This month as we celebrate Valentine’s Day, it is interesting to note that the rose is not only a symbol of love but a symbol of discretion. Legend has it that Cupid gave a red rose to Harpocrates, the god of silence, to bribe him to secrecy over the dalliance of Venus and so the red rose become the symbol of discretion, love, passion and romance. Roses were henceforth painted on the ceilings of banquet halls to remind all gathered there that whatever was said there, should not be repeated which became the expression sub rosa (under the rose).
Another legend says that while Aphrodite was running to the dying Adonis, she was scratched by a rose bush and her blood falling on the roses turn it red. Other account says that Adonis turned his blood into red roses.
Whatever legend strikes your fancy, there is nothing in our garden at this time of the year but the florist and even the supermarket stores are selling roses grown in South America so there is no excuse not to give red roses for Valentine’s Day.
And how did Valentine’s Day get started?
A certain Bishop Valentine started it to replace the Roman festival of Lupercalia. There were several Bishops of Valentine but nobody is really certain as to who is the real Bishop Valentine. But whoever he is, the tradition continues and we celebrate this day exchanging gifts and greetings between our loved ones, friends, family but mostly lovers.
During the Victorian era, valentine cards were mostly decorated with old-fashioned roses. Even today, valentines are still associated with roses. For Valentine’s Day, red roses are arbitrarily the most popular flower.
There are several red roses in the market nowadays but I can recommend some tried and true varieties that grow very well in the garden. Plant some of them and give your Valentine red roses again in June.
Here are my favorites:
Firefighter – dark red rose
Ingrid Bergman – dark red rose
Lasting Love – dark red rose
Let Freedom Ring – medium red rose
Mister Lincoln – dark red rose
Olympiad – medium red rose
Veterans’ Honor – dark red rose
For the romantic at heart, here is a lovely poem by Robert Burns (1759-1796).