Ranunculus to You: Rice to Rose

*RICE   “Happiness, Prosperity”

*RICE, WILD   “Influence”

*RING FLOWER   “Marriage”

ROCKET   “Rivalry”

ROCKET, QUEEN’S   “You Are the Queen of Coquettes”

ROSE   “Love”

            The pioneer floriographers, including Mme. De Latour, leaned more toward “Beauty” for the Rose.  “Love” may have originated in Frances S. Osgood’s second book.  (She has “Beauty” in the first.)  But the twentieth century floriographers really took to it, and gave it precedence, though many list “Beauty” as a second choice.  This may all be a result of the custom of giving red roses to your Love.

            When it comes to roses, flower language is a little redundant anyhow.  Rose-growers have a language all their own as it is.  Such people seem so normal at first meeting…if you meet them outside the garden, that is.  They are the reason some flower language books go crazy in the number of roses they list.  And there are flower language guides which handle ONLY roses, leaving all other plants out of the dictionary.

            As you might suspect, if you’ve read this far through the book, some of the roses listed below are actually roses, and some are not.  People sometimes just felt like calling a flower a rose whether it belonged to the genus Rosa or not.  In defiance of every botanical guide I have seen, then, I am listing them all under “Rose”.  Bushels of floriographers list Red Rose under R and Yellow Rose under Y, but it’s my library training, I guess.  I find that kind of system hard to follow.  So you will find them all below, the generic uses of “rose” first and then the varieties after.  Please don’t write in to complain.  I just don’t care any more.


            George H. O’Neill, however, says this sort of crown is for women only.  Men are supposed to earn a crown of Laurel.  George H. O’Neill is the only floriographer who gets picky about this.


ROSE LEAF   “I Never Importune”*

            In the mysterious Orient, where people speak in riddles, or so I keep getting told, a great thinker once travelled miles to a secluded monastery where he could study at the feet of a master and become an even greater thinker.  Alas, the master had all the students his monastery could hold.  He handed the newcomer a glass of water so full that not one drop could be added.

            The visitor didn’t want to be pushy about it.  (He did not want to importune, see?)  But he reached over to a rose that was in a vase on the master’s desk, plucked a leaf from it, and floated it on top of the water, showing that there is always room for one more.  The master was so impressed that he relented, and took on the new student.

            (I have it on no authority whatsoever that one of the other students whispered, “This will never work,.  They’ve done nothing but argue since they met.”)

ROSE, FADED   “Beauty if Fleeting”


ROSE, SINGLE   “Simplicity”*

            This refers specifically to a rose that grew with one blossom per stem, rather than several.  When referring to what Dorothy Parker called “One perfect Rose”, floriographers used the phrase “Unique Rose”.


*ROSES, TWO ENTWINED TO FORM A SINGLE STEM   “Upcoming Marriage, or Engagement”

ROSE, UNIQUE   “Call me Not Beautiful”

            “What does one rose mean when it’s dipped in bronze, steel-tipped, and shot at you?”  Willy, Willy ‘n’ Ethel, Sept. 27, 1989.

ROSE IN A TUFT OF GRASS   “There is Everything To Be Gained By Good Company”*

            This is one of those improving stories they may have skipped telling you in school.  See, these two scholars walk into a bar.  A peasant asks if he can sit with them, and maybe learn something.  They tell him he probably couldn’t keep up with their conversation and they don’t want to waste a lot of time explaining things.

            The peasant goes back to his own seat, but he asked the bartender to take them a little bouquet he’d made up of a tuft of grass and a rose.  This roused their curiosity, and they ask him over to tell them what it’s supposed to mean.  He replied “As the grass, though a common plant,

is scented through its association with the rose, so I had hoped to be improved by associating with you.”

            They were so impressed by this that they invited them to dine with him, and even let him pick up the tab.

                                                            TYPES OF ROSES

*ROSE, AMERICAN BEAUTY   “Intended Visit”

            George H. O’Neill really went into all kinds of floral messages with which you could conduct your social life, different ways of saying “I am coming to see you”, “Can I come and see you?” or “Why don’t you come up and see me some time?”

ROSE, AUSTRIAN   “Thou Art All That is Lovely”

ROSE, BRIDAL   “Happy Love”

ROSE, BURGUNDY   “Unconscious Beauty”

ROSE, CABBAGE  “Ambassador of Love”

            This, according to J. Ramsbottom, a rose fanatic, is also the Provins Rose, or Provence Rose, the most common rose in literature and/or poetry.  King Midas, he says, grew Cabbage Roses.  Claire Powell notes that the first one sprang from the tears of Lycurgus.  There seem to have been several Greek heroes named Lycurgus, and I have been unable to determine which one wept roses.  You’d think people would have noticed.

ROSE, CAROLINA   “Love is Dangerous”

*ROSE, CHARLES LE FIEVREEE  “Speak Low if You Speak of Love”

*ROSE, CHEROKEE   “Indian Love Song”

            I think they’re just kidding around with this meaning, really.  As a matter of fact, this rose was well known in Europe long before the Cherokee people had been heard of.  So why is it called the Cherokee Rose?  ONE explanation can be found in Modern Eloquence, one of those massive sets of books which were foisted off on libraries at the turn of the last century, containing chunks of great literature and other prose and poetry.  It has a quaint little story about the origin of the name of this rose in Volume 10.  But you don’t NEED to know it, do you?  All about  the Seminole maid who fell in love with a Cherokee captured by her father, and how she eloped with him and went to his people carrying this rose as an emblem of her place among this other nation?  I didn’t think you did.

            I was more interested in another little story in the set, perhaps a little less alarming when people had cleaner minds.  It seems the young man was wondering why man was created before woman, instead of both being created at once, whereupon the young lady replied “Was it not natural for the stem to come before the flower?”

ROSE, CHINA   “Beauty Ever New”

            The China Rose has also been called the Monthly Rose.  Until the late eighteenth century, Europeans had to make do with roses which bloomed just once a year.  Then these roses were imported from the Orient, and their habit of blooming more often made them a smash hit.

*ROSE, CHINA, DARK   “Forsaken”

ROSE, CHRISTMAS   “Relieve My Anxiety”

            This is also Hellebore, but Christmas Rose sounds so much nicer, it gets a nicer meaning.

*ROSE, CORAL   ‘Desire”

ROSE, DAILY   “Thy Smile I Aspire To”

            I don’t know for certain whether there is a variety of rose known as the Daily Rose, or if this just refers to you bringing someone a rose every day.

ROSE, DAMASK   “Brilliant Complexion”

            To have a damask complexion was once the ambition of every young lady, and what with all the research connecting sun tans with skin cancer, it probably will be again.

            There is some argument about whether the Damask in Damask Rose refers to the city of Damascus.  I expect people with damask tablecloths face the same thing.

ROSE, DOG   “Pleasure and Pain”

            Some people give this meaning to all roses, covering the beauty and aroma of the rose versus the stabbing of the thorns.  The Lehners go on to add some other, similar pairs: “Hope and Fear” as well as “Love and Poetry”.

            Speaking of pleasure and pain, it was once considered the height of luxury to scatter rose petals everywhere at a party.  One Roman emperor filled his banquet hall with them, to the extent that he smothered all his guests.  He enjoyed this so much that he added it to his permanent repertoire of party tricks.

*ROSE, FRENCH   “Be Elsewhere”

            You might consider going to the Isle of Rhodes, which is named for roses, or possibly Rhode Island, which is named for the Isle of Rhodes.

ROSE, GLOIRE DE DIJON   “Messenger of Love”

ROSE, GUELDER   “Winter, Age”

            This is also known as the Snowball, from its looks as well as for when it blooms, which is also where it gets its meaning.


            One expert sniffs a little over this, saying that it is, after all, only a Cabbage Rose.  Another claims a less graceful rose it would be hard to find.  I say if Mme. De Latour thought it was graceful, what business is it of theirs?

Rose, Inermis: see ROSE, THORNLESS

ROSE, JAPAN   “Beauty Is Your Only Attraction”

            The floriographers didn’t think this flower smelled very interesting, making it the symbol of good-looking people who lacked accomplishments.  Do not confuse it, please, with the Camellia, which is sometimes called a Japan rose.  The floriographers did know the difference, and made it clear this meaning applied only to the Japan Rose, NOT the “Japan Rose”.  So there, too.

ROSE, JOHN HOPPER   “Encouragement”

ROSE, LA FRANCE   “Meet Me By Moonlight”

            Thomas Christopher, an expert on what are known as Old Roses, defines the Old, or Antique, Rose as any rose that was cultivated before 1867, when the first hybrid tea rose, the La France Rose, was bred.


            See also ROSE, YORK AND LANCASTER

ROSE, MAIDEN’S BLUSH   “If You Do Love Me, You Will Find It Out”

            The maiden is blushing, see, because she is too modest a girl to come right out and TELL him that he is in love with her.  But she is getting a little tired of waiting around for HIM to say so.

            According to Anne Raver in the New York Times, the name of one rose of this type was originally La Cuisee de la Nymphe Emu, or Thigh of the Aroused Nymph.  This made too many people blush, so the name became the Great Maiden’s Rose.

ROSE, MAY   “Precocity”

            In the days when roses bloomed just once a year, June was the month for roses.  Any rose that bloomed before that was obviously precocious.

Rose, Monthly: see ROSE, CHINA

ROSE, MOSS   “Superior Merit”

            E.W. Wirt came up with this, and Sarah Josepha Hale passed it along, completely bypassing Mme. De Latour’s original meaning, “Voluptuous love”.  Lucy Moore put “Voluptuous Love” in HER list, but it didn’t catch on. The floriographers didn’t want to discuss it.


This is also the Bramble-Flowered China Rose,  How graceful is THAT?

            In the 1930s, this rose was promoted by the government as a good plant to have on your farm, to provide shelter for wildlife and prevent erosion.  This worked, the rose spreading so efficiently that in several states it is now classed as a noxious weed.


            J. Ramsbottom claims this is the same as the French, or Garden, Rise.  Others say it is a separate multicolored variety of French Rose.

ROSE, MUSK   “Capricious Beauty”*

            This is another plant that doesn’t bother to bloom in some years.  J. Ramsbottom calls it the very favorite rose of the Elizabethans, and the rose Shakespeare liked to go on about.


*ROSES, NEU  “You Are Paying Attention, Aren’t You?”

ROSE, NEPHITOS   “Infatuation”

*ROSE, PERPETUAL   “Mine through Sunshine, Storms, and Snows”

            Now, you just know she made that up to rhyme with “Rose”.

            The book which mentions the Perpetual Rose (would that be the China Rose under an alias?) is Written For You, or The Art of Beautiful Living, compiled by Marta L. Rayne in Detroit in 1884.  It attempts to give you the data you need in life: what books you ought to read, how to avoid drowning, why it is best to marry for love, and what to do if your son starts smoking or using slang.  How have you lived this long without it?

ROSE, PINK   “Your Love is Perfect Happiness”

            Here’s what you do, according to John Ingram.  On Midsummer Eve, you walk backward out to the garden without saying a word.  Pick a rose, place it in white paper, and set it away until Christmas.  Do NOT open the paper before Christmas, as this will break the spell.  On Christmas Day, take it out of the paper: it will be as fresh as the day you plucked it.  Place this in your bosom.  The person who picks it out is your destined spouse.  (I should jolly well hope so.)

*ROSE, PINK, LIGHT   “Grace, Gentility”

*ROSE, PINK, DARK   “Thank You”

ROSE, POMPON   “Genteel, Pretty”

            “He who would grow beautiful roses in his garden must have beautiful roses in his heart.”  Stephen R. Hole, A Book About Roses

*ROSE, PROVENCE   “My Heart Is In Flames”

Rose, Red: see ROSE

            Most floriographers, when discussing the basic Rose, gave it the same sentiments as a Red Rose.  Admit it, when you think of roses, you automatically think of the red ones.

ROSE, RED, DEEP   “Bashful Shame”

            In Europe, it says here, you should always present roses unwrapped, and preferably in odd numbers, say five or seven.  But you cannot give them to just anybody, as they are exchanged only between lovers.  So don’t bring them to your hostess if you’re only coming for supper.

            George H. O’Neill says that if a gentleman wishes to accept a lady’s invitation, he should send a red rose with nutmeg geranium leaves.  But if a lady is accepting a gentleman’s invitation, she must send red rose petals with plain geranium leaves.  Just tossing someone your front door key may bypass all this leaf plucking.

ROSE, RED-LEAVED   “Beauty and prosperity”

Rose, Rock:   see CISTUS

*ROSE, SENSITIVE   “Too Young To Leave My Mother Yet”

            This comes from Marta Rayne again.  The flower language in her book, by the way, is not listed in the table of the contents, but only on the cover.  You’ll need to flip to the back of the book and find it for yourself.


            This is the consensus, though various books create all kinds of complications with the Eglantine, the American Sweetbrier, the European Sweetbrier, and so on.  (Floriographers who distinguish between the American and the European versions apply “Simplicity” to the first and “I Wound to Heal” to the second.  The choice between “brier” and “briar” seems to be a matter of personal taste.)  John Ingram and Claire Powell agree that the “Poetry” meaning comes from the days of Greek poetry competitions, at which a silver eglantine was awarded as first prize.

ROSE, SWEETBRIAR, YELLOW   “Decrease of Love”

            Elizabeth W. Wirt specifies that this decrease of love is caused by “better acquaintance”.  You know: that point at which your sweetheart’s cute little mannerisms becoming annoying habits.

ROSE, THORNLESS   “Ingratitude”

            According to a legend, which Elizabeth W. Wirt traces back to a romantic tale called “The Leper of Aost” by Lemaitre, roses never had thorns until people started growing it in gardens.  The rose was apparently ungrateful for their attentions.  I’m not sure why, in that case, floriographers take it out on the thornless variety, but life’s not fair.

ROSE, WHITE   “Silence”

            Although a large contingent prefer the meaning “I Am Worthy Of You”, the vast majority associate the white rose with the rose in “sub rosa”, or “under the rose”.  Some ancient ruler—each version picks a different one—had a big rose painted on the ceiling of his council chamber.  Everything said there would be kept secret: nobody would ever repeat a word of it outside the chamber.  What I mean to indicate is that they would be SILENT about anything discussed under the rose.  To this day, when you are confiding in someone, you say you are hoping to tell this “sub rosa”.

            And why did this monarch choose a rose?  Well, it seems Cupid was up to some rascality or other, and bribed Harpocrates, the God of Silence, to keep quiet about it by giving him a white rose.  I don’t know how you feel about it, but, I regard this as one of the more ridiculous stories they’ve fed me.  If Harpocrates was the God of Silence, how come he had to be bribed to keep silent?  And how come the ancients had a God of Silence anyhow?  And why did they give him a name so much like Harpo Marx’s?

ROSE, WHITE, DRIED   “Death is preferable to Loss of Innocence”

ROSE, WHITE, WITHERED   “Transient Impressions”


            Mme. De Latour preferred “Fire of the Heart” for this combination: the white rose showed how pale you were from yearning while the red one showed how fiery was your passion.  British floriographers, however, replaced this with “Unity” from considerations of history.  See ROSE, YORK AND LANCASTER

ROSE, WILD   “Simplicity”

ROSE, YELLOW “Infidelity”*

            Popular minority meanings include “Jealousy” and “Decay of Love”.  All three come from the tale of the prophet Mohammed, and his doubts about his second wife.  Ann Landers and Dear Abby not being available, he consulted the archangel Gabriel.  Gabriel recommended he take the roses his wife had given him that morning and toss them into the river.  They were red roses, but when they hit the water they turned yellow, confirming the prophet’s suspicions that his wife was unfaithful.


            Once upon a time in England, a pair of families argued about which had a better right to the family inheritance which, in this case, was the throne of England.  The family tree here is a bit complex, so it’s best to do as the average schoolchild does, and remember them as the Yorks and the Lancasters.  Each side took a rose as its symbol: the Yorks a white one, the Lancasters a red.  And so this family squabble is known to this day as The Wars of the Roses.

            The wars didn’t really end until just about every family member of each side had been killed.  Henry Tudor, a kind of illegitimate connection of the Lancasters, married a plump good-looking princess, Elizabeth of York.  This joining of the roses is regarded as one of the most romantic ending of any war in history.  King Henry consolidated his victory by knocking off most of the remaining Yorks, and then made his place in history secure by becoming the father of Henry VIII, which set up a whole nother ball game.

            Anyhow, this all feeds into the meanings for this rose, the Lancaster Rose, the White and Red Rose Tied Together, and so on.  Beats me why the Tudor Rose doesn’t get a look in, but so it goes.

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