Valentine Roses

George Geralis
Adams County Master Gardener

(1/29) With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, romantics young and old, lovers dazzled with an intense affection for one another, the steady-as-you-go hand holders and even the perennially contented lovebird types will show their love in a very special way.

Elementary school children will exchange valentines, while their teenage counterparts may select a very special store-bought box of chocolates or an affordable heart shaped piece of jewelry.

The range of sentimental gifts befitting the day is endless and could include selections ranging from the simple to the sublime.

For the more sophisticated, perhaps dinner at a special restaurant or an intimate dinner for two at home.

Greeting cards expressing love in many ways and for a select few smitten with love, a luxurious sports car or even a diamond.

Historically, however, the red rose has been the popular Valentine’s Day choice over the past century, and customarily accompanies every other gift.

In Victorian times a gift of a red rose meant I love you in "flower talk," the language of flowers that attributed the various meanings to different flowers. A bouquet of violets, for instance, denoted modesty becomes you and a gardenia, my sweet love were examples found in floral dictionaries outlining the most subtle meanings of floral translations.

There are many legends about roses. One legend tells us that Bacchus the god of wine, the god of happiness and eternally young, came upon a blushing nymph, entangled in a thorn bush. He was so taken by the color of her blush that he waved his wand and ordered the bush to cover itself with flowers as red as the blush on the nymph’s cheek. He commanded … and the rose was born.

Poems memorized from early school days as simple as, Roses are Red, Violets are Blue, Sugar is sweet and so are you and its many variations range to beautiful expressions, as found in the following anonymous poem:

A Dilemma

Lady, when I behold roses sprouting
Which clad in damask mantles deck the arbors,
And then behold your lips where sweet love harbours,
My eves present me with a double doubting:
For viewing both alike, hardly my mind supposes
Whether the roses be your lips or your lips the roses.

In the early 1970’s Black Magic and Happiness roses were introduced. Their beautiful dark shades of red toppled the American Beauty, that for many decades represented the standard of quality. Today, Freedom and Forever Yours reign supreme.

According to reliable wholesale flower distributors red roses will be plentiful for Valentine’s Day. Many of the choicest will arrive from international sources. Ninety percent will come from Ecuador and Colombia, producers of some of the finest roses.

While retail prices will vary depending on supply and demand, quality will remain the prevailing factor to the consumer.

For the budget minded consumer, however "chain" grocery stores may offer a lesser grade fresh rose at a more reasonable price. Street vendors and others generally offer seconds at cheaper prices.

For the rose connoisseur, perhaps one perfect red rose will do

"A single rose to gaze upon,
Its petals slowly unfurl,
Reflecting the pleasure of
Different shades of red
Can bring a lifetime of
Blissful memories
Intermingled with fragrances
Of delicate perfume."

For those fortunate enough to receive red roses this Valentine’s Day, the following recommendations should be followed:

  • Upon receipt of the roses, remove the lower leaves and thorns.
  • A quick, safe and easy way of removing leaves and thorns without damaging the surface of the stem is to use a heavy glove or cloth on the hand for protection and simply pull it down over the stem. Scraping the stem surface with a sharp knife will damage the flower’s vascular system (its ability to take-up water).
  • Select a clean vase tall enough to accommodate the roses and fill it with warm water (100˚F-110˚F) to which a flower preservative has been added.
  • Cut the stem ends at a slant, one at a time with a clean sharp knife and immediately plunge each stem into the water before proceeding with the rest. Ideally, stem ends should be cut under water to allow immediate take-up of water.
  • Place filled vase of roses in a cool, well lit, draft free area away from bright sunlight or a radiator for an hour or two before placing it elsewhere.

The Valentine’s Day rose is but one manifestation of the language of flowers. From the website Wikipedia comes this definition of the language of flowers:

The language of flowers, sometimes called floriography, was a Victorian-era means of communication in which various flowers and floral arrangements were used to send coded messages, allowing individuals to express feelings which otherwise could not be spoken. This language was most commonly communicated through Tussie-Mussies, an art which has a following today.

The nuances of the language are now mostly forgotten, but red roses still imply passionate, romantic love and pink roses a lesser affection; white roses suggest virtue and chastity and yellow roses still stand for friendship or devotion. Also commonly known meanings are sunflowers, which can indicate either haughtiness or respect – they were the favorite flower of St. Julie Billiart for this reason. Gerbera (daisy) means innocence or purity. The iris, being named for the messenger of the gods in Greek mythology, still represents the sending of a message. A pansy signifies thought, a daffodil regard, and a strand of ivy fidelity.

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