A rose is the woody perennial of the Rosaceae family – of which there are over one hundred different species. The rose can grow as a shrubby bush, a climbing plant or a trailing plant, all with stems that contain sharp prickles. The flowers vary in size and shape but are usually large with colours ranging from white to reds and yellows. Most species are actually native to Asia, with a small amount native to North America, Europe and northwest Africa. The hybrids and cultivars are grown for their fragrance and beauty. The rose plants range in size from compact to miniature and climbers that can grow up to seven meters tall. Many of the rose species hybridize quite easily and this has lead to the development of many of the garden variety roses available today.
The name Rose comes from the French Rosa which is a Latin word that dates back many centuries.
The Rosa has been divided into 4 subgenera – Hulthemia, Hesperrhodos, Platyrhodon and Rosa – which has been divided into another 11 different sections – Banksianae, Bracteatae, Caninae, Carolinae, Chinensis, Gallicanae, Gymnocarpae, Laevigatae, Pimpinellifoliae, Rosa and Synstylae.
Roses are best known as garden ornamental plants grown for their pretty flowers and lovely fragrance. Sometimes they are even used as indoor plants, and are often used by florist and by commercial perfumeries. Some species of roses are grown for their medicinal uses, while also used as landscaping plants and for hedges.
As ornamental plants, the majority of roses are hybrids bred purely for their flowers, while a few species are grown specifically for their perfume or even for their fruit – such as the Rosa Moyesii. Roses have been grown for many centuries with the earliest roses dating back to 500BC in Mediterranean countries such as China and Persia. In the early nineteenth century the French Empress Josephine encouraged the development of breeding roses at her gardens in Malmaison. As far back as 1840 a collection numbering in excess of 1000 different species was grown by the Loddiges nursery in England for the Abney Park Cemetery – which was a Victorian garden cemetery and arboretum.
These days a few species of hybrids are still grown for their non-floral ornamental use. As cut flowers, roses have become a popular crop for florists and home gardeners alike. For commercial use by florists, the flowers are generally cut while still in bud form and held in refrigerated storage until they are ready for use.
Rose perfume is made from Rose Oil which is simply a mix of essential oils and is the product of steam distilling crushed rose petals. A similar product – Rose Water – is used in cooking, medicine and cosmetics. Rose Hips are sometimes made into jelly, marmalade, jams or can be brewed for tea. Rose Hip is well known for its high Vitamin C content. They can also be pressed and filtered to make rose hip syrup, and are also used to produce rose hip seed oil which is used in makeup and skincare products.