Our ability to perceive scent is one of the most powerful senses we possess, and it is closely tied to memory. By way of example, just a hint of cigar smoke instantly transforms me to the six-year-old incarnation of myself sitting in a large white sedan with a red interior surrounded by my dad, uncles, and grandpere…all of whom are smoking White Owls and laughing away in French. It was a sunny day and the windows were all rolled down, and although I didn’t understand a single word, the joy of the family reunion was obvious. It was and is one of those moments of my life that I can still recall in precise detail despite the passing years.
I see this same transformation occur while people are perusing the roses that we sell. Just one whiff of a scented hybrid tea evokes such comments as that brings me back to my grandmother’s garden or it smells just like that trip to Italy I took when I was young, followed immediately by a smile and that look of bliss. Roses are definitely back in vogue, yet what’s selling them these days is not their colour or disease resistance but their fragrance. So, I thought I’d share some of my favourite fragrant roses, overlooking the more obvious candidates such as ‘Mister Lincoln’, ‘Double Delight,’ or ‘Just Joey’ for some lesser-knowns.
‘Angel Face’ (Floribunda / 1969) The lavender-edged mauve semi-double blooms are beautiful enough by themselves, particularly when contrasted against the dark green foliage, but it is the sweet citrus fragrance that makes most people fall in love with this AARS (All American Rose Selection) winner. The flower colour will actually veer to a more lavender-blue colour during warmer summers and given its compact size (3’ tall), ‘Angel Face’ makes a great standard or tree rose.
‘Climbing America’ (Climber / 1976) Another AARS winner that was introduced for the US bicentennial. It bears abundant double blooms of salmon-pink throughout the summer, which will fill your garden with a spicy scent that bears a distinct hint of cloves. Individual flowers can be 4-5” wide. They're nicely showcased against a backdrop of leathery deep green, disease-resistant foliage.
‘Liebeszauber’ (Hybrid Tea / 1991) A classic hybrid tea rose with very full double blooms of a rich crimson-red held on long stems, making them ideal for cut flowers. This disease-resistant Kordes rose translates as ‘Love’s Magic.’ It won the 1994 Hague Fragrance Award for its strong, true rose scent.
‘Rock & Roll’ (Grandiflora / 2007) While the unique striped blossoms of burgundy, red, and white are a love-or-hate proposition, their sheer size (averaging 5” across) and fragrance wins most people over. This cross of ‘George Burns’ and ‘New Zealand’ lives up to its fragrant lineage with an enticing scent of strong rose with overtones of mouth-watering fruit.
‘Sunsprite’ (Floribunda / 1973) When it comes to roses, this is one of my personal favourites as the glossy green foliage is smothered in clusters of sunny yellow blossoms throughout the summer. This Kordes rose is still one of the most popular floribundas available and the sweet licorice scent lingers heavily in the garden. Winner of the James Alexander Gamble Fragrance award in 1979.
‘Sheila’s Perfume’ (Floribunda / 1985) Here’s a rose that really lives up to its name with a true strong rose scent. Despite being a floribunda, it blooms more like a hybrid tea with solitary yellow blooms edged in pink that are held on long stems. This winner of the National Rose Society’s Edland Medal for fragrance actually produces larger flowers that colour better in cooler coastal summers.
‘Heirloom’ (Hybrid Tea / 1972) Another tried and true ‘blue’ rose which is actually more of a lilac to lavender colour that opens from deep magenta buds. The enticing fragrance is a complex blend of old rose, apple, white wine, and raspberry. This is another cultivar that colours best in cooler summer conditions.
‘Charles Austin’ (English Rose / 1973) This is one of the earlier English roses which bears apricot blooms with lighter outer petals and the traditional cupped form that breeder David Austin was famous for. It was derived from ‘Aloha’, a fragrant climber, and emanates a delicious strong fruit fragrance.
‘Julie Andrews’ (Hybrid Tea / 2020) A compact hybrid tea that was released in the ‘Clean ‘n’ Easy’ line that bears bright fuchsia-pink flowers with a contrasting yellow center, which are highlighted against the healthy deep green foliage. Expect an unusual fragrance of old rose with a hint of spice (anise, tarragon).
‘L’Aimant’ (Floribunda / 1990) This Award of Garden Merit winner bears clusters of pale coral-pink blooms that are cupped in form with ruffled petal edges. These are held above glossy dark green foliage and emanate a strong scent of Damask rose and citrus.
‘Hansa’ (Rugosa / 1905) Here’s a fragrant rose that’s hardy (zone 3), thrives during droughts, and is extremely disease resistant. Add to that the scented (clove fragrance) purplish-pink blossoms and edible (tea, jelly) red hips that resemble cherry tomatoes, and you have a truly all-purpose rose.
‘St. Tropez’ (Floribunda / 2018) Another selection from the ‘Clean ‘n’ Easy’ line of disease-resistant roses which bears full-formed apricot-yellow blooms with a slight ruffle to the petals. This French hybrid has a strong fragrance with sweet anise or licorice undertones.
‘Laguna’ (Climber / 2008) A large-flowered climber from Kordes with prominent clusters of strong pink blooms with a cupped form. This rose can scent the entire garden with its enticing fragrance of strong fruit, spice, and fresh lemon.
‘Stephen’s Big Purple’ (Hybrid Tea / 1985) This hybrid tea with massive (5”) many-petaled double blooms is more of a beetroot colour (reddish-purple), although some describe it as a violet-mauve. The unusual colouring does not detract from its delectable old rose fragrance that is infused with a hint of fruit.
‘Westerland’ (Climber / 1969) One of the best short climbers (8’) for our coastal climate, ‘Westerland’ bears clusters of semi-double apricot-orange blooms that fade with a hint of pink. It is both disease resistant and extremely fragrant with flowers that smell of old-fashioned rose with clove and spice.
Now before you run down to Amsterdam Garden Centre looking for these scented roses, I have to warn you that we have already sold out. That said, we will be allowing online pre-sales of our expanded selection of 2022 roses (including David Austin) in the near future once our orders have been confirmed.