Roses have been a symbol of love and beauty since ancient times. The rose was sacred to Isis, the Ancient Egyptian goddess of motherhood, fertility and magic, and to Aphrodite, Ancient Greek goddess of love and beauty. In Christianity, the rose is often used as a symbol of the Virgin Mary. Even today, red roses are the favoured gift to a sweetheart on Valentine’s Day, and rose petals, either real or paper, are often thrown over the newly wed couple at weddings. Roses are also a very popular subject for paintings, and as a decorative motif on everything from wallpaper to wrought iron gates.
Wild roses can be found all over Britain; in fact there are at least a dozen species. These include the well-known, pale-pink dog rose (Rosa canina) and the ultra-spiny, white-flowered burnet rose (R. pimpinellifolia). Their single flowers are much more attractive to bees than the many-petalled garden varieties, and they are a good source of nectar and pollen. Thorny rose shoots, or briars, also help make hedges safer places for birds to nest.
Roses in cookery
Roses are one of the few flowers to be used in cookery, especially in Middle Eastern food. Turkish delight, for example, is flavoured with rose water. Rose petals can be added to salads and fruit salads, just remove the white bit at the base which is bitter. Crystallised rose petals make lovely cake decorations, and rose syrup or rose water can be used in a wide range of dishes. For more ideas go to www.plantforlife.info/roses. Rose hips contain high levels of vitamin C, and during World War Two they were collected, often by children, to make into rose hip syrup to supply this important vitamin.
For more on floral emblems associated with different countries go to Wikipedia (http://wapedia.mobi/en/County_flower).
For an interesting article on edible flowers, go to the National Gardens Scheme (http://www.ngs.org.uk/gardens/local-to-you/east/edible-flowers.aspx)