This section is from the book "The Florist And Garden Miscellany". Also see: All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!.
"The ambitious inhabitants of the land watered by the Nile have sent thee, O Caesar, the Roses of winter as a present, valuable for its novelty. But the boatman of Memphis will laugh at the gardens of Pharaoh as soon as he has taken one step in thy capital city; for the spring in all its charms, and the flowers in their fragrance and beauty, equal the glory of the fields of Paestum. Wherever he wanders, or casts his eyes, every street is brilliant with garlands of Roses. And thou, O Nile ! must yield to the fogs of Rome. Send us thy harvests, and we will send thee Roses".
Again, there is the infinity of associations, which float like rich incense about the Rose, and that, after all, bind it most strongly to us; for they represent the accumulated wealth of joys and sorrows, which has become so inseparably connected with it in the human heart.
"What were life without a rose !" seems to many, doubtless, to be a most extravagant apostrophe; yet if this single flower were to be struck out of existence, what a chasm in the language of the heart would be found without it! What would the poets do? They would find their finest emblem of female loveliness stolen away. Listen, for instance, to old Beaumont and Fletcher:
"Of all flowers Methinks a Rose is best; It is the very emblem of a maid; For when the west wind courts her gently, How modestly she blows and paints the sun;
With her chaste blushes ! When the north wind comes near her, Rude and impatient, then, like chastity, She locks her beauties in her bud again, And leaves him to base briers".
What would the lovers do? What tender confessions, hitherto uttered by fair half-open buds, and bouquets more eloquent of passion than the Nouvelle Heloise, would have to be stammered forth in miserable clumsy words! How many doubtful suits would be lost - how many bashful hearts would never venture - how many rash and reckless adventurers would be shipwrecked, if the tender and expressive language of the Rose were all suddenly lost and blotted out! What could we place in the hands of childhood to mirror back its innocent expression so truly? What blossoms could bloom on the breast of the youthful beauty so typical of the infinity of hope and sweet thoughts that lie folded up in her own heart, as fair young Rose-buds? What wreath could so lovingly encircle the head of the fair young bride as that of white Roses, full of purity and grace? And, last of all, what blossom, so expressive of human affections, could we find at the bier to take the place of the Rose? the Rose, sacred to this purpose for so many ages, and with so many nations, "Because its breath Is rich beyond the rest; and when it dies It doth bequeath a charm to sweeten death".
The Rose is not only infinite in its forms, hues, types, and associations, but it deserves an infinite number of admirers. This is the explanation of our desire to be eloquent in its behalf. There are, unfortunately, some persons who, however lovely, beautiful, or perfect a thing may be in itself, will never raise their eyes to look at it, or open their hearts to admire it, unless it is incessantly talked about.
We have always observed, however, that the great difficulty with those who like to talk about fruits and flowers is, when once talking, to stop. There is no doubt whatever that we might go on, therefore, and fill this whole number with roses, rosariums, rosaries, and rose-water, but that some of our western readers, who are looking for us to give them a cure for the pear-blight, might cry out, " A blight on your Roses!" We must therefore grow more systematic and considerate in our remarks.
We thought some years ago that we had seen that ultima Thule, "a perfect Rose." But we were mistaken. Old associates, familiar names, and long-cherished sorts, have their proper hold on our affections; but - we are bound to confess it - modern Florists have coaxed and teased Nature till she has given them Roses more perfect in form, more airy, rich and brilliant in colour, and more delicate and exquisite in perfume, than any that our grandfathers knew or dreamed of. And more than all, they have produced Roses - in abundance, as large and fragrant as June Roses - that blossom all the year round. If this unceasingly renewed perpetuity of charms does not complete the claims of the Rose to infinity, as far as any plant can express that quality, then are we no metaphysician.
There is certainly something instinctive and true in that favourite fancy of the poets, that Roses are the type or symbol of female loveliness:
"Know you not our only Rival flower - the human? Loveliest weight, on lightest foot - Joy-abundant woman," sings Leigh Hunt for the Roses. And, we will add, it is striking and curious that refined and careful culture has the same effect on the outward conformation of the Rose that it has on feminine beauty. The Tea and the Bourbon Roses may be taken as an illustration of this. They are the last and finest product of the most perfect culture of the garden; and do they not, in their graceful and airy forms, their subdued and bewitching odours, and their refined and delicate colours, body forth the most perfect symbol of the most refined and cultivated Imogen or Ophelia that it is possible to conceive? We claim the entire merit of pointing this out, and leave it for some poet to make himself immortal by !
There are odd crotchety persons among horticulturists, who correspond to old bachelors in society, that are never satisfied to love any thing in particular, because they have really no affections of their own to fix upon any object, and who are always, for instance, excusing their want of devotion to the Rose, under the pretence that among so many beautiful varieties it is impossible to choose.
Undoubtedly there is an embarrus de richesses in the multitude of beautiful varieties that compose the groups and subdivisions of the Rose family. So many lovely forms and colours are there, dazzling the eye and attracting the senses, that it requires a man or woman of nerve as well as taste to decide and select. Some of the great Rose-growers continually try to confuse the poor amateur by their long catalogues, and by their advertisements about "acres of Roses." (Mr. Paul, an English nurseryman, published, in June last, that he had 70,000 plants in bloom at once!) This is puzzling enough, even to one who has his eyes wide open, and the sorts in full blaze of beauty before them. What, then, must be the quandary in which the novice, not yet introduced into the aristocracy of Roses, whose knowledge only goes up to a "Cabbage Rose" or a "Maiden's Blush," and who has in his hand a long list of some great collector - what, we say, must be his perplexity when he suddenly finds himself amidst all the renowned names of old and new world's history, all the aristocrats and republicans, heroes and heroines of past and present times, - Napoleon, Prince Esterhazy, Tippoo Saib, Semiramis, Duchess of Sutherland, Princesse Clementine, with occasionally such touches of sentiment from the French Rose-growers, as Souvenir d'un Ami, or Nid d'Amour (nest of love!), etc. etc.