Romantic Roses to Grow

Rose007Since I am not only a fragrance enthusiast but also a rose nut (we prefer the term rosarian) every year that comes by, I look at catalogs and dream.  Unfortunately, these dreams can’t always be turned into reality.  My space at my current address is limited, but I’ve already found a way to cram the largest rose on my street into a garden bed that is too small for it.  After doing that, I did the eminently sensible thing, and found two other roses at a local nursery which got taken home and fussed over, dosed and clipped, and cosseted like prize poodles. Then to top it all off, I rustled two roses from the doomed garden of an abandoned building.

The trouble is that I’m looking to re-create the lushness, the sheer delight, of cascades of roses all around.  I only pulled that off once, and the effect requires space, and ideally, old fashioned varieties.

Back then I had the luck to discover Roses of Yesterday and Today- the post illustration is from their 1951 catalog that I found in a used bookshop and bought for fifty cents.  The firm still exists, and you can go and read their poetic descriptions online (and what is even more wonderful, their customers descriptions) of old roses in the garden.  The majority of what is on their list is either antique or else hard to find.  Almost all are fragrant, some varieties intensely so.

Constance SpryIf I could buy anything from them now, one of my first selections would be the venerable climber, City of York.  This produces a bushel full of creamy white loose blossoms that are pale yellow in the middle and fragrant.  For  more serious perfume, the once blooming, but prolific, old fashioned Constance Spry, with its pink cabbage shaped blooms straight out of a chintz pattern, and an incense fragrance. You can get a whoosh of essence from them, and who would want to miss that? Plus, just armloads of flowers, and when you have roses, you can never have too many.

One of the most fascinating aspects of growing roses is the broad spectrum of fragrances you can inhale.  Non-rosarians seldom realize just how wide the scent strip for roses is, comprising everything from myrrh to lemons.  Some ancient rose families, the Damasks for instance, have the most conventionally rose fragrance.  You smell them and say, oh, rose, and there’s no surprise there except how sweet and pervasive it is.  If you haven’t had the luck to smell old damasks in bloom, you sometimes come across their un-mistakable distilled rosiness even in modern hybrid teas.

Unfortunately, most old roses are not very prepossessing in the garden.  They have slightly gray or matte foliage, and flower only once, but their perfume is just exactly what you dream of in rose fragrances.

More modern, showier, but still in a 1715 Watteau palette, are the hybrid musks. Kathleen from 1922 would be my choice there, with its apple blossom flowers and great generosity of bloom.  As to the scent of Kathleen and other Hybrid Musks, “On a summer breeze the perfume is intoxicating, sometimes perceptible yards away.  It’s a blending of the hot honeyed scent of R. Multiflora, some clove, and the orris of Tea Rose in varying kathleenamounts…” write Leonie Bell, and Helen Van Pelt Wilson in The Fragrant Year.

Last but not least, there has to be that one old reliable red rose, really fragrant, tough, a comer every year, with a bouquet of saturated blood red blooms. I could go with several varieties here, but Hortulanus Budde (no I’m not making it up) from 1919 is my probable selection.  A big old true crimson with an imposing perfume, the perfect Valentine’s Day rose, and best of all, they still sell it.  Just how romantic is that?hortulanusbudde

Does anyone bottle the quintessence of rose perfume?  Only Creed came close to my mind with Fleur de The Rose Bulgare.  If you know any unadulterated, straight up rose perfumes, please do share.

My illustrations are from the top: Constance Spry from The Antique Rose Emporium catalog, Kathleen also from The Antique Rose Emporium, and good old Hortulanus Budde from Roses of Yesterday and Today.

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12 Responses to Romantic Roses to Grow

  1. Anna in Edinburgh says:

    Such temptation, and I can’t even have any roses where I live. A friend gave our rose bush (a wedding gift) a home when we moved here, and I get regular reports!

    Perhaps this is why I have so many perfumes now:-)

    • Blacknall Allen says:

      Oh I know what it is to be a frustrated gardener! Yes indeed.

      But what is worse than no space to garden is quite a lot of unusable space. This was our Connecticut experience courtesy the local deer who ate everything.

      At least you get reports on your wedding rose, and yes I think this is one reason for many perfumes, though I suspect that many perfume lovers are sensualists at heart :-)

  2. Very well written article.

    Regards,
    Parfyme

  3. Portia says:

    Heya,
    I love roses too, unsurprisingly my favourite is Wise Portia by David Austin. She is a fussy little bush, unremarkable and stunted till bloom, then you get great scads of carmine pink blooms that smell outrageously spicy and a bit boozy. For fragrance I like Red Roses by Jo Malone, Wild Roses by Mandy Aftel and Mohur bu Neela Vermeire Creations, though these get increasingly less about rose soliflor.
    Portia xx

    • Blacknall Allen says:

      Hard not to love those roses :-)

      Wise Portia is unavailable from David Austin US now! Pout. It’s probably one of those that do wonderfully well in warmer climates and not so well in England. But I bet it would be fine in Jersey!
      My favorite David Austin was a nearly maroon red called The Squire. Used to drive me crazy with the die back it would get and then: kaboom! Flowers like saucers, which sounds like your experience with Wise Portia.

      Red Roses is all about the roses, and Mohur I’m ashamed to say I haven’t smelled.

  4. bloody frida says:

    Both the Bulgare rose Creeds are amazing (and in my top list), as is IMHO Lutens Sa Majeste la Rose.

    Although I haven’t started a rose garden, I’m quite fond of the cabbage type ones.

    • Blacknall Allen says:

      The last I heard Creed were either removing Rose The from the line or already had, and Sa Majeste is a beaut. No question.

      The cabbage type here is Constance Spry and then David Austin sells some great ones. But sometimes I like just getting cuttings from other local gardens because they’re own root, and they come from roses you know do well in your neighborhood. Gotta love that rooting hormone, one British garden writer confessed to wandering about with a pocket knife, a plastic baggie, and rooting hormone in his pocket on walks. Naughty boy!

  5. Undina says:

    Keiko Mecheri Mogador, Juliette Has A Gun Miss Charming and Shiseido White Rose are three very rose-y perfumes.

    Roses on a bush is how I like those flowers the most. My grandmother had wonderful roses in her garden but I didn’t inherit her love for gardening.

    • Blacknall Allen says:

      Of your three picks I’m sadly ignorant of two, but have been hearing about the Shiseido for years. White Rose was one of those perfumes that you used to be able to find in Japan? Beautyencounter has something called Rosarium, but it’s probably a whole other formula. Drat. I need something to replace the Creed :-) for when it’s thirty degrees out like today!

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