Roses have always been surrounded by deep, romantic symbolism. They are still the flower of choice for lovers who've known each other for both a short and long time, making them the ever-popular choice to gift on Valentine's Day. It is estimated that more than 250 million roses are produced for Valentine's Day each year.
That's 85% of all roses bought for Valentine's Day. 65% of these tend to be classic red roses!
So how did red roses come to mean eternal love? Why are roses for lovers? How were roses cultivated?
A Seed Planted in History
According to fossil records, roses are over 35 million years old. Roses were found mostly in the northern hemisphere and were likely first grown by the Chinese.
Roman traders would exchange goods for roses with Chinese merchants over the Silk Road.
Roses were used as medicine, confetti, and symbols of power and status.
Cleopatra allegedly scattered rose petals around her room. Especially whenever her paramour, Marc Antony, arrived. Cleopatra's welcoming of Marc Antony was so that whenever he smelt a rose on his conquests, he would be reminded of her.
After the fall of Rome in the 5th century, the catholic church denounced roses. They saw the rose as a symbol of Pagan worship because Roman citizens were obsessed with them. This ban by the church threw roses into obscurity for almost 800 years until when they made their return and were seen as the flower for lovers.
Roses Grew Strong and Noble
The red rose made a stunning comeback during the Middle Ages. The crusades are thought to have reintroduced roses into the Christian world. Muslims had long grown the flower, so returning Crusaders often brought roses.
This was important for the future of royal and noble heraldry. The coat of arms of many noble houses in Europe, particularly the French, tended to use roses.
The red colouring gave a forever enchanted rose the kind of mythology and religious importance we know today. Roses in other colours were usually used to depict offshoots of the main houses of nobility.
Stories of King Arthur and bold chivalric knights often use the rose as a symbol of gentile nobility and the honour of warriors. Knights would gift roses to paramours during tournaments, and poetry would soon be written about their beauty.
The rose continued to be an important symbol of nobility throughout the Middle Ages and into the early modern period. Even Shakespeare would say, "A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet"
The Thorns beneath the Rose
Perhaps the most famous historical event centred around roses was a series of Civil Wars in England. The Wars of the Roses were fought between the royal households of York and Lancaster. These nobles identified themselves with a white and red rose, respectively.
After the war, the houses were united under the Tudor family. Henry Tudor, or Henry VII, was a Lancastrian. Thus his house colours were red roses. In ensuring the civil wars over the throne were well and truly over, he married the young maiden of the York side, Elizabeth of York. Together, they united the warring houses and brought peace to the land.
Their union brought not only the birth of Henry VIII but also the creation of the Church of England and all subsequent history. It created a new sigil for the Tudor family: The Tudor Rose. This was a union of red and white roses into a stunning array. Even today, the Tudor rose is a proud symbol of England and its history.
A rose box with a red and white rose means the union between two people, the coming together of different ideologies or perspectives into one.
Why not buy a gift rose box of red roses and white on the side?
Growing Old and Beautiful in the Garden
Rose culture and its association with romantic love began to erupt in the 19th century. Many Victorian dandies began collating studies on the "Flower language", which is the language of flower gifts, to insinuate romantic approaches.
The glory of this system was plausible deniability. Say that the flowers were rejected or a chaperone alerted to romantic intent. Then a bachelor or bachelorette could simply deny any hidden meaning.
This quite early form of flirting began some of the first flower delivery businesses, a culture still strong even today.
Roses became so popular; many florists and biologists began designing rose hybrids to increase their size and beauty.
From this obsession, we get our modern thoughts on roses being for lovers.
Roses Today and Tomorrow
To this day, gifting a rose is still one of the most beautiful ways to show your love and affection. However, there is a dangerous game occurring. As more people grow and wish to send flowers to their loved ones, the strain on the market is continually growing.
Every Valentine's Day, without fail, roses are the most popular flower to be found in the entire market. Millions of roses are cultivated, and many of them are cut and sold within a few days of reaching maturity. The intense farming of roses leads to many fresh-cut flowers being grown, only to be left unbought or die in their vases. They waste away after only a few days. Their harmful growth in greenhouses creates more problems than smiles on people's faces.
This is where infinity roses are changing the game. By farming roses in season, only from fairtrade farms, we offset the carbon cost of production and transportation with a completely carbon-neutral strategy.
This year, you can relax knowing your gift of roses will not only be well received but have not further harmed the environment. Find out more about the sustainable practises behind our forever flowers.