Roses, roses, all the way
Infinitely beautiful, infinitely beneficial
Look at any garden and every hedgerow in June and roses are in
glorious bloom everywhere. From the most sophisticated hybrid to the simplest dog-rose, they sing of summer (even when it's raining); bring colour, beauty, elegance and a wonderful thrill to our senses. Roses have something magical about them. They might be common enough but there remains something mysterious, some element that can't be degraded or mocked. They are well-named as the Queen of Flowers.
The Greeks and Romans had a passion for roses too, seeing them as symbols of love and beauty, intertwined with their goddesses Aphrodite and Venus. The Persians first discovered how to extract the long-lasting buttery essence known as Rose Otto. In far distant China, keen gardeners nurtured them for thousands of years before travellers brought them back to Europe to create the glorious hybrids of our modern age.
The Egyptians believed that the magical fragance of rose was the key to its aphrodisiac properties which could work miracles of love, even beyond the grave. They learnt how to prepare a form of rose paste which was used in rituals at the home as a healing and beautifying balm. Cleopatra famously piled petals in abundance on her bed to entrance Anthony.
Perhaps roses - those most magical, temperamental and delicate of flowers - became the symbol of love not only because of their winter rarity but also for their voluptuousness; their sensuous power.
In one form or another, roses, their petals, seed oil, rose water and essence have been used in myriad ways for beauty, health and wellbeing.
For many, the test of time is enough but others might feel
reassured that modern science confirms, among much else, that roses contain unsaturated fatty acids and Vitamin C, among other elements, both useful for skin health.
At Great Elm Physick Garden, we grow roses to use in several skin care preparations. The garden is full of them now and it's just the time to harvest them. They make marvellous additions to face masks and bath salts, for example, adding softness and fragrance and – yes – their magic. You can do the same.
To dry roses.
Pick a bag-ful of blooms, spread them on a shallow tray, put them in an oven, on the lowest possible heat overnight, leaving the door ajar so that moisture can escape. Turn them once or twice if you can. By morning, they will be almost crispy. Pull the petals from the stalks and put them in a coffee grinder until powdered. Or use a mortar and pestle (but that is quite a long job!).
Dried rose petals can be used for all sorts of things – whole for pot pourri, bath, in little herb bags for drawers; powdered for face masks (try mixing with some powdered oats and a spoon of honey) or a lovely body dusting powder. Give it a go, and delight yourself.
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