Roses Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything


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A delicate white rose with a hint of pink in its petals.

Ask anyone to name a flower and the first one to come to mind will probably be the rose. Their scent, their colour and their beauty entrance us. Most modern perfumes contain a trace of rose in their fragrance composition. A red rose is the ultimate symbol of love: on St Valentine's Day it is impossible to get hold of a red rose unless you have placed an order days in advance.

Perhaps the most famous rose of all time is the Peace Rose, one of the most beloved roses in the world. A warm yellow and pink-tipped bloom with a delicate, sweet scent, it has been the top choice of rose-growers in all countries since it was created just after World War II.

Rose leaf imprints have been found in 35 million year-old fossils in the Colorado Rockies, and roses are mentioned in Asian documents from as early as 3000 BC. The Greeks adorned their altars with roses and offered them to the gods. The Romans in their turn went right over the top with roses as a luxury item, at banquets, the guests would be sprinkled with rose water and have rose oil rubbed on their bodies. The floor, walls and ceiling would be carpeted in roses and rose-scented wine would be served.

In Alexandria, Cleopatra - famous for her lack of restraint - ordered a carpet of roses 30cm thick for her first meeting with Antony. One can only hope that everybody wore stout boots and leggings for the occasion.

The remedial powers of the rose were much prized: in ancient China roses were deemed effective for dropsy and constipation, the Egyptians chewed rose petals for toothache and in 17th Century Europe powdered rose petals were used to stop bleeding and to cure headaches.

Recently it has been found that rose flowers contain Vitamins A, C, and P and taken in capsules can relieve stress, depression and insomnia. It is not even necessary to eat them: a dozen red roses can make you feel great just by appearing on your doorstep.

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