A Rose By Any Other Name

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

 Romeo & Juliet by William Shakespeare


Obviously I’m bringing you the rose and what better way to introduce it than with Shakespeare. Of course, he was right, you know. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, even if it were called skunk.

The variety of roses, natural and hybrid, are so great that I could write one a day for an entire year and not cover them all. It might be a fun project but my ADD wouldn’t allow it. Besides, beyond knowing they’re pretty, are fragrant and I can’t grow them, I honestly don’t know that much about roses.

Roses have been written about since before Confucius. They’ve played symbolic parts in romances and tragedies. Roses even received amnesty while England and France were at war. Think I’m kidding? Josephine, Napoleon’s wife, loved roses. Some say, all right, I say, to obsession. She loved them so much that “Napoleon ordered his captains to bring home any new rose they found blooming on foreign shores”. The English even allowed her gardener to freely roam between blockades in order to deliver roses to his mistress. Can you imagine the secrets passed through the rose bushes?

Speaking of (well now I’m not exactly speaking of spies and secrets) secret messages, roses have been passed between acquaintances for hundreds of years.We all know roses, especially red ones, speak of love, but what of the other colors? I’ve always known white to represent purity and yellow friendship. What about purple and orange? Author Keli Gwyn posted a fun blog a few weeks back about this kind of thing. You can check it out here.

Roses have different meanings within different cultures. Some cultures consider the rose sacred, in others they’ve attached the rose to sacred beings, such as St. Mary. I’ve even heard the five rose petals represent the five wounds inflicted upon Christ’s body. Many countries use the rose as their national flower, including the United States.

Before I wrote this blog I thought roses had been imported into the United States, and some were. Oriental and teacup roses were imported from France right into New Orleans before the Civil War. But many roses are native to the United States, a fact that I didn’t know. Something else I didn’t know is that roses grow wild in all the states, even Alaska. Oddly, the only place roses aren’t indigenous is south of the equator.

So, what does all this have to do with writing? Well, for one thing there’s a lot to learn about them. If you’re writing an historical about a Southern Belle, her roses might have been imported. If you’re writing an historical in Brazil the roses would definitely have been imported. If you’re writing a contemporary set in Kansas or Alaska then it’s possible your photographer heroine caught a deer browsing wild roses. If your heroine receives a single rose, then her hero is claiming love at first sight. If she receives a couple dozen then her hero is head over heels.

Ahhhh, the possibilities are endless, whether you’re writing a research paper, an historical, a romance or a contemporary. I for one, want to dig further in Josephine’s love for roses and the possibility that Napoleon used his wife’s hobby to spy.

History of the Rose
Rose Color Meaning
Number of Roses Meaning

*All pictures came from my mother’s garden.
**The quote came from History of the Rose.

4 thoughts on “A Rose By Any Other Name

  1. Oh boy, Jennifer, a French historical? Funny, I started one back in 2006 during the French Revolution. It focused on a deaf community who fled to England.

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