Roses – a short history

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According to fossil evidence, the rose is 35 million years old. Roses have a long history as symbols of love, beauty, war, and politics. The genus Rosa has some 150 species throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Cultivation began 5,000 years ago in China. The Romans used them as confetti, medicinally, and for perfume. In the fifteenth century the white rose became the symbol of the House of York; the red rose for Lancaster as two cadet families of the Royal House of Plantagenet battled for the throne of England in the Wars of the Roses.

In the seventeenth century roses and rose water were used as legal tender and as barter. Napoleon’s wife Josephine developed a collection of roses at Chateau de Malmaison in the 1800s which was where Pierre Joseph Redouté worked as a botanical illustrator. His 1824 watercolour collection “Les Rose,” is still considered one of the finest series of botanical illustrations ever produced.

Cultivated roses were introduced into Europe from China in the eighteenth century. Most modern roses can be traced back to this ancestry. These roses were repeat bloomers, making them of interest to hybridizers.

These 12 quality prints from the 1960’s are classics that were bred in the 1950’s – many of them in the United States. Some of the older classics were bred in France and the Netherlands. We do not know the artist nor anything of the genesis of these prints since they have no identifying marks and we can find no history for them. They were stored by Hugh Street (the publisher, Hugh Evelyn) with the other prints shown on this website and were found after his death over 10 years ago. We know they had been in storage for at least 30 years before we found them.

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