Stop and Smell the Roses – Commentary by Frank Gillispie
OK. So I have reached that time of life where we are supposed to slow down. Or as the
old suggestion is, Stop and Smell The Roses. Well, the corner of my front porch is occupied by a very large
and very old rose vine. Every spring it puts out a blanket of red, fragrant blossoms. It is a very hardy vine that
requires little attention. I never give it fertilizer. It never needs any treatment for diseases. Even in the
extreme drought of the last several summers did not faze it.
My mother took a cutting from a vine at an old home place and rooted it. That was at
least forty years ago and it is still going strong.
I never knew a name for the rose. I assumed it had one, but not being a rose fanatic,
I never worried about it. But now that I have a bit more time to allow my curiosity to expand, I decided to see if
I could find out just what kind of rose it is. It didn’t take long on the internet to identify the rose, and what
I found stunned me. That vine has quite a history!
Its scientific name is R. gallica officinalis, but it has many common names in various
parts of the world. Yes, I said world. This flower is grown in many nations. It is called a Double Red Rose, Old Red
Damask, Red Rose of Lancaster, and many other names. Most of the web sites put at the top of the list of names
Apothecary’s Rose because of its use as a medical herb.
"Botany I rank with the most valuable sciences, whether we consider its subjects as furnishing the principal
subsistence of life to man and beast, delicious varieties for our table, refreshments from our orchards, the
adornments of our flower-borders, shade and perfume of our groves, materials for our building, or medicaments
for our bodies." --Thomas Jefferson, To Thomas Cooper, Oct. 27, 1814
The earliest report of this plant comes from the seventh or eighth century ancient
Persia. It was brought to Europe in the 12th or 13th century by returning crusaders, and on to North America by the
early colonist. It was a feature in the gardens of European monasteries where it was used in the treatment of
indigestion, sore throat, skin rash and eye problems. Women would rub the petals into their skin to eliminate
wrinkles. It was also used in various other cosmetics and perfumes.
Monks would also use the rose petals in the manufacture of prayer beads. That gave rise
to the name “rosary.”
An ancient recipe for rose petal tea: five teaspoons of petals seeped in four cups
of boiling water for five to ten minutes, sweetened with honey and served warm.
There is a large body of literature about the rose. It appears in many diverse places
such as book titles, history books, poems and motion pictures. There is a nice article with pictures about the rose
For forty years or more, that vine has been outside my living room window. And I never
gave it much notice other than a pretty flower. I am glad I looked it up. It has been around throughout the history
of western culture and heritage.
"Cultivation is, at least, one of the greatest natural improvements ever made by human invention. It has given
to created earth a ten-fold value." --Thomas Paine, Agrarian Justice, 1797
Copyright © 2009 by Frank Gillispie
firstname.lastname@example.org, Hull, GA