Rose Fragrance – English Roses

The modern rose industry has presented rose breeders with the daunting task of categorizing and determining the scent of roses due to the abundance of cultivars available.

While there are some general scent categories, each breeder uses their subjective terminology to describe the fragrance of their roses. The English Rose, bred by David Austin, is the most aromatc group amongst the modern roses.

David Austin was an English rose breeder and writer who had discovered his love of gardening at an early age, eventually dedicating his efforts to breeding of roses – but not just any kind. Austin’s goal was to combine characteristics of old English roses (appearance, fragrance) with those of modern roses, which provide a wider variety of colours and repeat blossoming.

Through meticulous crossbreeding, immense dedication and hard work, English roses have developed a diverse and intricate scent profile, making it a challenge for categorisation. However, scent expert Robert Calkin undertook one of the biggest challenges of his career and classified the English Rose into five basic categories.

Old rose scent

The first type of scent in roses is the old rose fragrance, commonly found in cultivars like the Damask and Centifolias. This fragrance is robust and captivating, resembling an actual rose’s scent.

David Austin’s goal was to incorporate this fragrance into modern rose cultivars, and he was successful in doing so, as there are many English roses with this scent. Gertrude Jekyll is one of the UK’s most popular roses in this category. It has magnificent deep pink blooms and a strong, pure, old rose fragrance.

Tea rose scent

The tea rose scent falls under the second category. It has a delightful aroma reminiscent of the fragrance of a freshly opened tea box. This scent is very versatile and blends well with other sorts. For instance, the Pilgrim rose, which is yellow, has a tea rose bouquet and a myrrh fragrance. Similarly, the Summer Song combines the aroma of tea rose with flowery chrysanthemum notes.

Myrrh fragrance

English roses have a unique scent category called myrrh fragrance, which is reminiscent of Myrrhis odorata, a plant with a sweet anise fragrance note. Constance Spry, the first English rose from 1961, is an example of a deep pink, once-flowering climber with a myrrh fragrance.

Musk fragrance

Some rose varieties, like blush pink Morning Mist or white Kew Gardens, have visible stamens that produce a mild musk fragrance.

Fruit fragrances

The final category of fragrances is the fruity one, including scents like lemon, guava, apple, pear, apricot, peach, strawberry, and raspberry. An excellent example of a fruity fragrance is The Poet’s Wife rose, which has a lovely hint of lemon scent and a deep yellow colour.

In addition to the five basic categories, there is also a diverse category for roses with unique scents that don’t fit into any specific category. Some roses even belong to two or three scent types, like The Generous Gardener rose, which combines the old rose fragrance, musk, and myrrh characteristics.

English roses are found in gardens all round the world, not just in England. If you wish to introduce them to liven up the entire image of your green area, or you wish to know if such a thing would be possible in your climate, feel free to contact us with any questions you might have!


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