10 things you didn’t know about roses

June is the month of roses, both in fact and according to the Old Farmers Almanac. The rose has also been named 2012 Herb of the Year by the Herb Society of America. Catch up on this bouquet of mini rose facts.

1. Ancient roses. Fossil roses have been found in sites around the world. They date back to between 65 to one million years ago. The earliest form of our own species lived about half a million years ago.

2. Canadian roses. Agriculture Canada has been breeding cold-hardy roses for decades, most recently in Morden, Manitoba. That program was privatized in 2011and is now centred here in Ontario, at the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre. It’s conducted in partnership with the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association.

3. Sub rosa. Latin for “under the rose,” meaning secret or off the record. Romans, at the time of the Empire, would sometimes hang a single rose over the dinner table to signify the talk there should go no further.

4. Yellow roses. Although the most famous one is the Yellow Rose of Texas (which actually honours a legendary heroine of mixed race), yellow roses were unknown in most of the world until the late 1800s. They get their colour from Rosa foetida, found in west Asia.

5. Roses in perfume. Rose oil is part of many famous perfumes, and it can take up to 10,000 pounds (about 4500 Kg) of rose petals to make one ounce (about 30 ml) of rose oil. Most rose oil is produced in Bulgaria from the old, highly scented damask rose.

6. Pruning. Nearly all roses should be cut back in late winter/early spring, specifically when the first tiny leaves appear on the rose canes. You’re creating the bush’s shape as you prune, so you have to think before you clip. Cut back into sturdy green wood, just above an outward-facing leaflet, to encourage the rose to have a healthy, open shape. Some roses should also be pruned considerably after their first spring bloom, to encourage more flowers later in the season.

7. English Roses. This brings to mind blossom-covered thatched cottages, but it’s really the name for the special roses introduced in 1963 by English breeder David Austin. They combine the old-fashioned, flattish shape and wonderful scent of old roses with the colour and reflowering ability of modern roses.

8. Rose hips. This odd term means the seed pods of roses – those big (but sometimes small) round things that appear some time after a flower has lost its petals. If you can manage things so they show up in fall, they’re a nice addition to the winter garden. They’re also the source of rose-hip tea, hailed for being full of vitamin C. Rose petals are edible, too, as long as they’re grown without pesticides.

9. Developing new varieties. It takes about seven years to bring a new hybrid rose to garden centres. The process involves hand-pollinating, discarding weak seedlings, trying out the proposed new rose in garden settings and growing enough to supply the marketplace.

10. Hybrid tea (not “T”) roses. These got their name because one of their ancestor roses came from China. Its scent wasn’t like that of traditional roses and was thought to be more like tea.

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