OK, so I have reached that time of life where we are supposed to slow down. Or, as the old suggestion is, “Stop and smell the roses.”
Well, the corner of my front porch is occupied by a very large and very old rose vine. Every spring it puts out a blanket of red, fragrant blossoms. It is a very hardy vine that requires little attention. I never give it fertilizer. It never needs any treatment for diseases. Even in the extreme drought of the last several summers did not faze it.
My mother took a cutting from a vine at an old home place and rooted it. That was at least 40 years ago and it is still going strong.
I never knew a name for the rose. I assumed it had one, but not being a rose fanatic, I never worried about it. But now that I have a bit more time to allow my curiosity to expand, I decided to see if I could find out just what kind of rose it is. It didn’t take long on the Internet to identify the rose, and what I found stunned me. That vine has quite a history!
Its scientific name is R. gallica officinalis, but it has many common names in various parts of the world. Yes, I said world. This flower is grown in many nations. It is called a Double Red Rose, Old Red Damask, Red Rose of Lancaster, and many other names. Most of the websites put at the top of the list of names Apothecary’s Rose because of its use as a medical herb.
The earliest report of this plant comes from the seventh or eighth century ancient Persia. It was brought to Europe in the 12th or 13th century by returning crusaders, and on to North America by the early colonists. It was a feature in the gardens of European monasteries where it was used in the treatment of indigestion, sore throat, skin rash and eye problems. Women would rub the petals into their skin to eliminate wrinkles. It was also used in various other cosmetics and perfumes.
Monks would also use the rose petals in the manufacture of prayer beads. That gave rise to the name “rosary.”
An ancient recipe for rose petal tea: five teaspoons of petals seeped in four cups of boiling water for five to ten minutes, sweetened with honey and served warm.
There is a large body of literature about the rose. It appears in many diverse places such as book titles, history books, poems and motion pictures. There is a nice article with pictures about the rose at www.rosemagazine.com.
For 40 years or more, that vine has been outside my living room window. And I never gave it much notice other than a pretty flower. I am glad I looked it up. It has been around throughout the history of western culture and heritage.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. His website can be accessed at http://frankgillispie.tripod.com/