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Northwest roses bloom best in June

Coated in raindrops, this celestial alba rose grows in Margaret Nelson
Coated in raindrops, this celestial alba rose grows in Margaret Nelson's yard in Federal Way.
— image credit: Andy Hobbs/Federal Way Mirror

For people who love roses, June is their month.

From gardens and perfume bottles to dinner plates and dinner dates, these woody perennial plants have been symbols of love and beauty for centuries.

The recent cool weather in the Puget Sound region has delayed rose blooms. In general, the warmer temperatures in June and July create the best conditions to see Northwest roses at their peak.

Federal Way resident Margaret Nelson knows that every rose has a story to tell. She fell in love with the flowers because of their roles in plays by William Shakespeare, specifically those about "The Wars of the Roses." She maintains multiple varieties of roses — without pesticides or fungicides — at her Federal Way property.

Each rose has its own connection to history. Some strains, such as Rosa gallica officinalis, was used for medicine and perfume as far back as the Middle Ages in Europe.

The celestial alba is a hearty rose that thrives in the Northwest climate. This pink-petaled beauty was the favorite rose of King Henry VIII at Hampton Court.

"It's a piece of a piece of a piece," Nelson said of all the rose cuttings that have been propagated for centuries.

Roses vary in their flowering frequency, thorn coverage, colors and scent. Some species like Souvenir de St. Anne smell soft and powdery, while the damask rose's sweet and feminine scent mimics fresh perfume.

Rose petals are used as food, sometimes for flavoring, but also as the main ingredients in jams, jellies, syrups and tea. Nelson knows a woman who bakes cakes with rose petals.

"I just want to look at them, not eat them," she said, laughing.

Nelson is president of Heritage Roses Northwest, a group with 68 members. Most of these rose lovers live in Western Washington, but some hail from Oregon, Idaho, California and British Columbia. The group's goal is to study, grow and promote the preservation of old roses. Nelson produces their newsletter.

Local rose shows in June

• The Annual Rose Fest runs June 15-17 at Antique Rose Farm, 12220 Springhetti Road, Snohomish. A work party begins at 10 a.m. June 16 to prepare an area for a Heritage Roses Northwest educational display, which is open noon to 5 p.m. June 17.

• The Seattle Rose Society show runs June 23-24 at Factoria Mall in Bellevue.

• The Rainy Rose Society Display runs June 30 to July 1 at Emerald Downs in Auburn.

• The Tacoma Rose Society Show runs June 30 at Jackson Hall in Tacoma.

Click here to read the spring newsletter for Heritage Roses Northwest.

• To learn more about Heritage Roses Northwest, contact Margaret Nelson at oldrosen@gmail.com.

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