Saturday, June 20, 2009

Midsummer Roses

Roses have a special connection to midsummer. The legend is that any rose picked on midsummer's eve or midsummer's day will stay fresh until Christmas. I may try - although I expect I would be better served by pressing a flower between the leaves of a book. This always brings to mind the wonderful book A Month in the Country by J L Carr - set in the period just after WWI and one of my favourite books. The vicar's wife, the beautiful Alice Keach gives Birkin, the artist who has come to restore the wall paintings in Osgodby church, a rose - a pink, single rose called Sara van Fleet. Years later he writes 'I have it still. Pressed in a book. My Bannister-Fletcher, as a matter of fact. Someday, after a sale, a stranger will find it there and wonder why.' It is the end of the film of the book that has me reaching for a box of tissues when Birkin, now an old man, returns to the church and in the churchyard opens his book and there, between the pages, is the pressed rose, a symbol of what might have been.

Roses are seen as the flower of love. Another custom for Midsummer's eve was that young girls would scatter rose petals before them and say the words:-

'Rose leaves, rose leaves, rose leaves I strew, He that will love me come after me now.'

Then, according to legend, the next day, Midsummer's day, their true love will visit.

I wonder if this ever happened? In Act 1 Scene1 of William Shakespeare's play 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' Lysander enquires of Hermia

'How, now my love? Why is your cheek so pale? How chance the roses there do fade so fast?'

Hermia replies 'Belike for want of rain, which I could well beteem them from the tempest of my eyes'

Lysander follows with 'Ay me! For aught that I could ever read, could ever hear by tale or history, the course of true love never did run smooth.'


Roses are much used in perfumes and also for healing purposes.

How to make rose water:-

Gather the roses from your garden just before they drop from the plant. Place in a heat-resistant bowl and cover with boiling water and leave them for about half an hour. Strain the mixture through muslin or cheesecloth into a jar and discard the petals. This mixture will last about 10 days if kept in the fridge, a tablespoon of vodka will act as a preservative if you want to store it for longer. Place in a spray bottle as a refreshing spray for warm summer days. You can also combine the rose water with glycerine to make a soothing moisturiser:-

3 tablespoons of glycerine to 3 tablespoons of rose water. Combine in a clean bottle, fasten the lid and shake the mixture. You need to shake before each use.

The rose above is called The Herbalist.

After I'd written this post and set it ready to publish later today we went for a walk around Trentham where we decided to have an ice cream from Cadwallader's ice cream parlour. Well, you've probably guessed - the flavour I chose was Rose Petal it was a pretty pale pink colour but this doesn't show very well on the photo which was taken with the phone camera; it was delicious - such a soft delicate flavour.


  1. Rose petal ice cream - what a wonderful flavour for Midsummer Eve! I watched A Month in the Country a few years ago and remember it as a lovely, gentle film. Must see whether the library still have it.

  2. One of the certain treats of summer. Roses!! I'm so happy you mentioned A Month In The Country. I've just received an elderly copy that I ordered through the post and am looking so forward to reading it!!

    Happy weekend and enjoy that ice cream!!

  3. A lovely post Rosie. Thank you for sharing the recipes. I am really liking the sound of Rose Petal Ice Cream! Yummy!

  4. Hello Rosie!
    Such a beautiful and interesting post!
    Greetings from Italy!

  5. Both my grandads had formal Rose gardens, so I think thats why I love roses too. Blue Moon reminds me of my favorite Grandad - he thought it was ingenious to have a blue rose!! We were down your way yesterday, I looked for you all day but didnt see you. You live in a very beautiful part of the country. xxx

  6. I can almost smell those roses!

    Now I am going to track down a copy of the book.

  7. Thanks everyone for your comments - welcome Michela thanks for leaving a comment:)

    Diane - you searched in vain for me - I was in Cambridge yesterday - if every you are this way again let me know - we have nice coffee here:)

  8. O,how very beautiful..when I was little girl I used to make rose water with my grandmother,such a sweet memory,thank you for reminding me..have a rose of a day..:)