Wild Roses, Ancient Grandmothers

Wild Roses 

Everyone now and again wonders about
those questions that have no ready
answers: first cause, God’s existence,
what happens when the curtain goes
down and nothing stops it, not kissing,
not going to the mall, not the Super Bowl.

“Wild roses,” I said to them one morning.
“Do you have the answers? And if you do,
would you tell me?”

The roses laughed softly. “Forgive us,”
they said. “But as you can see, we are
just now entirely busy being roses.”

-Mary Oliver

The Wild Rose is an old soul.

Did you know that all garden roses are descendants of wild roses? Think of the wild rose as the ancient grandmother of all of today’s roses.

Fossil evidence suggests that wild roses have flourished for at least 35 to 40 million years.

Isn’t that incredible? When I think of this, my appreciation for these fragrant beauties deepens even more.

Wild Roses

Where I live, Rosa acicularis, aka the Alberta Wild Rose or the prickly wild rose, is in bloom. The beautiful pink flowers have five petals and prominent yellow stamens in the center.  There are many different species of wild roses found throughout the world. Wild roses always have five petals – and are mostly pink (although some can be white, yellow or red).

Rose Medicine

Rose petals are cooling, calming, and uplifting.

The essential oil, distilled from the fragrant blossoms, is soothing for all skin types – especially dry, mature and sensitive skin.

Roses are valued for their nervine (nerve calming) properties. Aromatherapists use rose essential oil to help ease anxiety and irritability and to heal grief and heartache. Roses teach us to be loving and compassionate to ourselves.

For me, the wild rose embodies both softness and strength, which I am reminded of every time I forage for wild rose petals. Along with the rose’s lovely soft petals, I encounter (and sometimes feel) the rose’s sharp thorns/prickles of protection. Scientists believe that the thorns create a protective boundary around the rose and prevent animals from eating the fragrant flowers.

When I look at the wild roses, I am reminded of the importance of setting boundaries. The Wild Rose asks:  What boundaries do you need in place in order to keep blossoming?

Harvesting Tips

The best time to harvest wild roses is in late spring to early summer when they have just opened and are very fragrant. Harvest the flowers in dry weather and after the dew has evaporated. Whole flowers can be pinched off but I recommend harvesting the petals, leaving the stamens intact to develop a rosehip – the fruit of the rose.

Pick petals and hips that are in an area free from pesticides, herbicides, car exhaust fumes, and other contaminants. Make sure the petals are disease free and free from insect damage.

  • If you are foraging in the wild, make sure that you have permission to forage in the area. Do not pick the first wild roses that you see. Always forage the second or third ones.
  • Before you harvest the roses, take your time to smell them. Bring your nose up close to the blossoms and inhale deeply. Let the intoxicating scent of the rose fill your body. Gently touch the rose petals and feel their softness.
  • Thank the roses for their beauty.
  • You may wish to ask the roses for permission to harvest them and wait for a response or a sign – this could be a robin singing, the presence of a honeybee – whatever feels meaningful to you.
  • Harvest only what you need.
  • Upon leaving, express gratitude to the roses.

Drying Rose Petals

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Before I bring my freshly foraged rose petals into my studio, I lay them out on a tea towel (or paper towel) outside and give the insects time to crawl away.

Then I bring them inside, and I usually dry the petals on a screen away from sunlight. This takes at least a week (or longer) depending on the humidity in the air.

I have also recently tried drying the petals using a dehydrator. If you try this method, you’ll need to make sure that the dehydrator is set to the lowest temperature as you do not want to burn the petals.

Honey Rose Sugar Scrub

If you harvest wild roses this season, let me know what your experience was like in the comment section below. I’d love to hear from you!

I have shared a gorgeous recipe for a Honey Rose Sugar Scrub made with dried rose petals in my eBook Aromatic Rituals of Self-Care: The Summer Chapter.  

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