Rose Types

The Christmas Rose

The 'Christmas Rose', also known as the Lenten Rose, is not closely related to the rose family at all but is actually a member of the Hellebore family known as helleborus niger. This flower is the showpiece of the winter and early spring garden as it flourishes in the winter season when all other forms of vegetation succumb to the snowy climate. The flowers have 5 open-faced petals (actually sepals that can remain on the plant for many months) whilst the thick foliage is hardy and retains an attractive quality throughout both summer and winter growing periods. The 'Christmas Rose' is believed to be an alpine plant, found in the snow-capped mountains of Central Europe, although the plant found popularity in England due to the hardiness of the vegetation. It is hardy to zone 4 but a harsher winter can be devastating to the plant, so it is easiest grown in zones 5 and above.

Christmas Rose - the Legend

Christmas RoseThe 'Christmas Rose' has become part of a Christmas legend and thus earned its name. The myth says that when baby Jesus was born, and the three wise men followed by shepherds were on their way to visit him with valuable gifts, a small, poverty-stricken shepherdess by the name of Madelon noticed them in their travels. At that time, in the frost-bitten chilly winter night, she was looking after her sheep. The little girl was quite taken with what she saw and she asked them where they were heading towards with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. On being told of their destination, she too wished to visit the little baby Christ and bring him her own gift but to her agony and disappointment, in her poverty she realized she had no gift to bring to the baby Jesus!

She desperately looked for some flower in the snow but found none. Hapless and dismayed, she broke into tears. An angel noticed her and out of sympathy transformed her love and devotion for the little baby Jesus into a 'Christmas Rose'. To her relief and happiness, Madelon found this flower where her tears had fallen, and dug deep into the snow to take the flower to Christ. Thus, the 'Christmas Rose' is now associated with acts of deep and profound Christian love and worship.

Another ritual connected to this legend and observed throughout central and northern Europe is to cut a branch of the cherry tree and preserve it in water in a lukewarm room right from the commencement of the Advent till Christmas day, the period when it is supposed to bloom and yield flowers.

Christmas Rose - Toxicity

Of particular note: the entire plant is quite toxic. Many of the holiday plants are, and it is wise to take adequate precautions to ensure that children and pets are protected from ingesting and portions of the 'Christmas Rose' or any of the other festive greenery we adorn our homes with at this festive time of the year.