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Use of roses and interesting rose facts

Roses are chosen by many gardeners for their showy, fragrant blooms, however, this versatile plant has uses that extend far beyond its ornamental properties.


Roses are chosen by many gardeners for their showy, fragrant blooms, however, this versatile plant has uses that extend far beyond its ornamental properties.  Cultivated throughout the ages for both its fruit and flowers, it has a wide variety of uses from perfumes and cosmetics to preserves, confectionary and is extensively used in herbal medicine.

Medicinal Properties

Several species of rose were used for therapeutic purposes by both the Greeks and Romans.  Since ancient times, the plant has been recognised for its medicinal properties. In approximately 75 A.D., Pliny the Elder stated that 32 diseases were treatable with preparations of Rosa Gallica and Rosa Damascene.  The smooth pink variety has been used in Chinese medicine since the eighth century.

Rosehips from a selection of rose types including Rosa Rugosa, Rosa Canina and Rosa Moyes are remarkably rich in vitamin C with every 100g of berries containing in the regions of 300-7000mg of the vitamin, compared to 50mg in oranges. In ancient times they were used to cure scurvy.

These fruits also have astringent properties and have been used to treat colds, flu and gastric problems.  Even the buds and leaves have been used as a mild laxative and have healing properties.  While Rosa Mosqueta oil, which is extracted from the roses’ seeds, facilitates cellular regeneration, and is used in the treatment of burns, scars and wrinkles. 

The efficiency of the rose in fighting bacterial and viral infections means that it is also used to treat urinary tract infections and chronic diarrhoea.

The essence of a rose

Damask rose, Rosa Canina and Rosa Gallica are cultivated to extract rose essence, which is an important ingredient in the cosmetic industry. It contains beta-damascenone, which gives the characteristic odour. 

Commercial rose essence manufacture is most common in Bulgaria, Tunisia, Turkey, Egypt and India. Roses are harvested when the blooms are at their fullest and processed using a double distillation technique.  Obtaining the essence is a very expensive operation and takes about 10,000 strong-smelling roses to produce a very small volume of essence.  Currently, almost all female perfumes contain rose essence.


Rose water

Another bi-product of rose distillation is rose water which is a diluted version of the rose essence and had a pleasant scent.  It is used in the cosmetic industry to help prevent winkles.  However, it is so easy to create, it can be made at home.  Store in the fridge and use as a flavouring agent in confectionery or for sorbets, mousses and jellies.


Petals and fruits

Rose petals can be candied and also used to make fragrant syrups and preserves.  Rosehips are often used to make jams and teas, perfect if you are feeling under the weather thanks to their rich vitamin C content. 



Potpourri combines a mixture of dried plant materials including fragrant petals and aromatic leaves in a decorative ceramic or glass container with a pierced lid which offers a delicate fragrance to perfume the room.
The plant materials are dried slowly at a low temperature and often combine elements of roses, geraniums, lavender, zinnia, wallflowers and cornflower.  The pungency of the fragrance can be increased by adding a few drops of rose essence.


Preservation of cut roses

In the home, the rose has a long tradition of featuring in beautiful bouquets of cut flowers.  Adhering to some simple rules will ensure a longer lasting bouquet. 

Place the cut flowers in fresh water as soon as possible.  Before placing them in water cut a couple of inches from the base of the stem, making a clean, slightly angled cut to prevent the lymphatic’s getting obstructed and blocking the water intake.  Remove any lower leaves and shoots which would rot in the water.   The water in the vase should not exceed 10 cm and should not to be changed daily but instead topped up as it evaporates.  Add a flower preservative to the water, where available.