This week we celebrate Valentine’s Day, one of the oldest and most popular holidays observed across the planet. From China to Finland, almost every country in the world celebrates this holiday. Over a billion Valentine’s Day cards will be sent around the world, but how many senders or recipients actually know how this holiday came about?
The history of Valentine’s Day, according to legend, dates back to the third century in Rome. Meanwhile, Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers, so he banned the marriage of young men. A young priest named Valentin was furious at this injustice and defied Claude by continuing to perform secret marriages for young lovers. Claudius eventually discovered Valentin’s actions and sentenced him to death. While in prison, Valentin fell in love with his jailer’s daughter, who visited him in prison. Before being put to death, Valentine sent a letter to the girl and signed it, “From your Valentine” – an expression we still use today. Valentine was executed on February 14, 270 AD. Later, around 496 AD, Pope Gelasius declared February 14 a day in honor of Valentine, who by that time had become a saint.
The history of giving flowers for Valentine’s Day to your loved one comes from the ancient custom of sending bouquets of flowers to convey non-verbal messages. Introduced in the 18th century by Charles II of Sweden, each flower had a specific meaning attached to it, making it possible to have an entire conversation using flowers alone. Make sure you give the right rose to the right person. This is probably not news to anyone, but red roses are among the most romantic flowers. These are the perfect flowers for Valentine’s Day, representing love and longing. Unlike red roses, coral roses represent friendship, modesty and sympathy. Yellow roses have a hidden symbolism of jealousy and infidelity. However, giving them to a friend can mean warmth and affection. Do you know someone who is looking to make changes in their life? White roses represent a new beginning. They also symbolize purity and innocence.
Roses have always been associated with love and this year more than 200 million roses will be harvested especially for this holiday. That’s a lot of love! Of course, when demand is highest, prices rise accordingly. This year, flower and candy supply shortages will drive prices up even further! It’s not hard to spend $100 or more on a dozen long-stemmed roses this week and up to $200 if delivered.
Of course, most of the roses that will be sold are grown in the southern hemisphere, particularly in Colombia, Ecuador, Africa and Israel. More than 70% of roses sold in European supermarkets will be grown in Kenya. Most will be grown in greenhouses with additional carbon dioxide provided by burning some sort of fossil fuel inside the greenhouse. Roses, like many other plants, grow best with increased levels of this gas which we are working to reduce around the world. Plants, globally, don’t really care about the long-term effects of human-caused climate change.
I hope you provided winter protection for your garden roses this winter. Grafted roses are usually only hardy in single digit temperatures and this cold winter will surely take its toll on those left unprotected. A blanket of snow provides some insulation, but a 6-8 inch mound of soil around the base of the shrubs in December is much more effective. Roses that are not grafted, like many shrub roses, are generally much more resistant. Grafted roses are easily recognized by the swollen “bud” found at the junction of roots and stems. Roses that grow on their own roots do not have this characteristic.
If you want to buy a rustic rose that is sold locally, consider going to a garden center and buying a mini potted rose. These pretty little plants can be transplanted outdoors in May and could last for years with proper care. I leave you with a poem by Robert Burns that tackles the subject this week.
O my Luve is like a red, red rose
It was newly released in June;
O my Luve is like the melody
It’s nicely played in harmony.
You are so beautiful, my good girl,
And I will still love you, my dear,
Until the seas run dry.
Until the seas run dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt with the sun;
I will still love you, my darling,
While the sands of life will flow.