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The rose and the honeysuckle, two flowers reaching their peak during the sixth month of the year, have long been associated with June. Learn more about roses and honeysuckles in the garden—and their surprising symbolism in our lives.
What Are the June Birth Flowers?
Roses are one of the most recognizable flowers, often given as a sign of affection due to the fact that it’s long been a symbol of love.
The honeysuckle, with its tubular flowers, are magnets for hummingbirds and represents happiness and positive energy.
The rose family (Rosaceae) is made up of more than 100 species of perennial flowering shrubs. Many are cultivated for their beautiful flowers with colors including white, yellow, pink, and red. Most rose species are native to Asia, but some have origins linked to locations in North America, Europe, and Northwest Africa.
Roses are typically grouped into three categories—species, old garden, and modern:
Species roses are those that evolved and adapted naturally over time.
Old garden roses are classified as varieties developed by breeding efforts before the 1860s.
Modern roses are descendants of both groups and varieties developed since the 1860s.
Rose Meanings and Symbolism
The rose has long been a symbol of love, beauty, and affection. And each color rose holds a different meaning. A red rose means ‘I love you’ and is a sign of romance; pink represents happiness and admiration; a white rose symbolizes innocence and purity; orange means desire and excitement; yellow represents cheer and happiness, although some folklore considered it to mean jealousy. A red and white rose paired together has come to symbolize unity.
The Romans viewed roses as a representation of death and rebirth, often planting them at the graves of loved ones.
Roses in History
In Colorado, fossil evidence in the form of rose leaves suggests that plants in the rose family date back at least 35 million years.
It is estimated that the cultivation of garden roses dates back 5,000 years, beginning in China.
It is believed that the oldest living rose is about 1,000 years old. Located at Hildesheim Cathedral in Hildesheim, Germany, the roots of the rose even survived when the cathedral was bombed during the Second World War.
During the Roman period, the Middle East was a popular growing location. The flower’s petals were used as confetti for celebrations, with the Roman emperor Nero staging rose feasts. They were also used to scent rooms, for medicinal use, and for perfume fragrance.
It is said that Cleopatra filled a room more than a foot deep with rose petals in an effort to win over Mark Antony.
The rose was a symbol of war fought between the houses of York and Lancaster for the English throne in the 15th century. The white rose was synonymous with York, while the red rose represented Lancaster. The conflict between the two became known as the “War of the Roses.”
During the 17th century, roses were seen as a form of legal tender and used to barter and for payments.
French botanical painter Pierre Joseph Redouté created his Les Roses series in the garden of Château de Malmaison, located just outside Paris, France.
In 1892, the American Rose Society was established “to promote the culture, preservation and appreciation of the Rose.”
Roses at the White House date back to John Adams’ presidency, but the official launch of the Rose Garden came under the direction of Ellen Wilson, the wife of 28th president Woodrow Wilson. In 1961, John F. Kennedy had the Rose Garden redesigned to use as an outdoor venue for receptions.
The rose is the National Floral Emblem of the United States.
In Italy, roses are celebrated in May, with some referring to it as “the month of the rose.”
Rose oil has been used for medicinal purposes dating back to ancient China.
It is used in skincare, most notably for dry and sensitive skin. Other uses include: as a mild sedative, as an antidepressant, and for stress conditions.
Rose petals are brewed for teas, and can be used for making potpourri.
Roses in the Garden
Rose shrubs may be upright, climbing, or trailing, with stems filled with thorns. The flowers range from miniature, half-inch diameter blossoms, to some hybrids that are more than 6 inches in diameter. Learn all about growing roses at home in our Rose Growing Guide.
The honeysuckle emerges in the spring with fragrant flowers that have four petals and grows in two pairs or clusters. Flowers, which are tubular, range in color from white and yellow to purple, pink, and red. After the bloom is done, flowers are replaced with round berries that can be orange, red, or a shade of pink.
A member of the Caprifoliaceae family, honeysuckles are native to the Northern Hemisphere, with certain species native to locations in China, Japan, Europe, India, and North America.
Honeysuckle Meanings and Symbolism
The name honeysuckle comes from the Middle English word honeysouke, which translated to “honey suck.” It is believed the name came from the ability to suck the sweet nectar straight from the flowers once picked.
The honeysuckle traditionally symbolized happiness and affection for a new love. It has also been known to represent nostalgia for first loves or old flames.
Honeysuckles were commonly planted near homes to create a feeling of nostalgia and to honor those who have died. It is also meant to bring happiness and positive energy into your life. According to other legends, planting a honeysuckle near the home would keep away negativity and protect you from evil spirits.
Honeysuckle in History
The Druids used symbols of honeysuckle in the Celtic alphabet to represent joy and happiness.
A small plaque on the Anderson Memorial Bridge, near the campus of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is an ode to William Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury” character Quentin Compson. The plaque reads, “Quentin Compson III/June 2, 1910/Drowned in the odour of honeysuckle.”
Honeysuckle has been used to treat a number of ailments—digestive disorders, respiratory issues, and headaches. Its uses also include treating arthritis, rashes, skin diseases, and even snakebites.
In China, honeysuckle has been traditionally thought to remove toxins from the body and promote positive emotions.
Honeysuckle in the Garden
Honeysuckles are woody vines and shrubs that are vigorous climbers and need strong support structures. Common species include Lonicera fragrantissima, which makes a great hedge, and the vining form, trumpet honeysuckle (L. sempervirens). The plant’s flowers are attractive and fragrant, a combination that hummingbirds and butterflies can’t resist.
The honeysuckle thrives in full sun and well-draining soil, but are tolerant of dry soils. When choosing a honeysuckle variety, consult invasive species lists to avoid planting species like the Japanese honeysuckle (L. japonica).
Tim Goodwin, the associate editor for The Old Farmer's Almanac, has been reading North America's oldest continuously published periodical since he was a young child, growing up just a short drive from the OFA office. Read More from Tim Goodwin