“Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.” – Gertrude Stein
Although there are more than 100 species of roses, what most often comes to mind when we think of this flower is the red English rose. With its gorgeous flower made of alternately shaped, pinnate leaves and its seductive fragrance, it has become an immortal symbol for beauty and love. Ancient Greeks and Romans connected the flower to their gods of love and beauty. Poets, from William Shakespeare to Robert Burns, have used the rose as a device to describe their beloveds. And, originating in ancient Persia, the crushed petals of the flower have been used to create perfume for its sweet, floral scent.
Still, there is a great deal of nuance and etiquette associated with giving cut roses as a gift. The number of roses in a bouquet and the color of the flower can send very different messages. Certainly, if the bouquet is intended to express love and passionate desire, red roses, as are commonly given on Valentine’s Day, is the first choice. But how many should be given? A single, blooming red rose simply means “I love you” or perhaps “love at first sight.” A bouquet of two roses symbolizes the union of the two lovers, expressing mutual feelings and satisfaction with being together. Six roses often stands for the hardship of being apart; when you miss someone and hope to be reunited with your other half, you give your beloved half a dozen roses. A full dozen, then, is an invitation to love, meaning “be mine” as the common Valentine’s Day refrain goes. A bouquet of 50 roses stands for unconditional love.
Giving roses in other colors, however, is usually an expression of platonic love, friendship, and support. For example, a bouquet of yellow roses is a way to communicate loyalty and friendship. (Although, some believe that the gift of yellow roses actually expresses jealousy.) Dark crimson roses, on the other hand, are often used to signify mourning and therefore are appropriate gifts for the families of departed loved ones.