All about the most famous, prominent, symbolic, and revered
flower in the Western world: the rose.
• Humans began cultivating roses only about 5,000 years ago, in China and the Far East. But they’ve been used and enjoyed by humans for much longer than that. Ancient Egyptian mummies have been discovered wearing rose wreaths. Fossilized rose remnants have been found that date back 35 million years.
• A rosebush blooms on the wall of Hildesheim Cathedral in Germany. It started growing at about the same time the church was built, around 1010, making it the oldest living rosebush on the planet.
• In the early 1800s, Empress Josephine of France engineered the first modern-day “rose garden.” She had a lofty goal—a sample of every rose variety in the world. Her gardens at the Malmaison château housed 250 varieties of roses—helped along by a standing order to the French Navy to confiscate any rose plants or seeds found on enemy ships.
• Josephine’s garden made rose growing and collecting very popular in western Europe. In the mid-1800s, gardeners figured out how to crossbreed roses, to combine, for example, one rose’s color with another’s heartiness. The first major hybrid rose: “La France,” developed by grower Jean-Baptiste Andre Guillot in 1867. Today there are over 10,000 hybrid rose varieties.
• While it probably didn’t have every rose in the world, Josephine’s was the largest rose collection in the world until the opening and rapid growth of the Europa-Rosarium in Sangerhausen, Germany, in 1902. As of 2013, it houses 75,000 rose varieties.
• The world’s largest rosebush is in Tombstone, Arizona. It’s a white “Lady Banks” planted in 1886. Its trunk is six feet in diameter, and its branches form a canopy that covers nearly 9,000 square feet.
• One of the most famous rose gardens in the world is the White House Rose Garden, site for speeches, press conferences, and entertaining important guests. It hasn’t always been there. The White House had a glass greenhouse in the 19th century, where flowers and fruit were grown. It fell into disuse by 1900 and was removed in 1902, prompting First Lady Edith Roosevelt to install a garden just off the Oval Office. It was converted into a strictly rose garden in 1913 by First Lady (and landscape architect) Edith Wilson.