Lancashire's Red Rose (Rosa Gallica Officinalis)
Lancashire's Red Rose is an official variety, known as the Red Rose of Lancashire, but it is more accurately named as the Red Rose of Lancaster. Extracts from Hilliers Manual of Trees and Shrubs gives "Rosa Gallica Officinalis" (the "officinalis" denotes that the plant is used as an herbal remedy), the "Red Rose of Lancaster" as a small shrub producing richly fragrant, semi-double, rosy crimson flowers with prominent yellow anthers.
Rosa gallica officinalis, was possibly the first cultivated rose and is the first and the most famous of the Gallica roses. Originally a species rose, it grew wild in central Asia and was first cultivated by the ancient Persians and Egyptians, and later adopted by the Greeks and the Romans. The Romans introduced it in Gaul (later to become France) where it assumed the named Rosa gallica.
This ancient rose is recorded as being in cultivation in the 800's (It was used as a medicine and perfume in the court of Charlemagne in the ninth century A.D.). Its petals were noted to retain their fragrance even when dried and powdered and for this reason, it remains the rose of choice for potpourris. It was also cultivated for its medicinal values. It is also commonly known as the "Apothecary’s Rose" and, more rarely, referred to as the "Old Red Damask" and "Rose of Provins".
The Red Rose at Lancaster has a long and distinguished history which is intertwined with the House of Lancaster, the War of the Roses, the Monarchy, the County Palatine of Lancaster and the development of the County of Lancashire. It was first adopted as an heraldic device by Edmund, First Earl of Lancaster and became the emblem of Lancashire, and of England as a whole, following the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.
In more modern times in France and Flanders, during the 1914/18 War and in the Campaign in Belgium and France 1939/40, the 55th (West Lancashire) Territorial Division wore the Lancaster Rose on their shoulder flashes as their Divisional Sign and had the motto "They win or die, who wear the Rose of Lancaster". One of the original "Flashes" worn by troops of the 55th (West Lancashire) Division can be seen today, framed and with an accompanying plaque, just off the main bar in the Hesketh Arms, Botanic Road, Churchtown, Southport, Lancashire.
"Rosa Gallica Officinalis" can be seen in the herbaceous border near the Shire Hall entrance to Lancaster Castle, at Pendle Heritage Gardens, Barrowford, Near Nelson in East Lancashire, Ashton Memorial, Williamson Park, Lancaster, Glebe Gardens, Near Saint Peter’s Church, Heysham, Lancashire, and Levens Hall Gardens in Westmorland.
These vigorous, floriferous, fragrant roses are easy to grow. They are excellent garden subjects, as they are small to moderate-sized (2-4 feet), and compact, and require little maintenance. The time for new "bare rooted’ plantings of the Red Rose of Lancaster is between October and March. Tub grown bushes can, of course, be planted any time of the year when the soil is workable.