Tulipmania turned Dutchmen into debtors in the early 17th century, but no such madness has accompanied roses
Tulipmania turned Dutchmen into debtors in the early 17th century, but no such madness has accompanied roses, despite their millennia-old popularity and use by everyone from Greek poets to uninspired lovers. Homer sang of ‘rosy-fingered Dawn’ rising over the Aegean and Henry VII brought together in an emblem the red rose of Lancaster and the white rose of York, a symbol of national unity.
Jennifer Potter has synthesised all these myths, stories and histories into one of the most beautiful books to have crossed Hedgehog’s desk in a long time. Potter’s book is a biography of the flower, an erudite study of the uses of its imagery and a catalogue of entrancing images, all contained within its gilt-edged pages and climbing-rose slipcover.
There are two reasons the rose has persisted, says Jennifer: ‘First, what you think of it depends on who you are, and whoever you are, there’s a rose for you.’ She points to the countless varietals and their colours and scents, or the relative flamboyance or shyness of each. ‘Secondly, the rose really has succeeded in reinventing itself for each age and for each different society’: the Romans were over-fond of it and the early Christians banned it because pagans worshipped it, but then it found its way into their symbolism, representing Mary’s purity and Christ’s passion.
‘Each age gets the rose it deserves,’ Jennifer observes, and after we spent the twentieth century trying to breed out scent and driving the mass popularity of tea-roses, our twenty-first century sensibility desires heritage varietals and a veritable bouquet of unusual types. As Jennifer points out, there is no shortage of roses to choose from, but there is only one book on roses that you’ll want.