Articles by Jim Gainan

As published in the Billings Gazette

Roses — The "queen" of the flowers

Envision a single red rose, timeless and classic, but what is the story behind this blossom also known as "The Queen of the Flowers?" Roses are native to the United States. In fact, rose fossils have been found in Montana, Oregon and Colorado that can be carbon dated as 35 million years old.

The rose is one of the oldest flowers in cultivation, having been grown in gardens in Asia for over 5000 years. During the rise of the Roman Empire, roses were grown extensively and became a symbol of luxury and excess being used as confetti, for perfumes and for medicinal purposes. Romans used to carpet their huge banquet halls with rose petals and it is said that Cleopatra once received Marc Antony in a room literally knee-deep in rose petals.

Cultivation also spread across the Middle East and Europe although after the fall of the Roman Empire, the popularity of roses rose and fell with the gardening trends of the day. In the 1400s, two factions fighting to control England used the rose as their symbol. York used the white rose while Lancaster used the red rose. This conflict became known as the "War of the Roses."

In the 17th century, the popularity of roses re-emerged with such high demand that royalty considered roses and rose water as legal tender. In the late 18th century, the cultivated predecessor of the modern day rose was introduced to Europe from China.

There are over 30,000 rose varieties known today. George Washington was our first U.S. rose breeder. He had a rose garden at his home in Mount Vernon and named one variety after his mother.

In 1969, the month of June was designated as National Rose Month. In 1986, President Ronald Reagan made the rose the official National Floral Emblem of the United States. Georgia, Iowa, New York, North Dakota and the District of Columbia have also adopted the rose as their state flower.

Sixty percent of roses grown in the United States are produced in California. The most popular rose holidays in the U.S. are Valentine's Day, Mother's Day and Christmas.

The world's largest rosebush is located in a city named Tombstone in Arizona. Planted from a slip from another rosebush in the late 18th century, its trunk is nearly six feet around. When in full bloom, this rosebush has millions of little white blossoms - and its branches spread out six feet thick over an arbor under which more than 150 people can be seated comfortably.

Questions or comments? Contact Jim Gainanvia email at Jim Gainan is a VP/shareholder of Gainan's Floral and Garden Center in Billings.


Color Meaning
Coral and Orange Enthusiasm, Desire
Pink Grace, Gentility, Friendship
Deep Pink Gratitude and Appreciation
Light Pink Admiration and Sympathy
Red Passionate Love, Respect, Courage
Deep Burgundy Unconscious Beauty
Red & White Unity
Red & Yellow Blends Jovial and Happy Feelings
White Innocence and Purity, You're Heavenly, Reverence,
Humility, I'm Worthy of You, Secrecy, Silence
Yellow Joy, Gladness
Pale Colors Sociability and Friendship
Rosebuds Beauty, Youth, Heart Innocent of Love