A True History
(London, Atlantic Books, 2010 and other editions)
Ever since Sappho planted roses at the shrine of Aphrodite, the rose has captured our collective and individual imagination more than any other flower. 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 Empress Josephine at Malmaison, Jennifer Potter reveals why this flower, above all others, has provoked such fascination.
‘It is hard to image how this could be bettered for many years as the definitive history of roses.’
A protean subject … handled with such serenity and skill.’
‘The finest disquisition published thus far on the early history and symbolism of the rose.’
‘Potter has ranged through time and space to discover what it is about the rose that gives it such potency … a remarkable and gripping work of scholarship.’