Everything Is Coming Up Roses

“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.” 

~The Little Prince

Years ago, my talented niece drew me a rose, I can turn around and look at it pinned to my bulletin board. It is pink, fabulously shaded, the size of my face. It is more perfect than a real rose, and certainly much less prone to insects and disease though maybe not sentimentality. 

Whenever I see it pinned with the frog shaped pin on my black-and-white harlequin painted cork board, I’m reminded how one time on a trip to Norway we – the h, Sophia, our friend Ingvilde and I – stopped at a greenhouse. The proprietor was passionate about roses, and walked us up and down the rows, telling us tidbits and generally making it seem as if roses were the most interesting and overlooked flower in the world, deserving of their own canon. That’s how it is when someone is really passionate about something – their enthusiasm is like a refracting light that makes the world seem, briefly, a much more brilliant place than you suspected. 

Chippendale rose

The roses had fantastical names like the Diana, Princess of Wales (a pink blend hybrid tea rose) and the Caroline de Monaco (a pure white blossom hybrid tea rose) named for Princess Caroline of Monaco. Here we are in the twenty-first century naming flowers for women who are royal, whatever that means. I hope they name a rose after the singer Lorde, she the chanteuse of “Royals”. They can call it the Queen Bee Rose.

It don’t run in our blood
That kind of luxe just ain’t for us
We crave a different kind of buzz


Walking through the greenhouse I found the names of roses as interesting as the roses themselves, like the ‘Carefree Spirit’  – a shrub rose noted as a ‘breakthrough” among rose-ologists for its great disease resistance. Then there’s the Winchester Cathedral, and the Busy Bee rose. There is the Flutterbye, the Magician and the Burgundy Iceberg, which is a gothy dark red. There’s the russet colored  Butterscotch rose, and the Café Olé and the Cinco de Mayo; the Denver’s Dream (a cool bicolor orange), the funky Distant Drums (a striking mauve/tan). There is the Heidi Klum rose, naturally, and there is a Portland Rose – probably because the city of Portland has been nicknamed “City of Roses” (like Pasadena and Guadalajara) and I wish I could send a hundred dozen to the poor beleaguered people of that good city.

There is a French Rose but I think it would be better called an ooh-la-la rose. There is a Virginia rose and an Alexander Dumas rose, he who once said All human wisdom is summed up in two words; wait and hope.  There is a Rose of Hope but not a Wait rose, but there is an “At Last Rose” which is funny if you picture the rose really irritated, checking its watch.

All human wisdom is summed up in two words; wait, and hope.

Alexander Dumas

There is an Amelia Earhardt rose and a Barbra Streisand rose but not a Bette Midler rose, go figure. If there ever is a Bette Midler rose it should be called The Wind Beneath My Wings rose, of course. There was the young man on Britain’s got talent who sang The Rose, by the name of Christopher Mulroney. He was very nervous and talked sweetly of “me nan”, and sang a song his grandad liked, with a passion that was pent-up and full of yearning and instantly captivating.

In the interview they show before the performance, he is dead nervous. You realize, he believes in himself; it’s other people’s lack of belief that has deterred  him.  Once the first word comes out of his mouth it’s just flabbergasting. He becomes endearingly, alarmingly red with nerves and his all-out, beautiful effort.  Watch the video at how everyone’s head swivels up at his tremulous, from the heart tenor. “Just remember in the winter far beneath the bitter snow lies the seed that with the sun’s love in the spring becomes the rose” is too long of a name for a rose but heck, I’d do it, I’d name a rose that, if I were in charge of rose naming. Why not? 

At the end of Christopher’s song they stand and clap, stand in acknowledgement of that passion, the risk he took, his vulnerability, his pleasure in sharing the first moment of recognition of his own extraordinariness with them, his red, red face.  For feeling, when watching him sing, the longing to be loved by someone singing about you like that. When in reality people love us like that all the time, but we always imagined they’d be better looking than they end up being, or maybe more interesting, with better taste in movies. Personally whoever names roses should listen to this rendition of The Rose and then name a rose for the singer Christopher Maloney and it should be the color of deep embarrassment, and also name a rose for Christopher Maloney’s Gran and it should be the most pale, pale white blushed with bashful pink pride.

There have been roses named for Casanova (I mean, of course) but also Cary Grant and Charlotte Rampling; there’s the Edith Piaf, the Chris Evert and the Gabriela Sabatini, but no Serena Williams. I demand a Serena Williams rose and Alexis O’Hanian can make it happen if anyone can.  It should be purple, the color of queens. 

Speaking of queens a lot of queens have roses named for them but that’s just sucking up. Drag queens should have roses named after them for sure, like Bianca Del Rio, Adore Delano – they already sound like roses. The Katya Zamolodchikova should be the rose you give someone when you still love them but your job is making you move. The RuPaul should be the go-to rose for when you want to get to know someone better, and they should be given in giant extravagant bouquets because yeah.

The Picasso rose isn’t cubed, and the Minnie Pearl doesn’t have a price tag (and Minnie Pearl wasn’t a roses kind of lady). There is Hortense and Herman and many many many Fraus. 

A rose named Esther’s Baby sounds so sad, I thought. None of the names were sentimental, though it is of course the most sentimental thing in the world to have a rose named after oneself. We’d remember the names better if instead of Brigitte de Villenfagne or the Comtesse Cécile de Chabrillant we took a nail polish approach. I’m Not Really a Waitress was a hit for a reason.  Napoleon’s Secret Lover or Factory Farmed Meat Is Immoral or even Get Corporate Money Out of Politics are all great names for roses. And definitely we need roses that really say what we mean, such as Broken Hearted But Not Sorry I Met You, or How Will I Live Without You, or I Wish I’d Said Sorry, Sooner. 

There is a Royal William rose, a Betty White rose, and a Ginger Rogers rose. The Betty White rose is not white, it is “a blush pink to cream hybrid tea rose “ and the Black Bacara is not black but blackish red, the color I favored for my pedicure for a couple of years. There is the cabbage rose and the peace rose and the prairie rose and the dog rose – but not a prairie dog rose, not yet, but if there were it would be white speckled brown and pop up unexpectedly in arid climates.

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” is a popular reference to William Shakespeare‘s play Romeo and Juliet, in which Juliet seems to argue that it does not matter that Romeo is from her family’s rival house of Montague, or put another way that she Juliet finds him mad cute whether or not he is named Montague. The reference is often used to imply that the names of things do not affect what they really are, unless you believe, like me, that names are destiny. My dog is a super laid back alpha, and the name Jake means, in fact, everything is satisfactory and just fine, thanks very much. My own name means “defender of mankind” and that seems like a good name for a rose, maybe someone will see to that if I write something memorable enough, someday.

Blood is rust colored when it is dried; wash it away and it goes first red, then rose pink. A rose that contained all these colors, a veritable variegation of life, could be the Stephen King Rose, though maybe it would be better named Misery. King would no doubt appreciate the gesture, he is himself the author of a book titled Rose Madder, a woman’s name in the story, but also the name of a color – a dark violet red pigment made from the roots of the common madder plant, Rubia tinctorum. He once speculated there might grow roses which sing, an idea I like.

There are lots of celebrity roses: the Audrey Hepburn (an apple blossom pink hybrid tea rose); the Barbra Streisand (a rich lavender and mauve color), while the Oprah Rose is ruby red and the Elizabeth Taylor is a deep pink (with a powerful fragrance, apparently). The Dolly Parton is a coppery orange/red and the Ginger Rogers is yellowy-orange and scarlet floribunda rose (floribunda is Latin for “many flowering”). The Marilyn Monroe is described as a creamy apricot hybrid tea rose, though how in the world they didn’t choose the purest white rose, big and fleshy and innocently bursting, spending its short life too quickly, I’ll never know.

Umberto Eco wrote The Name of the Rose – Eco claims to have chosen the title “because the rose is a symbolic figure so rich in meanings that by now it hardly has any meaning left”. The rose of old remains only in its name, he says, mourning the naked names we possess. The book has a poem about a lost rose (and The Lost Rose sounds like one that should be bluish silver, imo): 

Red rose growing in the meadow,
you vaunt yourself bravely
bathed in crimson and carmine:
a rich and fragrant show.
But no: Being fair,
You will be unhappy soon.

Roses bear the names of men, too:  there’s the Bing Crosby and the Bob Hope and the George Burns and even the Sir Paul McCartney, which is described as “a medium pink hybrid tea rose” but would better be described as Here Comes the Sun Pinkening Like the Sky or Hey Jude, Remember To Let Her Into Your Heart Pink.

The Norwegian greenhouse owner picked a bouquet of roses and presented them to Sophia, but I would rather have had a namesake rose than a rose itself – perhaps a rose named for the color of her cheeks after she has won an 800 meter race – say, the Wind-Stained Cheeks of Pink rose. 

Here in San Francisco there was once a restaurant called The Stinking Rose – a garlic-focused eatery that Clint Eastwood was said to favor. It is closed now, a victim of the 2008 recession. Most of the garlic in this and other restaurants is from the California town of Gilroy, famous for its garlic festival, a lovely celebration of garlic that has been marred  in recent years – last year when a  gunman killed three people and wounded 17 others before committing suicide, and this year due to the pandemic, and the wildfires.

There should definitely be a rose named after Rose McGowan, who in 2018 released details about being raped by Harvey Weinstein, ending his reign of terror over a legion of actresses. It could be named Brave, which is the name of her book, or #metoo. 

The rose is the national flower of England, and in 1986 was adopted as the national floral emblem by the US, too – a fact that made me wonder if Ronald Reagan sent Margaret Thatcher some Margarent Thatcher roses to celebrate. There are five states that declare the rose as the state flower – Iowa, North Dakota, Georgia, New York and Oklahoma. 

The rose was a frequent messenger in Victorian floriography which is a way to share secret messages without speaking aloud (a field of study I’m sure I’d excel at.) So frequent in fact the rose itself was, for Greeks and Romans, a symbol of confidentiality, which makes me look at that ubiquitous gas station rose with new eyes. The yellow rose means joy or friendship; the pink, love that is hopeful. Red is for love triumphant, and white is for new or eternal, loyal love.  Peach roses are taken to mean ‘thank you’ and lavender roses  – the same purple color as my wedding ring – declare love at first sight. 

Then there’s the Juliet rose that sold for $15.8 million in 2006, the same year the WHO estimated 842 million people suffered from hunger worldwide, the same year scientists estimated the world grows enough food for every single person on the planet to have 2,790 calories. 

Archaeolgoists have discovered rose fossils that date back 35 million years, and there is a rose that is at least 1,000 years old growing right now on the Hildesheim Cathedral in Germany. The cathedral was bombed out of existence during WWII but the root of the rose survived, growing up through the rubble, a story that sounds like a fairy tale – even to rap artists apparently.

“Long live the rose that grew from concrete when no one else even cared.”

~Tupac Shakur

It also sounds like a fairy tale that more than 60% of species have gone extinct during the past fifty years – a fairy tale written by either monstrously evil adults or cruel unthinking children. When I heard that statistic on the news the other night, I had a moment like the Little Prince, as if, suddenly, all the stars went out.  “It’s like the end of the world,” I said sadly to the h, and he held my hand, where I have a tattoo of a bee (another endangered species). Maybe next I’ll get a tattoo of a rose, to keep the bee company.


The Little Prince' Review: A Lovingly Imagined Adaptation of the French  Classic - Variety
The Little Prince

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