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Our Beloved Rose

by Jeff Wyckoff, ARS past president

Jeff Wyckoff’s President’s Message in the ARS 2010 Annual

'Fairy Moss' photo by Rich Baer

I have often wondered what it is about the rose that elevates it above all other flowers, that makes it beloved of mankind from antiquity to the present.

Is it the color, the “rosy-fingered dawn” of Homer, the pink of so many of our species roses, that the words “rose” and “pink” are synonymous in some languages? Perhaps, but other flowers are pink as well.

Is it their fragrance, that heavenly aroma that everyone associates with roses, causing people to smell the bloom before noticing anything else about it? Possibly, although lilacs, gardenias, daphne, and a host of other flowers also have great aromas.

Could it be their toughness, the fact that they have been around much longer man mankind, their ability to survive innumerable worldwide cataclysms during their 30 million years of existence?

While all of these are likely factors, I believe the essence of our abiding love of roses is something that authors and poets across all ages and cultures have shown us in their writings, something that we as gardeners sometimes overlook: that the rose, with all its vicissitudes, problems and pinnacles is an almost perfect parallel of the human condition.


Like roses, all humans have thorns. While a very few of us may be nearly thornless, most bear small to very large thorns, and, like the rose, we often wound and hurt those who love us most.

As with the rose, human life is often a struggle with disease. Some of these are merely annoying, some more serious and some potentially fatal. As with our rose culture, we strive to maintain our health through good nutrition, sanitation and other such means, and we sometimes must rely on chemicals to treat our ailments.

Similar to the rose, humans are tough and resilient. Like roses that have come through a fire, people have, over the centuries, not only survived but come back from unbelievable pain and adversity to rebloom and thus serve as inspirations to all of us. A great example is Nelson Mandela’s 27 years in prison followed by his presidency of the Republic of South Africa.

ABOVE: 'Old Blush' photo credit Rich Baer

The life of a rose is so much like our own. From beautiful buds and beautiful babies, we develop slowly into blooms, all different, yet all so much alike; some near-perfect and some with problems, but all beautiful in different ways. From the bloom of youth we pass into maturity, the rose to the fully-open stage and people to mid-life, both of which are often considered their most beautiful phase.

Like the rose bloom, we all decline, eventually dropping our petals to be no more... only to be supplanted by new blooms from the same bush or different bushes, all with the promise of being equally, if not more, beautiful than we were... the passing of life into new life.

Look to the rose that blows about us — “Lo,

Laughing” says she, “into this world I blow;

At once the silken tassel of my purse

Tears, and its treasure on the garden throw.”

~ The Rubayyat of Omar Khayyam


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