If you’re looking for a flower with a decent backlog of fables, historical curiousities and symbolism, the rose is a great choice. Different cultures have different takes on it of course but some of the stuff that leaps readily to mind (some of which may or may not be true) are:
The Rose was the emblem of the god Horus in Anceint Egypt. Horus was a sky god (all encompassing, all seeing) and took the form of a falcon. The all-seeing eye above the unfinished pyramid on the back of the one dollar bill is theorized to trace back to a Christianized version of the Eye of Horus, another Egyptian myth associated with Egyptian funerary practices and the beginnings of the rose as a symbol of death and rebirth.
The Greeks and Romans, reinterpreting Horus as a god that see all but tells nothing began the tradition of the rose a symbol of confidentiality. Later Greek myths attribute the rose to Aphrodite (goddess of love) who gave the Rose to Eros (cupid) who used its beauty to bribe Harpocrates, god of silence, to protect his mother’s reputation by silencing rumors of her many trysts.
Mythology worked its way into cultural practice when Romans took to placing roses in empty wine vessels as a way of reminding guests that words spoken and actions taken while under the influence of too much wine should remain confidential (sort of the “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” of the day).
By the Middle ages, this tradition had grown to the point where openly displaying a rose meant all conversations were “off the record” and it was common practice to conduct closed door meetings of political and Church officials ‘sub rosa’ .
By Victorian times this had extended to the pactice of giving roses as a courtship ritual as a sort of pleadge of confidentiality against any indiscretions the couple might be tempted to partake of while trying to be good, prim and proper Christian folk.
On a loosely related front, certain Asian cultures associate the rose with certain parts of the female anatomy.
On an entirely unrelated front, Mideavil Catholic tradition holds that all roses were white (innocent/pure) prior to the time of the cruxifiction but that the blood of Christ fell on a thorn bush and the bush bore red blossums. (From a botanical standpoint we know colored roses have been around for a lot longer than 2000 years, but the story is worth noting anyway).
Colors and meaning:
White: Silence, innocence, purity, reverence, humility, wisdom
Pink: Grace, poise, appreciation of artistic talent
Dark Pink: Thanks, general appreciation with no sexual overtones
Red: True love, desire tempered with respect
Yellow: Friendship, Love that transcends lust, also confrontation
Orange: Passion, desire, sexual overture
Blue: Triumph over seemingly impossible odds, occult mystery, Divine intervention
Lavendar: Love/lust at first sight, promises, hope
Black (actually these are really dark maroon but…): Death, Sacrefice, Farewell, Sorrow, Rebirth or renewel after a great loss
Color related trivia:
DEATH, as in the card of the major arcana in a Tarot deck, is frequently depicted holding both red and white roses together as counterpoints of lust and purity unified in state of constant change – a sort of floral yin-yang.
In some cultures, (fortunately not here) yellow roses are given when a spouse suspects infidelity has occurred and feels the issue must be addressed but cultural mores preclude a direct confrontation (I generally avoid yellow roses just to be on the safe side…)
In Britain (home of the war of the roses) Red and White roses together (symbols of the Houses of Lancaster and York) are a symbol of unity and a desire to move forward despite past differences.
Red and yellow roses in bouquet are considered expressions of joy, excitment and things changing for the better (especially on the romance front)
Hope this helps.