An introduction to Roses
It’s the heady height of the English rose season so we’ve invited award-winning English growers and florists The Real Flower Company to share with us ten beautifully scented facts about roses over a cup of our Ceylon and Rose tea. The Real Flower Company was founded more than twenty years ago by Rosebie Morton, who was dismayed that the cut roses she found in florists had lost their scent. The Real Flower Company now grows more than eighty varieties of scented roses – plus award-winning sweet peas, wild flowers, herbs and foliage – on its fairtrade, sustainable farms in the South Downs National Park, Chichester, and in Kenya, all of which are accredited with the highest levels of social and environmental standards.
Roses in History
According to fossil evidence found in Europe, the first roses bloomed more than 35 million years ago. Ossified rose wreaths have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs, Egyptian queen Cleopatra had her rooms filled with rose petals so Roman general Marc Antony would be haunted by the scent, and hedonistic Roman emperor Nero would surprise guests with cascades of rose petals. The Tudor rose is the national emblem of England and roses have been celebrated throughout the country’s history.
The Story of Rose Tea
Rosebud and rose-petal tea - rose tea - have been prescribed within Chinese medicine for more than 5,000 years. Benefits are believed to include aiding digestion, easing depression, and soothing and calming both body and mind. Rosebud tea is often called ‘the lady’s tea’ as it is hailed as a natural treatment for women during their menstrual cycle. Rosebuds contain high levels of both vitamin C and antioxidants.
Coming Up Roses
Want to grow your own roses successfully? First, choose a strong plant from a reputable nursery (see Roses UK for a list http://www.rosesuk.com). Carefully prepare your site by digging in plenty of compost. Make sure you water newly planted roses during dry spells, as rainwater doesn’t reach their roots. Feed your roses in Spring after you have pruned them and then again after their first flush of flowers in the summer. Plant companion plants next to your roses to encourage beneficial insects and to help suppress weeds. Lavender (Lavandula), catmint (Nepeta) and lady’s mantle (Alchemilla) are all good companion plants for roses. Finally, go strong on pruning – heavy pruning rejuvenates and opens up shrubs, letting in light and air and discouraging disease and mildew.
Cut Stem Care
Always choose a cool, shady spot to display your cut roses. Rosebie advises adding a teaspoon of sugar, two to three drops of bleach and a dessertspoonful of vinegar to the water to help prolong the vase life of cut flowers.
The Meaning of Roses
In the language of flowers (sometimes called floriography), red roses are a symbol of love and desire, white roses represent charm and innocence, yellow roses symbolise joy and friendship, pale pink roses are for grace, dark pink for gratitude and mid-pink for perfect happiness.
Demise of Scented Roses
Wild roses would not survive without their scent, which is what attracts bees to pollinate their flowers. However, most cut roses available in the UK have been genetically modified to remove their scent gene in favour of creating tough varieties that can survive days, sometimes even weeks, on the road (currently only 10-12% of cut flowers sold in the UK are UK grown). Rosebie has spent more than twenty years growing beautifully scented garden roses that smell as sweet as nature intended.
There is a long history of roses being used in perfumery. It takes 600 kilos of rose petals to yield 1 kilo of rose absolute and 3500 kilos to produce 1 kilo of rose oil. According to acclaimed Grasse fragrance distiller Robertet, only 8 tonnes of rose absolute are produced annually worldwide along with 4 tonnes of rose oil, which is therefore a rare and highly prized commodity.
Art of Roses
During the seventeenth century roses were in such high demand that roses and rose water were considered by royalty to be legal tender. Napoleon’s wife Josephine curated a celebrated collection of roses at the Château de Malmaison, their estate to the west of Paris. The Malmaison garden was where renowned painter and botanist Pierre-Joseph Redouté’s watercolour collection ‘Les Roses’, one of the finest sets of botanical illustrations, was created.
Master of Roses
Think of roses and people often think of David Austin. David Austin started growing roses as a hobby in his early teens – and sixty years (and two generations) later, David Austin and family are still renowned for roses. The Real Flower Company is an official cut-stem supplier of David Austin’s roses. Evelyn, with delicate blush-toned petals and a scent reminiscent of peaches and apricot, has seen a huge surge in popularity this year.
A Tale of Two Flushes
Like the tea plant (Camellia sinensis), garden roses have two flushes. Thanks to this year’s glorious weather, the first flush at The Real Flower Company’s Hampshire rose paddock was glorious. “The second flush is starting to come through now,” says Rosebie. “There’s something so exciting about seeing the roses break into bloom – It fills your senses with that incredible scent, lifting your spirits. For me, it will always represent the best of English summertime.”
Small but perfectly formed, our intensely fragrant and beautiful rosebuds release an almost euphoric aroma and flavour. Our rose tea comprises of whole rosebuds – simply picked and dried – and nothing more. Fragrant and enchanting, this tea can be enjoyed as a caffeine-free herbal infusion, or blended with a rich Ceylon for something more robust. What’s more, it looks beautiful in our JING glassware.
You can discover The Real Flower Company’s range of scented bouquets online with next day nationwide delivery at realflowers.co.uk or call the London shop on 020 7349 8638 for same day London delivery. Rosebie hosts rose growing courses at The Real Flower Company’s rose paddock in Hampshire – you can find more details here.