Valentine’s Day is fast upon us. A time for red roses wrapped in tissue paper and sticky chocolates. For those of you who need a break from Cupid’s saccharine smile, I provide this bit of bitter as a counter note to the sweet, and give the rose back its thorns when I consider some less savory facts about this famous flower.
Heliogabalus smothered his guests in them
In an attempt to one up the famous sensualist and politician Cleopatra, Heliogabalus showered his guests in roses. Only, there was such a profusion of flowers, his guests suffocated under the heady blooms. Please note: this little factoid comes to us from the ancient equivalent of the National Enquirer.
The Cherokee rose is anything but
It’s from China. Yup, that’s right, you heard me. From China. Not native at all. Just like those goddamn stinkbugs.
Red roses are for love
Yellow roses are for infidelity. What? A Japan rose is for someone who’s just a pretty face. Okay… A dried white rose for “death is preferable to loss of innocence.” And thank you, Lucy Hooper. Not sure when I would need that one.
Dr. Livingston presumes…
To complain to London’s Horticultural Society about William Kerr’s pittance of a salary.
Who’s William Kerr? Only a young Scottish man who sent 238 new species of plants (including his namesake, the Kerria japonica) back from China during his eight and half years there. Shipping plants overseas in 1803 was quite difficult. It took Kerr five months to travel from England to China, and the plants that he brought with him mostly perished. Three at least made it to China, though what happened afterwards can only be guessed (cough cough dead cough).
So, of the 238,000 plants young Kerr packed up and shipped back to England—I’m going off of Livingstone’s math here—238 made it, including the white Banksian rose, a flower still much admired and grown today.
So, what’s sad about this story? I’ll quote Jennifer Potter’s The Rose here: “So Kerr was drinking and perhaps worse, ground down by poverty and loneliness.” At this time in history, China restricted the movement of European traders in their country, isolating them, and according to Livingstone, Kerr didn’t even have enough money to buy new clothes and spent much of his time navigating congested streets instead of working. Eventually, his employers decided to make him superintendent at the King’s new botanical gardens in Sri Lanka. It sounds lovely, except he died shortly after arriving. While Potter indicates a fever, Wikipedia suggests opium.
Now you need some sugar, I know. In honor of all the flowers getting ready for their big day, I’ve dropped the price of The Love of Violetta from $2.99 to $0.99.
Violetta learns the bitter truth that, like the roses in the garden, young love fades. What sweetness can she find treading the halls where her love once walked? Who will kiss her, now that he has refused?
To enter to win the Grand Prizes:
And the $5 Amazon gift card, comment below with your email address and the bouquet you’d love to receive for Valentine’s Day (mainly your email address though). After you’re done, don’t forget to comment on other blogs for more chances to win the Grand Prize! Every comment equals an additional entry.
As far as what bouquet I’d want, it would be full of messy old garden roses, cabbage roses and dog roses and moss roses. I’d also like to thank Jennifer Potter for her lovely book, The Rose, which has helped me to natter at family members about an even wider variety of plants.