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Ever since Sappho planted roses at the shrine of Aphrodite, no flower has captured the imagination in quite the same way. Wherever it has grown, human beings have projected on to it their dreams and aspirations. Celebrated as a sacred symbol and as a token of womanhood, the rose unites Venus with the Virgin Mary, the blood of Christ with the sweat of Muhammad, the sacred and the profane, life and death, the white rose of chastity and the red rose of consummation. In The Rose, the acclaimed horticultural historian Jennifer Potter shows what, exactly, gives this most fragrant flower its potency in societies around the world.
Beginning her story in the Greek and Roman empires, she travels across Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the Americas to unravel its evolution from a simple briar of the northern hemisphere to the height of cultivated perfection found in rose gardens today. Whether laying bare the flower's long association with sexuality and secret societies, questioning the Crusaders' role in bringing roses back from the Holy Land, or hunting for its elusive blooms in the gardens of the Empress Josephine at Malmaison, Jennifer Potter reveals why this flower, above all others, has provoked such fascination. This vividly written and lavishly illustrated book challenges many cherished beliefs about the rose. It looks set to establish itself as the definitive history of the Queen of Flowers.
Jennifer Potter is the author of three novels and three works of non-fiction: Secret Gardens, Lost Gardens and Strange Blooms: The Curious Lives and Adventures of the John Tradescants. She reviews regularly for the Times Literary Supplement and was until recently a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at King's College London.