a unique cultural connotation and impact. Red roses are the most famous and symbolize love, while yellow roses are less common and act as a symbol of friendship. White, orange, and pink roses are also important varieties, but unlike red and yellow, these colors could be interpreted to mean different things depending on who you ask.
Roses are so popular that over 250 million are sold on Valentine’s Day, constituting 84% of all flower sales on February 14th. If that doesn’t speak enough to the cultural impact of this amazing flower, remember that one in three Americans buy flowers on Valentine’s Day–that’s over 100 million people! Red roses are by far the most common, reinforcing their spot as the most iconic love flower grown today.
A Rose in Your Garden Would Smell as Sweet
Although they take some pairing and pruning, growing roses isn’t exceptionally hard. They aren’t notoriously difficult to successfully cultivate, but they aren’t necessarily known for being easy, either. Many gardeners claim that timing is one of the most important factors of growing your own roses, with the ideal time being right after the last frost, while others claim that digging a deep enough hole is the most important part.
Whether you want to take after the Romans and try your hand at rose gardening or not, there’s no mistaking the cultural impact that this flower has had throughout history. From British politics to Kevin Spacey movies to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, roses have been a universal symbol of love ever since humans discovered their beauty. Don’t let 35 million years of history intimidate you–roses remain king of romance, even today.