SAINT Valentine’s Day is the perfect day for favouring the people you love with a gift – even if they are just friends.
And the most popular gift for a woman is a beautiful bunch of red roses – their meaning is passion and love.
Very popular in ancient Babylonia, this spectacular flower was introduced in Europe during the Christian Crusades.
Rosa gallica, or Rose of France, is the mother of all modern roses. And another important one is rosa lutea, yellow rose, imported from Asia Minor and cultivated in France since the end of XII century.
From the Far East in 1771 came the bengala rose or rosa sinensis semperflorens (no perfume and pink colour), the tea rose – or rosa indica fragrans or rosa odorata (tea perfume and white or pale pink colour) – and the china rosa (intense red colour). All these are the origin of all hybrids.
During the Middle Ages roses were a symbol of beauty and purity. In 535AD the bishop Saint Menardo decided to give a prize to wise girls. The young girl elected received a sum of money as her dowry and a crown of white roses for being virtuous.
At the end of the 19th century there were still some French towns where maidens where crowned with white roses.
Another story about roses is that of the Gold Rose Bush, which was blessed by the Pope on the fourth Sunday of Lent, the Sunday of the Roses. The Pope offered the gold rose to the Prefect of Rome and to all European Catholic kings, even to towns and churches. For example, the Cathedral of Florence in Italy is called Santa Maria dei Fiori in memory of the Gold rose given by the Pope.
Queen of all flowers, there are more than 300 kinds of roses and over 25,000 different varieties. This plant is quite strong and needs just a little care to be happy.
Most importantly, they need the sun to grow and flower vigorously.
The soil should be porous and rich in humus and porous – certainly not too chalky or sandy.
The key success is the depth of planting, whether in the garden or a pot. In the garden make a hole of about 30cms deep and with plenty of width.
Water your roses with moderation, especially those in pots but bear in mind that a rose in full sun needs more water. If just planted don’t let it dry. If your rose is flowering it needs more water too. Two or three times a week is a good watering.
Add some peat if planted in the garden and give it some fertiliser if in a pot.
Pruning is always a good way to stimulate the growth of a plant, the intensity of the leaves and to improve its strength against illness. Best time for this is the spring, cutting about 6.8mm above a bud.
Cut all dead flowers to stimulate the growth of new ones and eliminate all weak stems.
If keeping your rose indoors, ensure that the pot is deep enough to allow long growth of the roots. Each plant needs a minimum space of 20cm around it for comfort.
Good soil, rich in humus and porous, is the key to success. And ensure it gets plenty of light (but no direct sun) from a window while avoiding drafts.
Don’t water to excess. Plants indoors need less than plants outdoors. But water more during the flowering.
Finally, just as you would tend an outdoors rose, give it a good pruning in spring – and keep removing those dead flowers, together with the two leaves under the flower with a clean cut.