The Perfumed Garden

Today is about the perfume and scent of roses….

It is a golden maxim to cultivate the garden for the nose, and the eyes will take care of themselves.

Robert Louis Stevenson

Did you know that rose perfume is at its most intense very early in the morning and the scent will gradually become less as the rose bloom ages? Then there are other roses that reach their peak of fragrance around midday. The following are more interesting notes about roses I discovered in my research on rose fragrance.

  • When a rose bloom opens the scent is different to when it is in bud form. The chemicals change as the petals unfold.
  • A rose’s perfume will become stronger before a storm hits
  • No two roses smell the same for everyone because smell is so subjective, we are all different and perceive fragrance differently. From those with little sense of smell to those with a highly developed sense of smell.
  • The rose oil from the rose petals can be affected by the type of soil, the rainfall and the location in a similar manner to the terroir of grapevines.
  • The essence of roses known as attar is so concentrated it is watered down before being used for the perfume industry.
  • The scent or fragrance from roses is unpredictable and the roses in each variety do not necessarily smell the same, according to David Austin who said

“We never quite know what we are going to get,”

  • The petals of a rose are the parts that have the perfume but some stamens may smell of cloves or musk.
  • The oil from roses is one of the most expensive of all oils. See my post on Vallee de Roses It contains 300 active ingredients.
  • The fragrance of rose will be strongest on warm, sunny days when the soil is moist and when the air is humid.

Practise, take a sniff of a rose and try and describe it. Consider, is it sweet, heady, spicy, fruity or musky? Every so often, as you would with wine tasting, take a break and a deep breath, eat some dry bread to refresh the nose and smell another rose bloom.

For decades rose breeders have concentrated on longevity and disease reduction in the development of modern hybrid tea roses that have had less perfume. It was the late David Austin who was responsible for putting more of the emphasis back into the fragrance of the rose. Now thankfully we can enjoy beautiful roses with the charming fragrance of old roses. His work has meant the true romance of the rose has returned with his gorgeous prolific flowering chalice-shaped and perfumed English roses.

Rose scent is in seven distinct categories-

  • Damask
  • Nasturtium,
  • Orris
  • Violets,
  • Apple,
  • Clove
  • Lemon

As well there are many other more subtle scents one can pick up in roses that include notes of vanilla, green tea leaves, cloves, raspberry, bay, spice, musk, parsley, wine, lily of the valley, linseed oil, fern, moss, hyacinth, orange, anise, honey, marigold, banana, apricot, quince, geranium, peppers, melon, myrrh, honeysuckle, moss, hyacinth, and raspberry. All these unique aspects of the fragrance of each rose go together to bring the mysterious, romantic, alluring nature of the rose into the garden.

Rosa Damascene is grown for the oil for perfume courtesy of

The roses in my garden or by the entrances in pots, with significant fragrance, are Madame Anisette, Per-fyoom Perfume, Summer Romance, Spirit of Peace, Full Sail, Heaven Scent, First Crush, Jude the Obscure, Shropshire Lad, Graham Thomas, Chartreuse de Parme, Forget me Knot, Nahema, Perfume de Paris, Sister Emanuelle, Father Of Peace, Belle Seigneur, Gruss an Aachen, Amoretto, Bewitched, Violina, Compassion, Boscobel, Addictive Lure, Wollerton Old Hall, My Best Friend, The Children’s Rose, Valencia, Mothers Love, Grand Siecle, Chateau Versailles, Souvenir Louise Amade, Parole, Perfume Passion and Fiona’s Wish.

The image is courtesy of NASA’S Marshall Space Flight Centre

A rose in space does not have the same scent like a rose on Earth. In 1998, researchers for Space Automation and Robotics, at NASA Commercial Space Center, used a special growing chamber called Astroculture. The plants were given the right levels of nutrition, light, humidity and heat to survive during space missions. Researchers, International Flowers & Fragrances IFF, already knew that microgravity caused biological changes in plants but not how the production of volatile oils, changed. The rose was taken on the Discovery space flight in 1998 and the buds bloomed during the mission, so the astronauts took samples and discovered that there were fewer oils in the petals in space and less floral rose aroma. The IFF created a commercial perfume note called space rose, which is used in Shiseido perfume ZEN.

Thank you to How Stuff Works for the article about Roses in Space and The Washington Post for the quote from Michael Marriott David Austin’s long time company rosarian.

Thank you to the American Rose Society for the article on Rose Fragrance 2011 and for the John Blakemore art images.

All other content Di Baker or as cited 2019

All Rights Reserved

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *