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Archive for the ‘Fragrant Roses’ Category

1 The-McCartney-Rose

The McCartney Rose – Hybrid Tea, strong spice fragrance

David Austin, founder of David Austin Roses in Albrighton, England, was once quoted as saying that a rose without fragrance is only half a rose. What a perfect way to describe a characteristic so essential to the identity of America’s national floral emblem.

While the delicious, delightful, slightly mysterious and often fickle quality of floral fragrance is now considered a highly desirable trait most prized by rose lovers, it wasn’t always so. This quality was willingly sacrificed by rose breeders in the nineteenth into twentieth centuries. Why? Rose hybridizing is a game of compromise with one trait willingly forfeited to gain another. Fragrance was often the victim of hybridizing choices that placed higher value on superior floral form, unique and vibrant colors, increased winter hardiness and stronger disease resistance.

Flash forward 100 years and the rose buying public now long for highly scented roses and commercial rose growers know it. While fragrance is an inherited trait, the gene for fragrance is recessive and crossing two fragrant varieties doesn’t necessarily produce fragrant offspring. Due to this unpredictability of rose genetics, contemporary rose hybridizers continuously search for the right genetic combinations that will add fragrance to other desirable characteristics. Since it takes eight to ten years from pollination to retail introduction, restoring a characteristic as elusive as fragrance has taken decades.

4-American-Beauty

American Beauty

Fragrance is produced by oils in the petals of the bloom with different oils creating distinctive fragrances. The American Rose Society lists twenty-four fragrances, the most well-known is the classic ‘rose’ scent. This intoxicating old rose or damask scent can be found in many red and pink roses like the old garden rose American Beauty, David Austin’s Mary Rose, Mr. Lincoln, and Chrysler Imperial.

5-Ebb-Tide

Ebb Tide

Other essential oils are responsible for the spicy, clove-like scent in the floribunda Ebb Tide. Sniffing Graham Thomas yields the light and delicate tea fragrance while Julia Child imparts a strong anise or licorice scent.

3-Graham-Thomas

Graham Thomas

2-Julia-Child

Julia Child

But fragrance can be subjective because everyone’s nose is different. Two people may smell the same rose and each will offer different descriptions. Fragrance also is influenced by temperature, humidity and the rose’s stage of bloom. A fully open bloom will have more scent than a flower that is partially open; the intensity ebbs as the bloom goes by. A blossom may have a strong scent on a warm, sunny day; take the same bloom on a cool, cloudy, breezy day and the scent will be subdued.

Time of day also impacts a rose’s fragrance. The highest concentration of oils are found in early morning which is why roses grown for their attar of roses (oils extracted from rose petals) are harvested then. (Our experience has been that every fresh rose bloom exudes some detectable scent, however subtle, under ideal conditions.)

Clearly, rose fragrance is highly desirable and has become its own reward. The presence of discernable fragrance, or the lack of it, often determines whether a variety gets introduced or not. Each hybridizer of the genus rosa has their personal hybridizing objectives. Each is looking for that unique, exceptional variety. Each is prepared to spend a professional lifetime searching for that one perfect and fragrant rose, the magnum opus of a career.

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