‘The optimist sees the rose and not its thorns whilst the pessimist stares at the thorns, oblivious to the rose.’
So says the Lebanese poet, Kalil Gibran, the author of ‘The Prophet’. This optimist enjoys almost nothing better all summer than a single bloom by the bedside – the last scent of the day and the first waking sniff. Lucky enough to have roses in abundance? Dry their petals, make free confetti, find a bride.
The historical roots of a rose run very deep indeed. The first documented evidence appears in the 9th century BC in book 23 of Homer’s The Iliad; the downfall of the city of Troy. Achillies kills Hector, the son of the king. His shield decorated with roses and Hectors body anointed with rose oil before being presented to the Goddess Aphrodite, to whom the rose is dedicated. Mythology dictates that Aphrodite, in her haste at seeing her true love Adonis mortally wounded, scratched herself on some mythical white blooms, her droplets of blood stained them forever red. Hence the red rose as the lovers token.
Ever read the hauntingly sad tale of ‘The Nightingale and the Rose’ written by Oscar Wilde in 1888? The Literature Network Online has it reproduced in full.
Napoleons wife, Josephine, had troops collect a vast variety of species all to grace her rose garden at Malmaison in Paris. The renowned botanical artist, Pierre Joseph Redoute, recorded them all for posterity. Some of the collection is held at the John Innes Research Centre, Norwich.
From Alba to Tea, and hundreds of families and varieties in between, most roses should be at their very best throughout June and into July.
And if the summer is behaving itself, a cool sorbet to refresh, pale and pretty.
Put 5oz of sugar into a pan of 10fl oz water and boil.
Take off heat, add four fragrant rose heads of petals.
Leave to cool overnight.
Strain, stir in the juice of a lemon and a tablespoonful of rosewater.
Freeze in a shallow container and slide into the freezer.
When sides start to solidify, break up and refreeze and repeat again.
Process briefly in food processor just to break up any jagged edges.
Freeze again! Then 40-50 minutes in a fridge before serving to soften up
(As Byfords foray into gelato – will rose sorbet become a seasonal ‘special’?)
Meringue, cream, strawberries, good enough but with rose coulis? Extra special!
Liquidize 2oz caster sugar, 2tbsp orange juice, 2 tbsp lemon juice, 3 fragrant heads of individual rose petals – drizzle over!
There are fourteen entries for the word ‘rose’, occupying a whole column of my ‘Concise’ Oxford Dictionary. Anybody know how the watering can ‘rose’ got its name?
At our very own Norfolk nursery, the famous Peter Beale Roses, Attleborough. Free admission to over 3 acres of roses and companion plants, hourly guided garden tours available at £3.50 and of course a vast choice of plants for purchase. See Peter’s roses and their supporting cast in the new Rose Garden at East Ruston. Or take a trip to Mannington Hall where over a thousand roses take centre stage. Call 01263 584175 for opening times and admission charges.
Recipe ideas discovered in Sophie Grigson’s excellent treatise on ‘Herbs’ the book, a discovery at the Blakeney Book Fair, well worth a browse.
All images used within this story courtesy of Norfolk-based JCoePhotography.
Except first story image reproduced by kind permission from The Love of Roses.