Miss Strangeworth is proud of the beautiful pink, red, and white roses that grow in her front yard and are often admired by outsiders. She won't let tourists have them, and when it is time to gives flowers to the church, "Miss Strangeworth sent over a great basket of gladioli" instead. She keeps the red and pink and white roses all for herself, scattering them in bowls or vases all over the house. For Miss Strangeworth, "the perfume of roses meant home." According to Miss Strangeworth, the town is proud of her beautifully tended house and roses.
The roses symbolize the outward facade of sweetness, kindness, and concern that Miss Strangeworth projects to her neighbors, all of whom think she is a kind and caring older woman. They are part of a role she plays, which includes her daintiness, pretty house, fine china, and polished silver, all of which work to disguise her inner evil and ugliness, even from herself.
Miss Strangeworth mistakes her outward, pretty facade for inner goodness. She believes that, because she outwardly smiles, shows concern, and has a beautiful home and rose garden, she is beautiful on the inside too. Because of her outward facade, she deceives her neighbors into also thinking she is good. All of them mistake appearance for reality. Miss Strangeworth is able to disguise her inner moral stink from herself and her neighbors under the sweet scent of her roses, just as roses have traditionally masked the rotten smell of a dead body—until her neighbors discover proof that she is the author of the hurtful poison-pen letters circulating in the town.