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June 4, 2023

This Week in H’burg: Roses

This Week in H’burg is a weekly column featuring photos and fun facts from local photographer Pierre Ratté. Each week we’ll feature a new photo from Ratté along with a fact about the subject matter of the photo.
The history of roses predates writing. Roses are read in fossil evidence, suggesting they are over 35 million years old. The genus, Rosa, has about 150 species spread throughout the world and cultivation of the flower started about 5,000 years ago in China. Later in Egyptian times, Cleopatra sprinkled rose petals in her bed chamber and rose wreaths were found in Egyptian tombs. During Roman times, a large public garden of roses was established in the southern part of Rome. The flowers were used as confetti at celebrations, crowns at weddings, for decoration, medicinal and perfuming purposes. The flowers in those early days were, reportedly, almost all pinkish, blooming once on a very shrubby bush. It wasn’t until 1867, that cultivators began to hybridize the rose, making blooms more showy with a variety of colors and shapes.  In the process, they made the plants easier to grow, but the flowers less fragrant. Fragrance was bred out in favor of color, size, shape, multiple blooms and easy cultivation. Roses predating hybridization are called: ‘antique or heirloom roses’ while hybrid tea roses created after 1867 are referred to as ‘modern roses.’  
Fun facts:  Charlemagne cultivated roses. In medieval times, English kings claimed roses as their symbol, hence we have the Tudor Rose. Native Americans distinguished about 200 types of roses when settlers arrived. William Penn catalogued New World roses, among them Rosa centifolia, reportedly have 100 petals. Napoleon’s wife Josephine collected roses, and her garden is one of the best sources of ancient roses today, having over 200 varieties.  Cultivators are beginning to bend to modern demand bringing back roses’ fragrance in new hybrids.
Pierre Ratté posts a daily picture on Instagram, Facebook and TodayinHburg.com. He can be reached at [email protected]. His book “100 Days Sheltering-In-Place” can be purchased at Levin’s and Copperfield’s bookstores, TodayinHburg.com or Amazon.com.


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