"By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; and by knowledge
the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches." ~Proverbs 24:3-4

Not Just For Kids

A Rose is a Rose

“That which we call a Rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” ~William Shakespeare

This page is dedicated to Rose M. (Fitzgerald) Olsen. Born on February 23, 1927 in Somerville, Massachusetts. Moved to Phoenix, Arizona in 1973. Owner of Whitten Printers. Loving mother of seven children – Christine, Janice, Chuck, Rosemary, Richard (my husband), James, Matthew. Wonderful "Nana" of seventeen grandchildren ranging in age from 3 to 33. (My son Joshua is the youngest.) Preceded in death by her husband, Charles R. Olsen (1923-1990). Peacefully departed on March 12, 2004. Rose was a wonderful lady. Her family and friends will miss her dearly. “Each Morn a thousand Roses brings, you say…Yes, but where leaves the Rose of Yesterday?” (Edward Fitzgerald, 1879)

Just as my mother-in-law Rose is cherished by many people, the floral rose is perhaps the best-loved of all flowers. Roses have been prized for their beauty and pleasant scent for thousands of years. Roses grow well in both temperate and tropical climates – similar to the way Rose Olsen was nurtured in New England and later blossomed in the warm Sonoran sunshine. In fact, Rose often dressed like a showy flower and always smelled like perfume. “And a rose, she lived as roses do, the space of a morn.” (Francois de Malherbe, 1599)

Rose History and Culture

The first historical reference to the rose dates back to ancient Mesopotamia (2684-2630 B.C.). In Homer's “Iliad” (9th century B.C.), Achilles’ shield is decorated with roses. Confucius wrote that during his life (551-479 B.C.), the Emperor of China had in his library six hundred books on the culture of roses. The Greeks and Romans had rose gardens, and dried roses have been found in Egyptian tombs dating from the fifth century B.C.

Roses are mentioned in The Bible (Song of Solomon 2:1 and Isaiah 35:1). Legend has it that only after the fall of man did the rose take on its thorns to remind man of the sins he had committed and his fall from grace; whereas, the fragrance and beauty continued to remind him of the splendor of Paradise. In Catholic litanies, the Virgin Mary is called "Rosa mystica" and in many hymns she is invoked as the "rose without thorns." Throughout the Dark Ages, roses were cultivated in monasteries by monks.

During the 15th century, the rose became an important heraldic symbol. The conventional heraldic rose has five petals that mimic the appearance of a wild rose. In England’s “War of the Roses,” the House of York had a white rose and the House of Lancaster had a red rose. The War of the Roses finally ended when the two feuding royal families were united through marriage. The white rose of York and the red rose of Lancaster were combined to become the Tudor Rose (a small white rose upon a red) which is still the badge of the royal house of England.

Although the heraldic rose developed a double row of petals in an effort to combine rival emblems, an increasing familiarity with the cultivated rose was also evident at that time. While wild roses have a single ring of five petals, most cultivated roses have several layers of tightly rolled petals. There are hundreds of different kinds of roses grown around the world, but they all came from a few wild rose species. Rose breeders still continue to produce new varieties.

Most of the old varieties of roses bloomed only once a year, but some roses were found to bloom in both spring and autumn. Using these, rose breeders were able to produce roses that bloom repeatedly. These are called everblooming, or perpetual, roses. The majority of them are hybrid tea roses, first introduced in 1867. Tea roses got their name because they smelled like tea. Many roses are very fragrant, although a few kinds have almost no scent at all.

The three main colors of roses are red, white, and yellow. From these, other colors such as orange, pink, coral, lavender, etc. have been bred. Black roses are actually dark red or maroon. Roses advertised as blue are really lavender. No true blue rose exists. The quest for the elusive blue rose has become the holy grail of horticulture, as it seems to be genetically impossible.

Rose bushes are technically prickly shrubs or brambles with thorns on their stems. There are three general classifications of rose: shrubs, bedding roses, and climbers. Bedding roses are grown for blossoms that are cut. This is the type usually seen in florist shops. Shrub roses are used for ornamental landscaping purposes and as hedges. They blossom plentifully, but the flowers themselves are usually not cut. Climbers or ramblers are roses that grow on vines. They climb up trellises and are often planted along a fence or wall. Most roses bushes grow to be 4-8 feet high. If climbing, or rambler, roses are given a support to grow on, they may grow much higher.

Roses have seeds that are contained in little fruits called rose hips. Rose hips form after the petals fall off if the flower was pollinated. When a rose seed is planted, the new plant may produce roses quite different from the rose the seed came from. This is why most rose bushes are raised from cuttings. Allowing the hips to develop will cause a rose to stop producing flowers. So by cutting the flowers and preventing the formation of hips, the rose bush is encouraged to grow new buds.

Rose hips are useful, however, in that they contain more vitamin C than an orange, can be eaten raw or stewed, and were once used for the prevention of scurvy. Jam and tea can be made out of rose petals. North American Indians had a variety of medicinal uses for the wild rose. Rose petals soaked in rain water were used to soothe sore eyes and ease discomfort of aching foreheads. The Indians also found that by breathing the roses’ sweet scent, they would feel happy and relaxed.

Roses belong to a large family of plants called the Rosaceae family. Did you know that apples, cherries, pears, peaches, plums, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and almonds all come from the same family of plants? It’s true, the apples that we eat are like the equivalent of a rose hip! These relatives of the rose produce not only pretty flowers but also edible fruit.

“The rose is a rose, and was always a rose. But the theory now goes that the apple’s a rose, and the pear is, and so’s the plum, I suppose. The dear only knows what will next prove a rose. You, of course, are a rose--but were always a rose.” (The Rose Family, by Robert Frost)

Rose Symbolism

Red = romance, love, beauty, passion, courage, respect
Yellow = friendship, joy, freedom, new beginnings, domestic happiness
Orange/Coral = fascination, enthusiasm, desire
Pink = appreciation, gratitude, gladness, admiration
White = innocence, purity, reverence, humility, secrecy, silence, loyalty, unity

The Last Rose of Summer

This traditional Irish folk song is a beautiful melody for the violin. Irish poet Thomas Moore wrote the lyrics sometime around 1805. “Tis the last rose of Summer, left blooming alone; all her lovely companions are faded and gone; no flower of her kindred, no rosebud is nigh, to reflect back her blushes, or give sigh for sigh! I'll not leave thee, thou lone one, to pine on the stem; since the lovely are sleeping, go sleep thou with them. Thus kindly I scatter thy leaves o'er the bed where thy mates of the garden lie scentless and dead. So soon may I follow, when friendships decay, and from Love's shining circle the gems drop away! When true hearts lie withered, and fond ones are flown, Oh! who would inhabit this bleak world alone?”

My Wild Irish Rose

“My wild Irish Rose, the sweetest flower that grows…none can compare with my wild Irish Rose.” Rose Olsen was friendly and outgoing. She enjoyed parties and entertaining. She maintained that lively – and sometimes feisty – spirit till her dying day. That must be why Father Timon eluded to this song as he attempted to perform her Last Rites. He said that it was the most unorthodox Sacrament to a sick person he’s ever given! Likewise, I’ll never forget the night that she passed away. Suddenly out of nowhere came a triumphantly loud boom of thunder and simultaneous flash which made the lights flicker off and on. I instantly knew that it must be a sign from Heaven announcing her grand entrance! Because whenever Rose entered a room, everyone was aware of her presence.

When Irish Eyes Are Smiling

As a fitting tribute to Rose’s Irish heritage and personality, particularly since it was close to Saint Patrick’s Day, her Memorial Mass ended with everyone singing: “When Irish eyes are smiling, sure, 'tis like the morn in Spring. In the lilt of Irish laughter you can hear the angels sing. When Irish hearts are happy, all the world seems bright and gay. And when Irish eyes are smiling, sure, they steal your heart away.”

Gather the Roses of Life Today

“O Rose, thou art sick. The invisible worm that flies in the night…has found thy bed of crimson joy, and his dark secret love does thy life destroy.” William Blake wrote this verse in 1792. It sounds just like the insidious cancer that took our own beloved Rose away. In 1648, Robert Herrick wrote: “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, old time is still a-flying, and the flower that smiles today, tomorrow may be dying.” Spend plenty of time with your loved ones while you can, because you never know what the future will bring. And don’t forget to stop and smell the roses!

Ode to Mum, a Lovely Rose

Dearest mother-in-law from the time I wed your son,
I want to thank you for all the good that you have done.
Twenty-three years ago when Richard came into my life,
You accepted me as his girlfriend, and later as his wife.
You gave me a faithful husband to love and hold my hand;
Richard used to be your little boy and now he is my man.
I have been blessed by you much more than you know;
You have helped me to be happy as well as to grow.
You are the nicest mother-in-law that I could have hoped for.
Many times you’ve watched our kids while we go to the store.
You have provided anything we need and made nutritious food.
It’s a pleasure to be around you no matter what your mood.
I want you to know how much you truly mean to me,
And how much you are loved by the whole family.
You are a loving mother of seven and a wonderful grandma
To seventeen grandkids, age 3 to 33, who call you Nana.
You are the kind of person who is respected and adored.
Just by being around you, we can never be bored.
You always put your family first
And do your best to fix every hurt.
Your heart is full of love and showing
You are quite wise and always knowing.
You make every one of us feel a part
Of the care and compassion within your heart.
You are a beautiful lady, generous and kind,
And yet you never hesitate to speak your mind.
You are greatly admired by everyone you meet,
And, like your namesake, you are very sweet.
We are proud of you for being so strong,
And have no doubt that Heaven is where you belong.
Rose…Mum…Nana…no matter what we call you,
You are an angel and we love you.

I wrote the above poem for my mother-in-law’s 77th birthday to let her know how much she meant to me. (She was in the care of Hospice at the time and she passed away two weeks later.)

The World’s Largest Rose Tree

The world's largest rose “tree” is located in Tombstone, Arizona. Grown from a Lady Banks Rose cutting imported from Scotland in 1884, this rose plant grew quickly, covered a nearby shed, and now spreads over 8,000 square feet! The trunk is approximately 12 feet in circumference. Its branches, supported by posts, are like a natural arbor. They screen out the bright sun and provide relief from summer heat with a shady place to sit. (Reminiscent of what Thomas Browne wrote in 1645: “When we desire to confine our words, we commonly say they are spoken under the rose.”)

Tombstone’s “Shady Lady” welcomes spring by producing millions of blossoms. (See photos at www.mediterraneangardensociety.com/plants/Rosa.banksiae.Tombstone.cfm.) The rose tree blooms once a year, usually forming buds in mid-March and blossoming throughout the month of April. The Tombstone Rose Festival, April 17-18, 2004, will celebrate the 119th blooming season of the world’s largest rose tree with a Rose Parade and other activities. For more information, call the Rose Tree Inn at (520) 457-3326 or Tombstone Chamber of Commerce at (888) 457-3929.


These pages are a continuous work in progress.
Copyright © 2000- by Teri Ann Berg Olsen
All rights reserved.

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