Valentine’s Day

“Roses red and violets blue” comes from Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queen. Oddly, his next line is: “and all the sweetest flowers that in the forest grew.” In the forest? Roses? Don’t they need more sun than that? I’m not likely to find out, since marauding deer cavort through my woods all the time. You wouldn’t think deer would eat roses, since they generally don’t like anything highly scented and what about the thorns? But they will chomp happily on roses. Sunlight would be the least of the problem for any roses out there. My roses are tucked safely into their beds in the fenced garden.

Which brings us to the next question: isn’t this a strange day to celebrate with roses? Even in the non-winter we seem to be having in Ann Arbor this year, there are no roses sprouting, let alone blooming, in the garden in February. When I lived in California there were no roses blooming in February either, because January was the time to prune them, hard, all the way back to bare sticks, so the poor things got a rest in that frost-free climate.

No, I’m afraid our nation relies on immigrant roses for Valentine’s Day, doing the work our native sleepyhead roses shun. Will foreign roses be allowed into the country? They mostly come from Latin America – what about that wall? Maybe it will be ok if they’re long-stemmed and say they’re coming in for beauty pageants.roses

And right on that cue, the doorbell rang, and red roses appeared on my doorstep. Their country of origin is undisclosed, but I see they have a sponsor. Thank you, Doug.

2 thoughts on “Valentine’s Day

  1. Mark Becker says:

    ​​ ​I agree “and all the sweetest flowers that in the forest grew.” isn’t accurate, but mature deciduous trees​ have tens of thousands of flowers. Is there any chance that Spenser had a dog like sense of smell?

    OTH he could have known a forest with a lot of ginkgos and his “smeller” was badly out of joint.

    Or could this be a poet’s right to shape reality to match his verse?

    PS – your roses probably came from Colombia or Ecuador.


    • robinrichstone says:

      He’d have meant the old “sweetbrair” roses of England, which grew in dappled shade and at the edges of woods and were less showy but more fragrant. Pre-hybridized. Not the first image that comes to mind today.

      I’ve had rose bouquets in the past that did say which country they were from — either the two you mention, or sometimes Peru. But these were keeping quiet about it.


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