The lovely Cherokee Rose has begun blooming throughout the North Georgia mountains. Native to China, the Cherokee Rose was introduced in America in the mid-1700's, probably by an English grower. Settlers began planting the rose bushes around their homes, as did the Cherokee Indians who, lest we forget, were gardeners and farmers, too.
Adopted as the Georgia state flower in 1916, the Cherokee Rose has waxy apple-green leaves and fragrant white or light pink blooms. The fast-growing shrub can obtain heights of up to 15 feet when given the opportunity to grow vertically. Unlike its more fussy rose cousins, the Cherokee Rose thrives in the sunny, humid climes of the South and requires very little care in exchange for its lovely flowers, making it the perfect specimen for even the most careless gardener. In fact, you may want to plant the Cherokee Rose in a place where it has lots of room to grow, as it will quickly take over any place it is planted. Many an old homesite, the old house long since gone, will have Cherokee Roses growing up the still standing chimney.
The Cherokee Rose bears tribute to the unspeakably sad "Trail of Tears"-the forceable removal of the Cherokee people from their ancestral homes throughout Western North Carolina and North Georgia. According to the legend of the Cherokee Rose, the mothers of the Cherokee were so consumed with grief that they were in danger of being unable to make the journey, thus leaving their children far more vulnerable. The Cherokee chiefs prayed for a sign to lift the mother's spirits. From then on, a Cherokee Rose sprang up wherever a mother's tear hit the ground. Each part of the plant has a particular significance: The white flower stands for the mother's tears; the gold center-the gold taken from the Cherokee lands; and the seven leaves on the stems, the seven Cherokee clans that were in the march. The mothers were so uplifted by the beauty of the Cherokee Rose, that they were strengthened to complete the journey.