Did you know that over 2,000 years ago the Romans grew and loved roses as much as we do today? These Roman roses were far different from those popular now – there were no “Hybrid Teas” or “Floribundas” during those ancient times; they were to arise literally thousands of years later in Europe. Roman roses were largely “species” or wild roses. But nonetheless they were delicate, lovely and exquisitely fragrant.
Did you know that you can see one of these Roman roses in bloom right now in the Centennial Rose Garden on the Schmidt House grounds? This rose is called Rosa gallica (literally rose of Gaul). A rose species native to central and southern Europe, it was imported into the Roman Empire and grown in great quantities – its petals were showered over Roman rulers and their guests, and down upon returning victorious Roman armies. They were even dropped into wine glasses to ease the effects of drunkenness.
The Rosa gallica variety growing in the Centennial Rose Garden has had many names. For example, it has been called the “Apothecary Rose” owing to the medicinal properties of its blossoms, stems and hips. It is also known as the “Red Rose of Lancaster” as it was adopted by the House of Lancaster as its emblem during the 30-year “War of Roses” in 15th century England. It was once also called the “Rose of Provins” because it formed the basis of an immense perfume industry that flourished from the 13th to the 18th century around the town of Provins in northern France.
So come see this rose of great historic significance blooming in the northwest corner of the Centennial Rose Garden. But you’d better hurry because it blooms only in late May and early June.
by Gary Ritchie