Herb of the Year 2012

2012 Herb of the Year – The Rose

Rosa gallica versicolor 'Rosa Mundi'

Rosa gallica versicolor ‘Rosa Mundi’ 

The rose was chosen by the International Herb Association’s Horticulture Committee as the 2012 Herb of the Year. In order to be considered for this honor, the herb must be outstanding in at least two of the three required categories: medicinal, culinary or decorative. The award was first started in 1995.

Why was the rose chosen?  Is it really an herb?  In considering the three required categories for this award, the rose qualifies in all three:
Medicinal:  Rose oil has topical analgesic properties, as well as antifungal and antibacterial action.
Culinary:  Rose water (used in Eastern Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, as well as in recipes for baked goods) is an ingredient in syrup, honey, jelly, cake, cookies and vinegar among others.  In addition, fresh petals of the rose are used in salads or as a garnish.
Decorative and Crafts: Anyone who has ever seen a rose knows how well it meets this category…growing in the garden, bouquets, dried in wreaths, used as a decorative garnish, potpourri, bath products…the list is endless.

(Always remember, as with all herbs, one must choose plants that have not been sprayed with a commercial insecticide or pesticide when using the rose for medicinal and/or culinary purposes).

In the Western Reserve Herb Society Herb Garden, members are very proud of the Registered Collection of Historic Roses (the “Collection”).  The Collection was registered as such by The Herb Society of America in June 2012.  Historic Roses are  defined as pre-hybrid or pre-1867 roses when the first hybrid “La France” was released.  The Collection includes seven basic rose classes as well as other cultivars.

Beloved for centuries for their graceful beauty and full bloom, Historic Roses allow gardeners  to recreate old fashioned garden charm and bring back many memories of  cherished gardens.  These roses are riding a wave of tremendous popularity right now.  How incredibly fortunate gardeners  are to have inherited these living horticultural treasures from our ancestors.

According to Karen O’Brien, in her article “Roses: Passing Through Time and Tastes” published on the International Herb Association’s website, “The survival of the rose as a plant throughout the ages was insured by its botanic design.  The five petals of simple, single roses are attractive to insects, guaranteeing pollination.  The prickles, or thorns, make the foliage less likely to be decimated by browsing animals.  The seedy rosehips, or fruit are eagerly eaten by birds, and  deposited far and wide through their elimination.”

Over time, the fragrant blooms of the rose have come to symbolize love, passion, luxury and pleasure.  Roses are repeatedly mentioned in legends and folklore throughout world history.  Fossil records show that roses existed prior to the existence of man.  One of the oldest garden roses is Rosa gallica ‘Officinalis’, first grown in Provins,  France.  This particular rose is part of the Collection in the Western Reserve Herb Society Herb Garden.  In addition, the Collection includes Gallicas, Musks, Centifolias, Damasks, Noisettes, Bourbons, Portlands, Hybrid Perpetuals and others.  Many species were planted when the Garden was founded many years ago, and still remain blooming every year.

The Western Reserve Herb Society’s Collection includes roses of many cultural origins: China, England and France among others.  The unforgettable true rose perfume, inherent beauty of form, color, handsome foliage and attractive hips are just a few of the wonderful characteristics that draw visitors’ attention.

Most of the roses in the Collection bloom the last week of May and continue through the first week of June.  Some of the roses have a repeat bloom later in the summer season.  Many visitors to the Garden come to see a specific rose when it is blooming.  Their interest in the Collection gives meaning and emphasis to the Western Reserve Herb Society’s  mission of preserving this beautiful  Collection, and continuing in its  role as caretaker of these valuable plants of our heritage.

Members work in the Collection on Tuesday and Thursday from April through October.  They invite your questions and encourage you to visit the Collection and the Herb Garden.

Reference: “Roses 2012 Herb of the Year”, An Herb Society of America Essential Guide, 2011

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