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Greek-American Stories: A Rose by Any Other Name….

The resplendent rose! Few flowers can boast such a long, colorful, fragrant history. It’s said that they were first cultivated 10,000 years ago, maybe more. And, no wonder! They have symbolized flights of fancy, poetry, music, romance; even history (War of the Roses 1455-1485). Perfume, soap, candied petals, rosehip jam, rose water, bouquets are just a few of so many other ways to appreciate the scent and beauty.

Roses are found in many suburban gardens, even on window sills. And, there are so many varieties; Belle of Portugal, Mary Rose, Climbing Iceberg – and that’s just naming a very few. I have six rose bushes; one is called Royal Bonica, a cutting from Queen Elisabeth’s garden, or, so the ad said, that I bought years ago, still showing off the vibrant scarlet beauties. It was advertised in a catalog and I had ordered two roots. I don’t see those ads anymore. Maybe, it was a one-time deal.

So much is done with roses. Now, they’re going out of this world, literally. NASA is sending a rose plant into space. I guess it’s in the hope of beautifying the desolate place. One rose variety, called Apricot Twist, has sweet smelling amber blooms. Diamond Eyes (dark purple) and Pacesetter (White) have fragrances that are strong despite their small sizes and tiny flowers. There are so many types: Floribundas, Hybrid, Climbers, and shrub roses.

Rose water is known for soothing, scenting, and hydrating the skin. Candied Petals leave a scent on the tongue after the sugar is gone. Rosehip jam is popular in Greece and in Germany where every February dough is stuffed with the rosehip jam that is believed to keep the common cold from lasting a long time. Nature has proven to be a wonderful inventor while having created the loveliest of flowers. It adorns women as a reward when winning beauty contests and horses that have come in first in a race – and, of course, it’s also given as a token of affection from an admirer.

In Greek, they are called Triantafilla (Thirty Petals). I tried counting one rose on a stem and was disappointed that it wasn’t thirty, it had fifteen petals. Another had twenty-three.

But, of course, as with any beauty, they have enemies; certain bugs attack it, mold can find its way and eat at the base, or rose mites do a job on them. Black spots on the leaves attack, too. I spray mine with Neem Oil, a non-toxic, biodegradable spray that protects it from those meanies. I fertilize the bases with chopped up banana peels and Epsom salt in water, something I read somewhere. They seem to love it!

Rose bushes don’t need protection over the winter, but, there are the good, the bad, and the ugly bugs. Thankfully, winter often strikes a hard blow against the bad bugs. Come summer, birds know which bugs are tasty treats. And, they usually are those that attack the rose buds. It’s a dog-eat-dog world even in nature.

It is said that Columbus discovered America because a crewman saw a branch with rose hips in the water. It gave them hope that land was not far ahead. Many neighbors feel that a garden isn’t complete without a rose bush. They’re not just a pretty fact, but they are so very attractive and attention-getting. Of course, they have thorns. Well, anything that’s worth anything needs some kind of protection. The bee can sting if you disturb their hive; the tiny sparrow will attack even the six foot wide-winged hawk if it comes near a nest with eggs. Shakespeare mentioned it often.

So, it’s not excessive to say that the rose is nature’s gift to the world. It eclipses all other flowers. Roses will make a happy display in your garden through most of the summer and some of the fall long before the petals fall into the eternal soil.

With the welcome sunshine, we greet summer once again along with the buzzing bees and everything else summer brings – besides the sweltering heat! I’m not a summer person. I wish roses bloomed in the winter, but nature is not that obliging. I wonder if roses grow in Alaska. Happy, healthy summer, everyone! And, don’t forget to pause and smell the roses.

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