Unusual Rose Stories: True and False

Here are some wonderful stories that grace the long history of the rose. We know, for example, that Cleopatra used rosewater in her boat sails to "scent the breeze" and we also know that the plasterers building the Mosques of Baghdad used rose water in the cement mix so that when built, the walls would help fill the evening breezes with the sweet smell of roses.

True or not, there is a charming story of a young couple who, on their wedding day, were given an unusual gift by their in-laws. The canal that encircled the town was filled with rose water so that the newlyweds could watch the sunset through scented breezes as they floated along the canal. The hot afternoon sun caused the rosewater to begin to evaporate and during this process, rose oil was separated from rosewater. Thus, rose oil of "Attar" was discovered and the lucrative scent industry was born.

There are no blue roses although "Blue Moon" claims to come close, and there are as yet, no black roses. Black Baccara is probably the closest. There is however a green rose. Rosa Chinensis Viridiflora is a tiny green rose from China... long name, small size. Rosa Orniendsis Pteracantha is pretty unusual as well, with inch long thorns which turn bright red if viewed against the light.

Supposedly the worlds' biggest rose bush is in Tombstone Arizona and it has an interesting history. It is part of the rose tree museum in Arizona and the original roots were planted in 1885 by Mrs. Henry Gee, who had received a box of "Lady Banksia" shrub rose from relatives in Scotland. Today the single trunk rises to support over 8000 sq feet of bush, helped by a trellis of pipe-work. It is estimated that this amazing rose produces over a million small white roses.

At the other end of the scale are the micro-miniature roses. "Hi" and "Si" was the the first, being bred in Spain in 1957. This very small rose grows to seven inches and produces pale pink roses less than half an inch in diameter. Tied for size is Hi at six to eight inches of height, again with a pale pink bloom of about half an inch. Hi has a single bloom of five petals.

Of all the unusual rose garden stories, my choice goes to the Rome Municipal Rose Gardens which overlook the Circus Maximus. There are several reasons for this choice. The rose garden is partially on the ground of the Temple to Flora, built in the 3rd Century BC and although it is relatively small, it is home to over 1000 different varieties of roses from over 20 countries. But wait - there's more!

Part of the rose garden was originally an old Jewish cemetery so the pathways are shaped into a menorah and the original patron, the lady who started it all, was from Pennsylvania. You can see it today, next to the Coliseum, but it is only open when the roses are in bloom.

The largest rose bloom ever seen is attributed to grower and hybridizer Nikita Rulhoksoffski of San Onofire, CA. He is said to have bred, and shown at the local rose show, a massive 33 inch diameter pink rose bloom. The stem reached 6 feet and the specimen had to be placed on the floor rather than on the show table.

Actually this story started in St. Fagan's Castle in Cardiff Wales. They were attempting to build a Victorian heritage rose garden and a very rare rose, bred in the 19th Century (1887), called "Bardou Job" was one of the ninety needed for the project. The Heritage Rose Group was asked to find this missing rose which was most feared had died out. They found it, of all places, blooming in what was once the head warden's garden on Alcatraz. The warden was known for his roses and the prisoners tended them. It had been under "top security" all the time.

With the help of a friend and gifted writer, David LeAche, we have offered these unusual stories from our world of roses. Most of them are true; after all Dave and I are Rosarians and would never try to fool you. Truthfully, as far as we know only one is not true... ah, but which one?


Esther B. Smith, author
This article was fun to research and write about because history seems to carry these stories from generation to generation -- each one adding a bit of their own imagination.