If there could be only one flower in the world, it would have to be the rose. Classic in form, the rose is the standard to which other flowers are held. At the same time, its opulence evokes such emotion that it has won the hearts of poets, painters, and lovers throughout history. No wonder the rose has always held such a special place in the dreams and bouquets of brides everywhere.
One might suggest that beauty is reason enough for the rose to be known as the flower of love: The tightly furled buds unfold into satin-petaled expressions of promises kept, and the rose declares itself in colors from dove white to valentine red with every blushing shade in between. Yet even the youngest flower girl knows it's the ineffable fragrance that seduces and binds us to the rose.
Most often the word rose brings to mind the tapered buds and sculptural elegance of the modern hybrid tea rose, but this is but one of the flower's many forms. Intense cultivation of the rose peaked in the nineteenth century, when mauve-toned European roses mingled with glowing, tea-scented Chinese roses, producing more than twenty thousand varieties that are available today. The variations are astonishing. Not only can they be found in every color -- except blue -- but rose blossoms can be as big as oranges or as tiny as the tumbling sprays of cluster roses and thimble-sized miniatures fit for the most delicate bouquet.
With so many possibilities, how do you begin to choose for your wedding day? Consider the effect you wish to achieve, as well as the purpose the flowers will serve, for the rose is supremely versatile. It stands unchallenged in vases by the altar, lends its perfumed petals to the flower girls' baskets, and marks a place setting with aplomb as a single bloom floating in a water-filled votive. Don't be afraid to use roses in nontraditional ways: Tuck a few between layers of the cake; pass out paper cones filled with petals for guests to toss, instead of rice.
Roses are perhaps most effective in a bouquet. Think of wondrous old garden roses -- the same ones that dazzled the Dutch masters during the Renaissance, who portrayed them in deep swoon, fainting over the sides of porcelain jardinieres. These antique charmers and their modern cousins have a romantic sensibility. They give the nod to bouquets that cascade and sway and may drop a few pale petals during the course of your day.
The height of luxury is the all-one-color rose bouquet: The choice of hue is up to you. Or pick roses in several shades of compatible colors: white to buff to apricot to burnished gold for a watercolor-effect nonpareil. Mix varying sizes and types for a voluptuous crush of rose upon rose that creates a look of sheer abundance. Use offshoots of your bouquet for bridesmaids' nosegays and, as has been the custom since brides first carried flowers, save one perfect rosebud for your groom's boutonniere. And after the wedding, preserve a few of the prettiest blossoms. Gather the stems, and hang upside down. The color will fade, but dried roses will always hold their shape.
While the rose adores the center of attention, it also enjoys the company of other flowers. Surround a bunch of roses with lacy heads of viburnum or a petit point of Queen Anne's lace for a textural sensation. Drifts of freesia, tuberoses, or sweet peas change the shape and feeling of your bouquet and add a charming perfume. Punctuate a bronze-colored dome of roses with russet-toned autumn leaves. Or spike a pink pool of pom-pom polyanthas -- small cluster roses -- with larkspur to sate the eye's desire for the color blue.
However you use the rose, its romantic intent is to garner indelible memories. The rosebuds you gather today are the result of innumerable crossings of far-flung ancient roses with brilliant newcomers. This floral glory culminates in a special celebration: when a bride takes her roses in hand and walks down a petal-strewn aisle toward her groom and a happily entwined future.
Matching Bouquet and Cake
When bronze roses -- 'Orange Unique,' 'Leonidas,' and 'My Lovely' -- are paired with golden oak leaves and hypericum berries, (above, left) the result is undeniably autumn. The feeling of fall is extended to a three-tiered cake (below), covered in swirls of brown-sugar meringue, then wreathed and topped by the same blossoms and berries.
The spectrum of colors ranges from the deepest red to the brightest white, with countless shades in between. The only color you won't find is blue.
Form and Shape
Roses are instantly recognizable, yet can be quite diverse in appearance, from the voluptuous grandiflora with cup-shaped petals to the cluster rose's dainty spray of buds. Clockwise from top left: hybrid tea rose, minispray, grandiflora, floribunda, garden rose.
Matte and Metallic
Shades of silver and lavender are joined together in this formal arrangement: Clusters of plump, shiny Viburnum tinus and soft mophead hydrangeas are tucked between stems of lush, velvety roses -- 'Blue Bird,' 'Delilah,' and 'Sterling Silver' -- transforming a simple dome bouquet into a wonder of shapes and textures.
A Victorian-inspired bouquet (below, left) is made of a dozen white 'Vendela' roses and lilies of the valley, framed with fronds of the Lady fern.
A perfect-shaped rose makes a handsome boutonniere (below, middle) when wrapped with its own buds in brown silk ribbon. A boutonniere of five minispray rosebuds (below, right) is contained in a spiral of pale-peach silk.
What could be more romantic than an oversize bouquet of all-season white? The roses -- 'Bianca' and 'Tineke' -- embrace pointed Eustoma buds; dendrobium orchids fall gently from white satin ribbon.
A dome of 'Magic Silver' roses (below) -- each delicate petal awash in pastel pink, tipped with antique brown -- is ringed with a cuff of smoke-bush leaves. The groom's single blossom is backed by two of the generous leaves. Both boutonniere and bouquet are finished with the same pink velvet ribbon.
Bowl of Blossoms
Simple and sublime, 'Inge' and 'Toscanini' roses float in an old-fashioned fishbowl and in votives to mark each place setting; the votives can be taken home as favors.
A pristine white cake, piped with tiny beads around each tier, is sprinkled with a flutter of red rose petals.
A trio of festive, jewel-toned roses (left), 'Black Magic,' 'Red Devil,' and 'Black Beauty,' combine to striking effect with plumes of garnet astilbe and bunches of pink pepperberries. The stems are wrapped in a cone of brown satin ribbon almost three inches wide.
A wide pink ribbon edged in brown blends seamlessly with this bouquet of fragrant garden roses.