The other day, in honor of Canada Day, I listed (and described) the floral emblems for Canada’s 13 provinces and territories. Well, today is Independence Day in the US (happy 4thof July to all my American readers!), but I don’t have the courage to go into detail about all floral emblems of the 50 US states … and some states have more than one! To do so, I would need to write a short book! So, on this, the USA’s federal holiday commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, I’m going to take the easy way out … and just write about the USA’s national floral emblem: the rose. One small flower that covers the whole huge country!
The rose was not the first plant suggested as a floral emblem for the United States.
The American marigold (Tagetes erecta), more commonly known in my circles as the African marigold, came close. Twice, in 1965 and again in 1967, Everett Dirksen, a statesman from Illinois, introduced resolutions in that sense, but they never passed … quite possibly because this “homegrown” plant is actually native to Mexico.
The rose had more luck. On November 20, 1986, Resolution 5574, which designated the rose as the American national floral emblem, was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan.
The reasons cited for the choice included:
Americans have always loved the flowers with which God decorates our land. More often than any other flower, we hold the rose dear as the symbol of life and love and devotion, of beauty and eternity. For the love of man and woman, for the love of mankind and God, for the love of country, Americans who would speak the language of the heart do so with a rose.
We see proofs of this everywhere. The study of fossils reveals that the rose has existed in America for age upon age. We have always cultivated roses in our gardens. Our first President, George Washington, bred roses, and a variety he named after his mother is still grown today*. The White House itself boasts a beautiful Rose Garden. We grow roses in all our fifty States. We find roses throughout our art, music, and literature. We decorate our celebrations and parades with roses. Most of all, we present roses to those we love, and we lavish them on our altars, our civil shrines, and the final resting places of our honored dead.
The American people have long held a special place in their hearts for roses. Let us continue to cherish them, to honor the love and devotion they represent, and to bestow them on all we love just as God has bestowed them on us.
Yep! That pretty much covers it!
Growing the American Floral Emblem
There are over 150 species of rose found throughout the Northern Hemisphere as well as some 35,000 cultivars. Such a wide variety of plants means it’s possible for gardeners just about everywhere to grow roses, as there are both subtropical varieties capable of tolerating year-long heat and extra hardy varieties able to grow in just about the coldest climates. There are, of course, climbing roses, shrub roses, miniature roses … and the list goes on and on.
My suggestion, as a laidback gardener, is to find and grow ones adapted to your climate and your conditions rather than trying to keep poorly adapted roses alive. Look especially into disease resistance (black spot, rust, powdery mildew and other diseases have long plagued roses) and, where winters are frigid, cold resistance. As for insect resistance: sorry, but roses are going to need a bit of watching.
And as for beauty, definitely consider reblooming varieties, while if you’re into flower arranging, stem length can also be a factor. There are both heavily perfumed roses and ones that have no scent at all: you choose!
Most roses prefer full sun and deep, rich, well-draining soil of average pH (between 5.5 and 7). Roses love a good, thick mulch, 2 to 3 inches/5 à 7.5 cm deep, as it keeps their roots fresh and slightly moist. Water well, but then let the soil nearly dry before watering again. Do not water daily: that will leave the soil soggy and wet, nor should you let it get bone dry. There are many highly disease-resistant roses available these days, but insects remain a problem. The best thing to do is to keep your eyes open and react quickly when they do show up.
As for multiplying roses, cuttings are the most logical way to go. Professional rosarians often graft them, but that’s not so easy to do in the home garden. And sowing them is complicated by the fact that most are hybrids and will not come true from seed.
Why not celebrate the US Independence Day not with fireworks, but by planting a beautiful rose bush!
*Rosa ‘Mary Washington’.