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A Rose for Mother’s Day

Our oldest garden flower has rich history, fragrance and flavor

     For me, the Mother’s Day flower is the rose. Roses are probably the oldest known plant surviving in modern gardens.
     Historically, roses have been used for medicine, fragrance and food. Rosa gallica officinalis, also known as the Apothecary’s Rose, has been used to make medicine, conserves and confections. The flower’s general popularity pushed it into the area of wonder drug. In early Christian history, people surrounded themselves with roses in hopes of warding off evil spirits. Roses have also been used to flavor cakes, cookies, jellies, custards and wine.
     The rose is rich in symbolism as well as history. It has been used as an allegory for passage from innocence to maturity as its tiny bud opens to a full-blown velvety flower. The petals conceal the sharp pain of piercing thorns, love and suffering in the same dizzying beauty. Its voluptuousness also causes it to be dedicated to love. In mythology, the goddess of flowers, Chloris, created the rose when she stumbled over a beautiful nymph.
     Of all the roses, my favorites are the old ones. There are two ways of defining old-fashioned roses. Strictly speaking, the honor refers to varieties that were in existence prior to 1867.  Some  recent introductions also qualify as “old type.” Within these classes  are such species as Albas, Bourbons, Centifolia, Chinas, Damasks, hybrid Foetidas, Gallicas, Mosses,  Noisettes, hybrid Perpetuals, Portlands, Spinosissimas and Teas. The main feature that makes these roses so wonderful is their captivating fragrance. Their peak bloom is May to June, and some repeat the rest of the season. They need six hours of sun, good drainage, well aerated soil, lots of water and a high  level of nutrition. I find that these roses respond well to Protilizer, a fertilizer blended with probiotic bacteria and fungi.
 
Make Rose Petal Jam
     When my roses are in full bloom, one of my favorite treats to make is rose petal jam. Gather two cups  of fragrant old-fashioned rose petals. Blend them in a food processor with one-half cup water. Add three and one-half cups of sugar and an optional two tablespoons rose water. Pulse until pureed. In a small pan, combine one-half cup water, one tablespoon lemon juice and a package of fruit pectin. Boil for one minute and add to  the food processor. Blend for 20 seconds and pour into sterilized jars. This will fill three eight-ounce jars. Keep in the refrigerator or in the freezer.
     I use the rose called Hansa, which has a clove-like scent and makes a beautiful, fragrant fuchsia-colored jam that tastes like a rose and is great on scones.