Stroll Among Beautiful Foliage at Royal Botanic Garden Sydney

Visitors to Royal Botanic Garden Sydney can enjoy thousands of plants from both Australia and around the world.

This free garden offers a variety of tours for both large and small groups, or visitors can simply relax and connect with nature while taking a leisurely stroll through the garden.   

History of Royal Botanic Garden Sydney

Royal Botanic Garden Sydney opened in 1816, and it has since grown into a massive 74-acre garden filled with a variety of both common and rare plants. The free garden introduces visitors to the beauty of nature through a variety of exhibits and special events.  

Royal Botanic Garden Sydney was once home to as many as 20,000 Grey-headed Flying Foxes, a type of large fruit bat. These enormous fruit bats, which can have a wingspan of over three feet, were once a secondary attraction in the gardens, as many tourists visited the gardens to see the bats as well as the wide variety of plants. However, the bats have been removed from the gardens as a result of the damage that their presence caused to many of the plants.

Visiting Royal Botanic Garden Sydney

Royal Botanic Garden Sydney is home to a variety of exhibits that capture the uniqueness of each species of plant. Some of the most popular attractions include several guided toursholiday events, and a whimsical train that takes visitors on a scenic ride through the gardens.   

Royal Botanic Garden Sydney is located near Sydney Harbor and the Sydney Opera House. Admission is free, and it is open daily. Hours vary depending on the season. The garden includes a gift shop and several cafes.

Nature enthusiasts can easily spend hours wandering among thousands of plants at Royal Botanic Garden Sydney. If you find yourself heading to Australia, be sure to add this free attraction to your list of must-see things to do!    

Wendy’s Secret Garden: A Story of Loss and Restoration

In the hustle and bustle of the digital age, it has become difficult to find a quiet space untouched by the stress of daily life.

Luckily, even in the large cities of the world, you can find a small, secluded place where time stands still.

One such space is Wendy’s Secret Garden in Sydney, NSW, Australia. Wendy’s is a peaceful garden with a whimsical artistry derived from the deep love and poignant sorrow of it’s creator, Wendy Whiteley. 

Cultivation in Mourning

The Story of Wendy’s Secret Garden begins in the 1970s when Wendy and her husband, famous artist Brett Whiteley, purchased a home along Lavender Bay in the Lower North Shore suburbs of Sydney. From this perch above unused railway land bordering the bay, Brett Whiteley created many of his iconic Lavender Bay paintings. When Brett passed away in 1992, Wendy found solace in clearing the overgrowth and debris from the abandoned railway land behind their home. As she cleared the space, Wendy planted herbs, shrubs, and trees with a view to their aesthetics and no regard for conventional horticultural knowledge. Some plants, like the giant fig tree and stand of bamboo, she left in place and incorporated into her garden. Others, she cleared entirely.

When asked about her methods, Wendy commented:

“I didn’t know anything about horticulture when I started the garden. I just knew what I liked. I’ve since learnt what likes being here. It’s a symbiotic relationship between the plants, myself and my gardeners”. 

It was the beauty of the space that drew her in; with views of Lavender Bay and a natural sandstone cliff, the small valley was a perfect gardener’s canvas. In 2001, Wendy lost her only daughter, Arkie, to an adrenal tumor at the age of 37. A cluster of palms a gift from Arkie to Wendy, stand as a memorial to Arkie, and have been dubbed “Arkie’s Bungalow”. Throughout the garden, these relics and monuments to the past blend with new growth, creating an enduring symbol of the cycle of loss, grief, and renewal.

A Living Memory

Today, Wendy’s Secret Garden serves as a living memorial to Brett and Arkie Whiteley. Although the garden initially faced legal battles with the New South Wales government, it has since been established as a public park through the North Sydney Council. Thanks in large part to the book Wendy Whiteley and the Secret Garden by Janet Hawley, published in September 2015, the North Sydney Council succeeded in obtaining a 30 year lease with a 30 year option for the garden, thus securing the garden as a public park to be appreciated by generations to come. 


Wendy’s Secret Garden. 2017. Accessed 24 August 2019.

“Wendy’s Secret Garden”. Atlas Obscura. Accessed 24 August 2019.

The Popularity of the Poppy

Few flowers are the main ingredient in both muffins and drugs–except poppies.

Over the years, this flower’s bizarre applications in a wide variety of fields have made it one of the most interesting flowers to study. From ancient times to modern culture, poppies have maintained a starring role in the flower industry. It all starts in the ancient land of Sumer.

The Plant that Launched a Thousand Ships

Around 3,400 BC, ancient Sumerians started cultivating the poppy flower to use as medicine. It became so important in the culture that there are numerous carved works of art depicting poppy flowers, which is how scientists have put such a precise date on such an ancient event. Over time, other countries took note of its raging popularity, and Sumer quickly started to ship it all over the world on the Silk Road

Even though the poppy remained popular for thousands of years, nothing particularly exciting happened with poppies until the late 18th century, when the Opium Wars broke out in China. France, Britain, and the United States fought on Chinese soil over illegal imports of poppy seeds from India to China. Although the European nations had agreed in writing to stop exporting poppies to China, they were still illegally dropping them off in India and helping smugglers take the drugs to China–which rightfully caused the Chinese to get upset! Never before, or since, has a plant caused such a conflict.

Pop Culture and Painkillers

Today, there is much less conflict over poppies and their seeds, with the flower’s main cultural connotation being remembrance. In 1920, poppies were named the official flower of World War I remembrance, a tradition that still continues to this day. Every year on May 24th, people all over the country wear red poppies to support current soldiers and remember those who gave their lives to serve the country.  

Poppies have also made a huge impact in pop culture. Perhaps the biggest is the poppy scene in The Wizard of Oz, where Dorothy falls into a drug-induced sleep after running through a field of poppies in pursuit of reaching Oz. Although this scene may seem overdramatic, it actually captures the power of poppies quite well; they continue to be an important ingredient in many medicines because the seeds are incredibly powerful painkillers. Morphine, one of the most effective anesthetics available for legal use today, is primarily made up of opium poppy. There is also a link between poppy seed consumption and reduced abdominal cramping. 

Finding the Perfect Poppy

The rich history and practical applications of poppy seeds make it easy to overlook the flowers themselves, but poppies are incredibly beautiful blooms that can fit in any garden. If you live in the North, oriental poppies are a great choice to grow–they are rated easy to grow and don’t require too much heat. People in warmer areas of the country may consider Himalayan poppies, which have gorgeously ornate centers, but they are also tough to successfully grow. 

All this talk about opium poppies calls for a reminder that this variety is highly illegal to grow in the United States! In addition to being a main ingredient of helpful drugs like morphine, opium poppies are also the basis for several highly addictive drugs like heroin and other opioids. This is why some athletes who have recently eaten poppy seed products have actually tested positive for drugs even without using any. Oh, and they’re also poisonous to most living things–so please, stick to one of the types above if you’re looking to add poppies to your garden. 

From medicine to pop culture, poppies are one of the most well-known flower varieties in the world today. Even better, they are also visually stunning. Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz had the right idea when she looked out at the poppy field and could only say “Wow”…even if they did eventually knock her out. 

Marigolds, Then and Now

Most people don’t think about flowers having a history.

They’re just plants, after all, and they can’t exactly pass down the story of their ancestors. But over time, people’s use of certain flowers can build a rich, fascinating history of the species, giving them a story of their own.

Marigolds are one such special flower that has been so popular for so long that it has developed its own sort of story. Here’s everything you need to know about marigolds–where they came from, where they’ve been, and where they are going next. 

Muddled History of Marigolds

Marigolds started with the Aztecs, who believed that the plant had sacred healing powers. Most notably, the De La Crus-Badiano Aztec Herbal of 1552 recorded every potential use of marigolds in writing, preserving the Aztec traditions and providing a clear view into the flower’s sacred origins.  When Europeans colonized Central and South America shortly after this book was published, they made sure to take marigold samples back to their home countries, and the popularity of the flower began. 

Some marigolds ended up on the African continent, since trade in those days cycled from South America to Europe to Africa, which is why some varieties today are called African marigolds. But make no mistake–this variety also originated in South America, so the name “African marigolds” is a bit of a misnomer brought about by Triangular Trade. That’s why it’s so important to learn the true history of your favorite flowers! 

Culture on Three Continents

Today, marigolds aren’t thought of as sacred or transported halfway across the world, but they do hold an important place in modern culture. One of the most prominent examples is Dia de Los Muertos, the Mexican holiday that translates to “Day of the Dead” in English. This annual festivity celebrates one’s ancestors by placing offerings at the grave of family members and close friends. Marigolds are the traditional flower used to decorate graves on this sacred day, a clear connection back to their Aztec roots. 

Surprisingly, marigolds are also the highest official honorary flower in Hinduism. Devout Hindus display marigolds at weddings, funerals, and temples to show reverence and ask for divine blessing. This connection with the religion is so deep that it’s even in the name; the genus Tagetes that marigolds fall under is actually named after Tages, the Hindu god of wisdom.

Beautiful Inside and Out

In addition to their importance in cultures around the world, marigolds also have universally acknowledged medical properties. Most notably, they are an antiseptic used to clean out cuts and wounds to prevent infection, and they work against bacteria and fungi as well. It is also rumored that marigolds can cure hiccups, though medical studies haven’t confirmed that tradition. 

If you want to grow your own marigolds, it’s important to choose the right variety and consider all of the factors that go into a successful plant. If you’re looking for a tall, imposing centerpiece for your garden, try Tagetes erecta, as it can reach several feet high. If you live in a region that’s mostly hot and dry, try Tagetes tenuifolia, since it thrives with lots of sun and little water. No matter what variety you choose, remember that all marigolds far prefer heat to cold, and marigolds planted in the shade often end up with mildewed leaves. 

Marigolds have traveled all over the world, from Mexico to Africa, and thrived everywhere they have been planted. So if you’re just getting started gardening, these versatile, resilient flowers might be a great choice to liven up your flowerbeds and set your garden apart. Who knows–they may even cure your hiccups, too. 

Roses are Red, Violets are for You

“Violet, you’re turning violet!”

Everyone knows these iconic lines from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, where one of the kids starts to change colors after chewing the forbidden gum.

Or how about this one–“Roses are red, violets are blue.” You’ve probably gotten a Valentine’s Day card with these words on the cover at some point in your life, right? 

Without even realizing it, the violet is entrenched into some of our most iconic pop culture references. But this cultural awareness of violets is nothing new; people have been obsessed with the plant throughout time, leading to a fascinating history that you probably never knew existed. Let’s dig in.

Saints and Sinners

In Greek mythology, the origin of the violet is actually rather brutal. The story goes that Venus, the Goddess of beauty, got so jealous of other beautiful maidens that she beat them up until their purple bruises turned into violets. Ouch. A more friendly, romantic legend claims that violets were first discovered by St. Valentine, who would crush them up and use them as ink for his love notes. 

Regardless of how the violet came about, it’s had some pretty amazing features in pop culture since. One of the most famous–and eerie–historical references to the violet is Napoleon’s exile. Even before he was sent away, his followers started to call him Pere Violette due to his infamous claim that, just like the violets, he would be back in just one year after his exile. This connection between Napoleon and violets was so strong that a famous French art piece depicting a simple bouquet of violets is actually hiding his silhouette in the negative space of the painting. 

Never Out of Style

Today, violets aren’t quite as dramatic as Venus and Napoleon made them out to be, but they still hold an extra-special place in modern pop culture. The Willy Wonka reference is probably the most famous movie character named after the flower, but there’s also Violet Baudelaire in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (a book series turned Netflix Original) and Violet Parr in The Incredibles

One of the biggest ways that violets contribute to pop culture is by providing the #43 most popular baby name in the United States! Celebrity couple Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck named their daughter Violet in 2015, and since then, the once-antiquated baby name has skyrocketed to the top of the charts. It broke into the top 50 for the first time ever in 2018, and it shows no signs of slowing down. 

Find Your Violet Variety

If you want to get in on the magic of violets, you’re in luck; the plant is versatile enough to grow in a wide variety of heat and precipitation environments. You do have to pay attention, however, to the variety of violet that you choose to plant. Today’s violets can be broken up into two categories, African violets or true violets. African violets are better as houseplants, needing more shade, and have five rounded petals. True violets, on the other hand, grow outside with deep roots and have hairier heart-shaped leaves. 

Choosing between these two varieties of violets is mostly a question of where you want to grow your plants, since each type has a strong preference for indoors or outdoors. It’s important not to try to plant African violets outside or true violets inside just because you prefer the way they look, especially if you are a beginner. But rest assured; with hundreds of cultivars to choose from, you can unleash your inner Napoleon and find the perfect violet for your garden.

Dahlias: Beautiful Inside and Out

Few flowers are as majestic and luxurious as the dahlia.

Standing several feet tall and boasting layers upon layers of beautiful flowers, this beloved garden cultivar is unmistakably gorgeous.

But the dahlia is more than just a pretty face–its rich history and innovative modern uses make it not only one of the most beautiful plants but also one of the most interesting. 

Three is a Magic Number

Dahlias were first discovered by a team of Spanish botanists, led by famous scientist Anders Dahl, in Mexico during the late 18th century. As the team continued to travel throughout Central America, they realized that the flower grew all over the continent, populating warm, sandy hillsides along with open fields, and recognized its potential to be a luxury good back in Europe. 

They sent a few tubers back to their home country, and the flower instantly became a sensation. But they didn’t look much like the dahlias you see in gardens today; most modern varieties are actually hybrids of the three that Dahl and his team initially sent back, Dahlia pinnata, Dahlia rosea and Dahlia coccinea. 

In fact, from the time of Dahl’s mission to the year 1936, these original three had been hybridized into 14,000 different cultivars, and over 50,000 varieties are named today. There are still 35 varieties indigenous to the Central American hills where they were first discovered, but the vast majority of those breeds are not recoverable due to the extremely specific temperature and weather conditions where they originated. 

Gentle Giants

Because of the mixing and matching that went into creating today’s dahlias, every variety looks strikingly different. Single ring dahlias sport one row of petals aligned neatly around a central disc, while cactus dahlias look like a spiky ball of sharp petals without a clearly defined center. There are even pompom dahlias, which are near-perfect spheres made up of tiny petals that turn inwards rather than poking out like the cactus variety. 

If you want to grow your own dahlias, it’s important to consider how each one of these varieties not only look different but also perform differently under various environments. Pompom dahlias require lots of sunlight and fertilizer, while cactus dahlias are the most resistant to harsh weather due to their uniquely defensive shape. 

No matter what variety you end up choosing, remember to keep up with the most important part of growing dahlias–staking. Most types of dahlias can grow up to several feet tall, making them prone to falling over and wilting without the proper support. Once your plants reach a foot tall, consider tying them to a stake to improve their stability, and repeat the process for each foot taller they grow.

Dahlias for Diabetics AND Doctors

The stunning flowers of the dahlia plant are incredible enough on their own, but it’s also important to remember just how excellent the roots are, too. Medically, eating dahlia roots has shown to be beneficial to diabetics, as they provide a lot of starch without any damaging sugar. Even if you don’t have diabetes, consuming more starch and less processed sugar still has health benefits, even if they are less measurable.

In addition to being healthy, chemical substances in dahlia roots are also used in several medical tests. Some doctors take zinc oxide out of dahlia roots to measure cholesterol in blood samples, while others use them in tests to analyze liver and kidney function. Dahlias also have the unique property of increasing appetite–chemicals from the petals help open up the cell-level “storage” in intestinal cells, making them useful for studies on appetite and weight loss. 

Whether you’re looking to learn a bit about the landscape of Mexico, manage your diabetes, or simply grow something beautiful in your garden, dahlias are an excellent start. With a diverse selection of cultivars, shapes, and sizes, the dahlia is a flower that’s perfect for any occasion. 

Hyacinth: A Magical Allure

Floral Beauty

Tiny blossoms cluster atop tall stalks.

The delicate star-like flowers form into conical groups, in many colors of the rainbow. The striking textures and shapes invite the viewer to take time to study their magic, and they are equally admirable from a distance as they are up close.

The plants are especially graced in striking shades of purple from violet to lilac. But this plant is not a violet or a lilac. It has a different name, based on an ancient deity with a story that’s been passed down through millennia. We know it as the Hyacinthus orientalis, the beloved garden hyacinth. 

The regal hyacinth flowers stand together as proud ornaments, celebrating the springtime at their long-anticipated arrival (usually somewhere around March and April). The flowers are cultivated both indoors and outdoors, and give a lovely floral scent. Their aroma strengthens as they bloom, and the plant’s potent essential oils are often incorporated into alluring perfumery and body care products. 

While the plants may be cultivated worldwide, the hyacinth family of flowers is native to the warm Mediterranean and tropical African regions. When grown indoors, a technique known as forcing may be required. This involves promoting early blossoming of the floral display.

Variations on a Theme

The ever-popular Hyacinthus orientalis, or garden hyacinth, is one of three species in the Hyacinthus genus. The other two are known as Hyacinthus litwinowii and Hyacinthus transcaspicus, and are grouped from the family of Asparagaceae. Although the garden hyacinth is a beautiful decorative sight in the garden or at home, the plant’s gifts and utility extends far beyond mere ornamentation.

An Ancient Myth 

What does it take to name a flower? Many blossoms carry quite a history upon their petals, and the hyacinth is one of them.

The hyacinth flower inherited its name from an ancient Greek hero of divinity. In the story, the Spartan athlete Hyacinth (or Hyacinthus) was tragically killed while playing a game of discus with the god Apollo. Despite Apollo’s profound gift for the healing arts, this time the god was unable to save poor Hyacinth. It is said that in his sorrow and mourning, Apollo made use of his powers and brought forth a flower at Hyacinth’s grave. The flower’s original identity is disputed in some circles, but the modern garden hyacinths that we know and love are widely associated with this ancient tale of myth.

Hyacinth: Rich Meaning and Symbol

In the Victorian era, many people cleverly used flowers and floral arrangements as a way to communicate secret messages. This creative practice has been revisited and celebrated in recent years. For example: in The Language of Flowers, a novel by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, different floral colors represent varied symbols. With an open mind, these can reference the tale of the Greek god of the same name.

The general meaning of the hyacinth blossoms could stand for athletics, and red or pink might indicate play. But the meanings were not necessarily uplifting. Yellow could mean great jealousy, while purple hyacinths could stand for sorrow, remorse or even a heartfelt apology.

Perhaps this last emotion assigned to the color purple, regret, is what Willy Wonka’s young Violet Beauregarde was trying to express as she cried out desperately for help during her unfortunate and self-imposed transformation into a berry. 

Good Medicine: Hyacinth’s Healthful Applications

The hyacinth is a gorgeous flower to behold, in any color. But in addition to its beauty and widely regarded reputation, the famed hyacinth herb can be used medicinally for a host of physical issues. The plant’s material functions as an anti-inflammatory. From beauty care and digestion to even treating cholera, hyacinth may really be a true gift from those ancient gods.

Hyacinth Day happens to be March 7, so mark your calendar to celebrate the wonders of the wondrous blooms.

Aster: The Star of All Flowers

Starwort, Michaelmas Daisy, aster–no matter what you call it, this gorgeous star-shaped flower is a staple of gardens all over the world.

But why is this flower so famous, and where did it even come from? If you look into the fascinating history of the aster, you may be surprised just how much this little flower appears in the folklore and culture of countries all over the world.

From ancient mythology to French graveyards, the aster truly has been everywhere. Here’s everything you need to know about its history and how you can grow your own. 

A Star is Born

Legend has it that one night, Greek Goddess Astrea got upset that she couldn’t see many stars in the sky, so she decided to make her own. As each of her tears hit the ground, a star-shaped aster flower grew to fill her desire for more stars in the sky. Other cultures claim that Virgo scattered stardust over the earth and, out of the dust, aster flowers were born. 

Regardless of how they really came to be, the connection to stars continued to be the hallmark feature of this iconic plant. In the 18th century, for example, asters were scattered over the graves of French soldiers to symbolize their stardom and brightness in battle. In fact, the word “aster” itself is actually the Latin word for star! 

Still in Style 

Today, the aster is still widely known and important in many diverse ways. It is the official flower of 20th wedding anniversaries, making it a rather romantic flower, and many spiritualists still consider the aster to have evil-repelling properties. Medically, aster roots are mainly used in Chinese traditional medicine and acupuncture, where the roots are ground up and given to patients suffering from symptoms of cough and cold. Western medicine has moved away from the aster in recent years, but this Eastern tradition still continues. If you go to any Chinese market in any major city today, chances are you’ll find someone selling aster root. 

The different varieties of asters also carry their own significance, with each color reflecting a different emotion. Purple asters are the most common, symbolizing wisdom, while pink stands for love and white stands for innocence. In total, there are over 600 different types of aster, making it one of the most diverse varieties of plants in the world. 

Happily Ever Aster

Although it is generally more common to purchase potted aster than to grow your own, planting aster is relatively simple. They do well with sunlight but not as well with heat, preferring cool, moist summers in more temperate regions. If you live somewhere warmer, it is recommended that you plant away from direct sunlight. New England asters and New York asters are both great options for beginners, since they are easy to find and come in a wide array of colors. If you’re looking for a bushier, more low-to-ground plant, try Blue Wood aster or Heath aster respectively.

Once planted, asters require a large amount of water and soil to stay healthy. Many gardeners have found success covering plants in a thin layer of compost each year; even though asters are perennials, they still take some maintenance in order to stay healthy enough to come back. If you take good care of your plants, you’ll soon have a beautiful set of September birth flowers that you can give to your lover, burn to ward off serpents, or make your own medicine. 

Over the years, the cultural uses of aster have changed greatly, but one thing has remained the same–its beauty. If properly planted and cared for, this star-shaped flower can become the star of your garden with its diverse colors, gorgeous shape, and endless applications. 

600 Years of Tulipmania: What’s the Big Deal about Tulips?

For many people, flowers are just flowers–they bloom, provide beauty, and die.

But when you look beneath the surface and dig into the history of some of your favorite varieties, you may be shocked at all the fascinating facts and stories that you can find.

Tulips, one of the most well-known flowers on almost every continent, are no exception. From Turkey to the Netherlands, people have been in love with tulips for hundreds of years, and even today, the tulip holds a special place in pop culture.

Worldwide Love for Tulips

The tulip’s long journey to prominence all starts in the Ottoman Empire, which is present-day Turkey. Tulips had always bloomed in that area of the world, with the first records of their growth from 1000 BCE, but it wasn’t until a certain sultan took power that their popularity began to skyrocket. Because the Sultan loved these flowers so much, Turkey began to throw annual tulip festivals, and it became illegal to buy or sell tulips outside of the capital city.

This was the first time that tulips became a cultural phenomenon, but it wouldn’t be the last. In addition to Turkey’s tulip frenzy, the Netherlands had their own fascination with the plant that was infamously dubbed “Tulipmania.” During the peak of Tulipmania, the best tulips could sell for 4,000 florins–an entire year’s worth of wages. Unfortunately, these prices didn’t last long, and the market inevitably crashed, leaving a financial crisis for hopeful tulip growers (and making everyone who spent a year’s wages on a flower feel ridiculous!). 

Today’s Tulipmania 

This Dutch market crash was so important in history that today, investors still use the phrase Tulipmania as part of their everyday investment jargon. The housing bubble in 2008, for example, was basically a modern day example of what happened to the Dutch and their tulips–hopeful investors got too excited about one thing, and the market crashed. Right now, some investors anticipate that Bitcoin will also follow in the tulip’s footsteps.

Other than their prominence in investment lingo, tulips don’t have as much of a starring role in pop culture like the rose or the lily. Red tulips do, however, symbolize love and make a great gift to a loved one. Other colors carry different connotations: white tulips signify forgiveness, yellow tulips are for cheerful thoughts, variegated tulips represent beauty. 

Buying Your Own Bulbs

Although you can’t use them as currency like the Turks or sell them for a year’s wages like the Dutch, tulips make an excellent addition to any garden. If you live somewhere windy, like the Midwest, you may want to consider Darwin Hybrid Tulips as they are weather and wind resistant. If you don’t need your plants to be quite as hardy, try a more unique-looking variety like variegated tulips or fringed tulips. 

Whichever variety you choose, it’s important to remember that tulips need very special care before they are planted! Tulips will start sending up shoots as soon as you put them in the ground, leading them to face an early death if you plant while it’s still too cold. Most people recommend storing your bulbs until the springtime, keeping them in the crisper drawer of your fridge away from other food. Once they are in the ground, tulips are hardy perennials that will last for years to come. 

Because tulips are so expensive, not much medical research has been done, but it is rumored that crushed-up tulips can calm down skin that is inflamed, itchy, or bug-bitten. The jury’s still out on whether this is scientifically true, but if you end up growing your own bulbs, it’s worth a try! 

From Sultans to Dutch nobility, people have long recognized the tulip’s beauty and value. If you want to see for yourself, give growing your own a try–preferably before the next Tulipmania hits and you have to save up an entire year’s wages to buy one.

The Rise of Roses and Romance

What’s the only thing that the films American BeautyV for Vendettaand Beauty and The Beast all have in common?

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 Julietroses 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.