FLOWER SCHOOL: THE HISTORY OF RED ROSES
A love that has lasted the ages - the romantic red rose is probably the most enduring symbol of love.
In fact, it goes a whole 5000 years back, when the roses we know and love today were first cultivated in China. The flowers, seeds and plants soon became a popularly traded item all over the world.
Eventually, they made it to the Ancient Greeks, for whom it was associated with Aphrodite, the goddess of love. The story goes that the first rose bloomed when she found her lover, Adonis, mortally wounded. Her tears mixed with his blood, and when they hit the ground a large, fragrant rose bush began to grow. Oh, the romance!
Fast forward a couple of hundred years to early Christians, who saw it as a symbol of love and beauty but also death. Even today the 'miracle of the roses' holds deep meaning for Catholics, with the Madonna often depicted surrounded by red roses.
There symbolism clearly continued to hold, as fifteen centuries later Shakespeare would go on to mention the flower (red and otherwise) over 70 times in his works. This is most likely at least partly inspired by 'War of Roses' that was a pretty prevalent feature of England at the time, but surely by the beauty of the flower itself too. The classic 'rose by any other name would smell as sweet' is one of his (Romeo & Juliet, if you were wondering).
The Victorians, who popularised gifting bouquets as an expression of love through the 'language of flowers', with red roses being the symbols of love and beauty. The Victorians really went all in when it came to the symbolism of roses as tokens of love. The deeper the colour of the rose, the stronger the affection. And surely there's nothing like a cheeky romantic stroll through a rose gardens to help get the passions going.
It's most likely from the Victorian days that these ruby beauties became a Valentine's Day stalwart, and with a history of lovers longer than I care to mention, it's hardly surprising.
Words by Abi Himan