At a recent display of roses noted for their fragrance, I was bewildered by the infinite nuances evident in each rose’s fragrance. Tables were organized with roses imparting similar “notes” of these fragrances: citrus, fruit, musk and spice. Each table held dozens of examples featuring a common thread, but also distinctive differences. In ‘Chrysler Imperial’ we recognized lemon, along with notes of parsley and linseed oil that no other rose shared. ‘Archduke Charles’ smelled like banana pudding, and the ‘Green Rose’ smelled like cracked pepper.
Every variety’s perfume is different, making roses infinitely more compelling than other flowers. Fragrance has more power than many people recognize. To my mind, life is flat and two-dimensional without it! That’s what I love about growing old garden roses: each bouquet is like a handful of memories.
My favorite rose fragrances:
• ‘Cramoisi Superieur’ — Pepper with a touch of fruit
• ‘Duchess de Brabant’ — Hints of raspberries
• ‘Independence Musk’ — Sweet, musky, sultry
• ‘Chrysler Imperial’ — Floral lemon Pledge
• ‘Paul Neyron’ — Damask perfume
• ‘Maggie’ — Woody, thick and manly
• ‘White Lady Banks’ — Violets
• ‘Eglanteria’ (foliage) — Green apples
• ‘Archduke Charles’ — Banana cream pie
Try some, and see what memories they stir or create. Many variables affect the presence and intensity of these fragrances: time of day, heat, wind, humidity and, most importantly, the nose of the sniffer. Our sense of smell is a genetic predisposition, so some people are more sensitive to fragrance than others. “Noses” for the perfume industry are like tasters for the wine industry; they have extremely discriminating olfactory senses.
About the author: Mike Shoup is the owner of the Antique Rose Emporium. His new book is Empress of the Garden. Visit his company’s Brenham and San Antonio display gardens for endless ideas on landscaping with roses. To order roses online, visit www.weAREroses.com.