Fragrant Roses



I recently attended a talk on Fragrant Roses by Jack Page and Robert Myers of The Perfect Rose who were kind enough to come out to Asheville and share some of their vast knowledge with the rest of us folks in the Asheville Blue Ridge Rose Society.


It was such a great discussion and it got me thinking, it’s been a while since the last time we’ve specifically brought up the topic of “the most fragrant roses” here on Hedgerow Rose–almost 4 years! I thought it would be a great time to revisit this as so many of us are already making plans for next year’s roses.


The subject of fragrance in roses is something I get asked about a lot by gardeners just dipping their toes in rose cultivation. In fact, I gave a talk about this myself earlier this year at the North Carolina Arboretum. Most want a rose that has a lovely scent, which is understandable since that’s one of the biggest traits we associate with roses, right? I often get asked, “What roses can I grow that are fragrant?” more than I even get questioned about traits like disease resistance!

madame hardy rose june 2013 2Madame Hardy, an Old Garden Rose, strongly scented (to me, at least) of raw honey

Personally, I can’t seem to get enough of Old Garden Roses and David Austin roses and I can’t think of very many that I’ve had in my garden that didn’t have scent, albeit some stronger than others. OGR’s, such as damasks, gallicas, centifolias and so forth, are often incredibly fragrant. These are the roses your great-great grandparents grew. Highly scented, spectacular bloom period, large and in charge. However, there was a period during the 20th century (Jack Page referred to it as “the dark ages”) when hybridization of roses focused more on form and color–think exhibition roses–and less on fragrance. Introducing chinas and teas into the mix, for example, brought repeat bloom and unique coloration to the rose gene pool but they weren’t as fragrant as, say, damask and centifolias. And I remember reading somewhere that the fragrance gene is recessive, so both parents must carry it for it to be present in the new cross. Isn’t that interesting?

Heritage David Austin rose 3Heritage, a David Austin rose, has a strong sugared lemons fragrance

I think we’re in the midst of a renaissance, if you will, for roses. Have you noticed how many new roses are being introduced that not only have beautiful form, repeat bloom and disease resistance but also have fragrance? Have you checked out Kordes roses these days? They’re awesome!


Some notes from Fragrant Roses talk by Jack Page:

• Jack wants to remind us all that roses have fragrance, not smell. (Smell is to describe something like garbage, fragrance is for something pleasant.)

• The fragrance in roses is released in the oils that is produced by glands in the petals. For this reason, roses that have more petals may also have a stronger scent. Roses may be most fragrant in the spring when it’s mid-morning and the flower is about 1/4-2/3 open. (My thoughts: You may have also noticed humidity, air temp and even soil pH can play a roll in this.)

• Distillation of rose petals for their fragrance dates back as far as the 10th century. Rose attar is the final product of this. It takes 200lbs to make just one ounce of oil.

• Rosarian Neville Miller lists primary scents in roses: Rose/Damask, Nasturtium, Orris, Violet, Apple, Clove. (My notes: David Austin classifies the fragrance of his roses as “myrrh, musky, fruity, tea rose as well as the classic old rose scent.”)

Jack and Robert brought in dozens of cut roses to our talk and you could literally catch a whiff of their fragrance from down the hall. {Sidebar: I’m pretty sure I heard Jack and Robert tell us they have over 800 roses growing in their home garden and maintain 300 rose gardens through their business. Yowzers!} When the talk was over we were invited to walk around the room to sniff and compare each one. It was amazing how some of them had a strongly identifiable fragrance such as licorice or lemons while others had the “classic” old rose scent. I didn’t get photos of every single one but here are some of the roses that were brought in:



Outta The Blue™ (WEKstephitsu)


Coffee Country (VIRbrown)

img_3032-4Melody Parfumée™ (DORient)

img_3034-5Fragrant Cloud (TANellis)

img_3036-6Country Song

img_3038-7Natasha Monet

img_3040-8Heirloom (JACbloom)

img_3042-9Nicole Carol Miller (MEIskimov)

img_3044-10Fragrant Plum (AROplumi)

img_3046-11Honey Dijon (WEKsproulses)

img_3048-12Cinco de Mayo™ (Wekcobeju)

img_3050-13Blue River® (KORsicht)

img_3052-14Pumpkin Patch (Wekmongros)

img_3055-15Secret™ (HILaroma)

img_3057-16Tahitian Sunset™ (JACgodde)

img_3059-17Love & Peace™ (BAIpeace)

img_3061-18George Burns™ (WEKcalroc)

img_3063-19Black Baccara

img_3065-20Tropical Sunset™ (MACtaurang)

img_3067-21White Licorice (Wekdidusinra)

Wasn’t that fun? Keep in mind, these roses seen above I have not personally grown, they were brought in by Jack and Robert from their own garden so I cannot vouch for their disease resistance, hardiness etc. (Jack and Robert do spray their roses for pests & disease for those of you who might be wondering.) Of the above, I found that Heirloom, Fragrant Plum, White Licorice, Melody Parfumée and Fragrant Cloud were the most memorable in terms of scent.


And now, I’d like to share with you some of my personal favorites for fragrance. This is tough because, like I mentioned earlier, pretty much all of our roses have some amount of scent. Some may even have what’s considered “moderate” or variable “light to strong” (such as Blush Noisette) but in trying to narrow it down, I’ve put together a list of roses I’ve grown that are consistently strongly scented. (Again, this is for fragrance, only. Disease resistance, cold-hardiness, etc. is another subject!) Here they are in ABC order:

abraham-darby-via-hedgerow-roseAbraham Darby ® (AUScot)

Apothecary's Rose via Hedgerow RoseR. gallica officinalis

bella donna size referenceBella Donna

Blanc Double de CoubertBlanc Double de Coubert

Celsiana 2 - 4Celsiana

Common Moss roseCentifolia Muscosa

comte de chambord in augustComte de Chambord

Comtesse de Rocquigny via Hedgerow Rose - 1Comtesse de Rocquigny

dark desire 6-21-2Dark Desire aka Gräfin Diana (KORdiagraf)

erinnerung an brod rose june 2013 6Erinnerung an Brod aka Souvenir de Brod

fantin latour rose 2Fantin-Latour

félicité parmentierFélicité Parmentier

Gertrude Jekyll rose in the container gardenGertrude Jekyll (AUSbord)

'Red Moss' and 'Old Red Moss' via Hedgerow Rose-9Henri Martin

Heritage 10-10-1Heritage (AUSblush)

jude the obscure 10-14-2Jude the Obscure (AUSjo)

Julia Child via Hedgerow Rose - 1Julia Child (WEKvossutono)

la-reine-via-hedgerow-roseLa Reine

Lady of Shalott via Hedgerow Rose - 11Lady of Shalott (AUSnyson)

Madame Alfred Carriere May 2014Madame Alfred Carrière

Mme Calvat May 2016Madame Ernest Calvat

Madame Hardy June 2013 1-1Mme Hardy aka Félicité Hardy

marchesa boccella 1-2Marchesa Boccella

Munstead Wood via Hedgerow Rose 1Munstead Wood (Ausbernard)

Petite Lisette 2Petite Lisette

Princess Alexandra of Kent 2014Princess Alexandra of Kent (Ausmerchant)

Reine Victoria via Hedgerow Rose - 3Reine Victoria

rosa-mundi-DR. gallica versicolor

Rosa rugosa 'Alba' via Hedgerow Rose 2Rosa rugosa ‘Alba’

Rose de Rescht | Hedgerow RoseRose de Rescht

garden 5-17-22St Swithun (AUSwith)

strawberry hill julyStrawberry Hill (Ausrimini)

Summer Romance - Kordes Rose - Hedgerow RoseSummer Romance (KORtekcho)

the generous gardener july 2016The Generous Gardener (AUSdrawn)

Zaide 6-17-1Zaide ® (KORarofe)

zepherine-drouhin-bourbon-rose-june-2013-3Zéphirine Drouhin

And now, I’d like to open the question up to you, fellow rose gardeners! Which rose(s) in your garden has the most wonderful fragrance? If this rose also has additional merits such as disease resistance and winter hardiness, please do tell us as I’m sure we’d all like to know about that, too!





41 thoughts on “Fragrant Roses

  1. I’ve heard Mme Isaac Pereire described as the most fragrant “classic” old rose. Have you ever smelled it? Thoughts? Also, my vote’s for Louise Odier. I’d grow it even if it were dayglo orange, just for the scent.

    1. Crescendo has form and fragrance. Barbara’s pasture rose, a found rose, is incredible. Louis Philippe and souvenir de la Malmaison are favorites too.

      1. Wow thanks for these great suggestions, Gene! Love the look of Barbara’s Pasture Rose. I’m going to see if I can track one down. Yay!

    2. Hi Nora! I don’t have Mme Isaac Pereire but I have her sport, Mme Calvat, and it’s incredibly fragrant–definitely one of my favorite roses. Louise Odier is on my wishlist! How does yours fare with blackspot? Thanks for weighing in!

      1. Haven’t had any problems with blackspot so far, which is amazing to me– we’re in a very wet, humid spot of MA. She does get devoured by caterpillars, but otherwise I haven’t had any disease issues with her at all. So far!

  2. Besides the ones you named (I have some, not all), my most fragrant as well as healthiest … Souvenir de la Malmaison, Celestial, Magna Charta, Black Prince (so stingy with blooms I forget it’s there), Colette and a new one to me this year, Milwaukee’s Calatrava.

    Surprised to see Cinco de Mayo on a list of fragrant roses. I hope mine will develop fragrance as they mature. After reading Nora’s comment, I must find another Louise Odier. I had her once, but was lost, along with Madame Ernest Calvat, to a hard winter while both were still young.

    1. Ahhh, I knew I was forgetting some! Thank you for reminding me of SDLM and Celestial. Yes, very lovely and very scented. 🙂 I love the look of Black Prince, that’s too bad it’s so stingy with blooms.

      Oh! And about Cinco de Mayo: that was one that Robert brought in but I agree, I don’t find it to be too fragrant. Very light scent to my nose. Nora’s comment also has me adding Louise Odier to my wishlist. (And I, too, have lost a ton of roses to hard winters. I’m still smarting over the loss of Rose de Rescht and think I’ll try again here in NC.)

      Thank you so much for your wonderful suggestions!

  3. Thanks for this post !
    I’ve been growing fragrant roses for years, and am always on the hunt for new varieties

  4. Great post! I too really appreciate fragrance in roses, both in the garden and the vase. In my garden the most fragrant roses are: Marchesa Bocella(OGR), Ambridge (David Austin), Sceptr’d Isle (David Austin), Madame Hardy (OGR), Yolande d’Aragon (OGR), Munstead Wood (David Austin) and Souvenir du Dr. Jamain(OGR). All are very healthy and fragrant with the exception of S.du Dr. Jamain who is a disease magnet and oddly shaped plant. I’m going to try “Dee-Lish” (Meilland) next year, which is supposed to be both very fragrant (described by some 10X Munstead Wood fragrance) and very healthy.

    1. Ohhh, Dee-Lish (wow, terrible name) is a stunner! Just looked it up and saw it has a “strong citrus fragrance” which I just love. Thanks for that!

      I had …Jamain… in our old garden and it never did anything for us, so I’m relieved to hear you’re having similar problems since it was one I left behind. The flowers are so pretty in the photos, but oh well.

      Sceptr’d Isle is one of those where I’m like, why haven’t I grown that, yet? 😉 Really appreciate your input, Cole, thank you!

  5. I am especially enjoying the scent of my Crocus Rose (David Austin). It is somewhat illusive during the warm months, but as the nights get cooler, it becomes better and better! Soft and very sweet. Olivia Austin is lovely, too.

    1. Wonderful suggestions! I remember Crocus Rose at our old stomping grounds in Penn State gardens and it was just gorgeous. I need to try Olivia Rose Austin, I keep hearing good things about it! 🙂

  6. You have a really good list! Posts like this make me really appreciate how many different types of roses there are; the variety is amazing! I would love to see you lasted rank list with disease resistance, etc included as well.

    Not directly related, but this reminded me of a cool feature I saw on how perfume is made using rose petals. Really cools stuff:

    Another side note… I’ll be visiting Asheville soon. Any recommendations on where to visit? What’s your favorite nursery in the area? Thanks for the great info as always!

    1. Thanks for that link! 😀

      I mentioned this to Anne, but most of the roses I talk about here on the blog are also disease resistant and winter hardy to at least zone 6. If they aren’t, they get pulled and I do mention that, too, like in the case of Gertrude Jekyll which didn’t last long. I can’t speak for the roses that Robert and Jack brought in because they spray for disease and such-like.

      How fun that you’re visiting Asheville! Well, of course you’ll be coming to see Biltmore? Even during the colder months, the gardens are so fun to stroll through and beginning November 4, they’ll have the whole house decorated for Christmas and it’s just lovely. There’s also the NC Arboretum which has lots of beautiful walking trails. If you’re into antiquing, there are TONS of antique stores to stop in. We particularly like to go to the Tobacco Barn and Regeneration Station. Make sure you spend an afternoon in Biltmore Village, too. Have lunch in The Corner Kitchen and then walk across the street to Well Bred Cafe for dessert. For a fancy french dinner in a casual setting, try Bouchon in downtown Asheville. (There are tons of shops to visit while you’re down there, too.) Take a scenic drive on the Blueridge Parkway which should be very pretty when the leaves are at their peak. If you like historic homes, take a walk through the Montford district in Ashveville. Of course, there are tons of outdoor things to do, Dupont State Forest (with all the waterfalls) is not too far and there are lots of local breweries to swing by. I guess I could go on and on, but here’s a great website to get your started!

  7. You know fragrant roses are my favorite!

    I agree with Eve that you should rate the fragrant roses with disease resistance and hardiness, too.

    David Austin’s Sharifa Asma had probably my favorite fragrance. It was very hardy in my old garden, although it did get a bit of blackspot (not as bad as others). William Shakespeare 2000 was another that had a very strong fragrance for me.

    As was already noted, SDLM’s fragrance was lovely. I didn’t grow it for long, but it seemed both hardy and disease resistant in the short time I grew it.

    I grew Fragrant Cloud in my old garden and it did smell lovely, but it wasn’t very hardy or disease resistant, looking pathetic most of the time. Eventually it didn’t come back after one winter.

    In my new garden I’m growing Above and Beyond (which hasn’t had any sign of disease and we had a very wet summer!) and although the flowers aren’t as impressive or as fragrant when you put your nose in them as others I’ve grown, the fragrance wafts through the garden smelling delicious.

    1. Yes, I know you love those fragrant roses, too! 🙂

      I vaguely remember trying Sharifa in our old garden and it getting too disease-y. Maybe I’ll give it another go since it has such a wonderful fragrance. (I also tried William Shakespeare 2000, but I grew it on it’s own roots and it was so weak and spindly.) Thanks for your input on Fragrant Cloud, too. I had a feeling it would be a persnickety rose–good to know. And thank you for the suggestion on Above and Beyond! Admittedly, I had never heard of it but I looked it up and it is so pretty. I love those open blooms and prominent stamens.

      I’ll mention this to Eve, too, but most of the roses I have mentioned in my list are also fairly disease resistant and hardy to at least zone 6. The exception would be Abe Darby, Zeph D., Heritage & Gertrude Jekyll which I had some problems with blackspot. (Mme Calvat and Strawberry Hill can also get spotty but it’s not enough to stop them.)

  8. Felicia is the most fragrant rose to my nose. It’s quite healthy too – not 100% blackspot free at all times but definitely healthier than most and it makes for an attractive shrub.

    It’s pretty much my favourite rose and I wouldn’t want to be without it.

    1. I LOVE Felicia! I was *this close* to adding one to our garden this spring but missed the opportunity. It’s definitely at the top of my very long wishlist. Great suggestion for a fabulous rose!

  9. I grew DA : Munstead Wood and Princess Alexandra because of your recommendations this year. I absolutely loved them. Their colors are so beautiful. The fragrance was absolutely amazing. Munstead Wood was more fragrance. I could smell them 15 feet away when the winds was blowing. I plan to add more next year. Never considered Julia Child roses before until I saw 6 of them at Kroger this summer. I saw them and smelled them..and was hook. Bought all six of them. 🙂 Way cheaper than buying anywhere else. Have you consider Peace rose hybrid tea. Very fragrances.

    1. Yeah! This made me so happy that you are enjoying the roses recommended here. What a relief! Glad you like them. 🙂 Isn’t Julia Child wonderful? Fairly disease resistant, too, which is nice to see in a yellow rose. Yes, I’ve tried Peace but I pulled it up after about a year–wasn’t too great in my garden. Thank you so much for your visit and your kind comment!

  10. I’ll cast two votes for The McCartney Rose! Very strong old rose scent. Large blossoms, rather low petal count, but a fragrance just behind Sharifa Asma. Although rated zone 7b, it’s worth winter protecting in my 6b garden (something I’ve been unwilling to do before 😵).

    1. Wow, awesome suggestion, thank you! I was just looking at the HMF page for this rose and someone commented that the fragrance is strong even when the temperatures drop, do you find that, too? Thanks for the tip on the winter protection!

  11. Off topic, if I may, Laurie, but I don’t know anyone else who grows The Albrighton Rambler. Would you recommend it to drape down a slightly terraced rock retaining wall? It’s a bit precarious to tend anything planted there, so I need something that doesn’t require constant fussing over. I’m coming up blank.

    1. This is only my first year with Albrighton and it’s barely as high as my knees right now so I couldn’t give you first hand experience on it’s habit. I was just thinking, though, that if you’re looking for a white rose that can sprawl (and will take care of itself) you might like to check out ‘Seafoam’ for your rock wall. It’s a real beauty and an Earthkind rose, too, if I remember correctly. 🙂

  12. I tend to forget about the ‘oldies but goodies’, and Seafoam falls into that category for me. Not ‘old’ as in OGRs, but old enough to be forgotten with so many new varieties being introduced every year. I will keep my eyes open for a more pale pink, but short of that, Seafoam will do the job. It will be planted under a row of Super Dorothy covering a split rail fence just above the rock wall. Thank you, Laurie.

    1. That sounds like it’s going to look spectacular, whatever you choose. Super Dorothy is such a stunning rose!

  13. I have about 50 roses in my garden. Some for the flower, some for the hips, some for the fragrance. I have found the ones with the strongest fragrance to be Fragrant Plum (no surprise), Firefighter (Joseph Orard), Diamond Jubilee (Eugene Boerner), Ebb Tide (Carruth), Gruss an Aachen and Peace. Others with lesser fragrance, but still very nice to stick your nose in are Kardinal (Kordes), Young Lycidas (David Austin) Rosa Rugosa Scabrosa and Avner’s Hope. I have recently planted some more that I purchased for their fragrance, so I hope they don’t disappoint: Chaucer (David Austin), Jude the Obscure (David Austin), Nahema (Delbard) and Dioressance (Delbard). I really wanted SDLM, but my local nursery said it suffers too much black spot in our area, so they suggested Gruss an Aachen as a substitute and it is gorgeous. I was very worried about Diamond Jubilee, as the first time it flowered I thought the rose buds were the ugliest I had ever seen. However, they morphed into the most delightful, enormous, beautiful flowers with a gorgeous fragrance. It is currently covered in ugly buds at the moment. I can’t wait for them to develop. I was disappointed with Ebb Tide when it first flowered, as it was touted to be such a dark purple. The flowers opened magenta, but as they aged, they got darker and darker, so it redeemed itself. It is quite a compact little bush, so I have to get down on my knees to smell the flowers. I planted 2 Nahema roses and hope to grow them over an arch.

    1. Wow Sarah, you have given us all some wonderful ideas, thank you for your comment! I agree with you about Gruss…I grew that one, too, in the old garden. If you live in a cold climate, though, watch out for severe winters. We had such significant dieback the year of the “Polar Vortex.” I think you’re going to love the fragrance on Jude. It definitely sticks in my memory as being one of the most fragrant roses I ever had the pleasure of growing. Interesting about Diamond Jubilee’s buds. I feel the same way about Munstead Wood; as much as I love that rose I don’t like how it looks in mid-bloom stage. I see what you mean about Ebb Tide starting off magenta and deepening as it ages. Have you tried growing Twilight Zone? There is a patch of these at Biltmore that always struck me with their dark tones. Thanks again for your suggestions! 🙂

  14. I’m not a big fan of modern roses and grow mostly OGR’s and a few old Hybrid Teas that are exceptionally fragrant. The Hybrid Teas that I really love for their fragrance are: Crimson Glory, Sutter’s Gold and Double Delight. After a long search, I recently acquired Rosa Gallica Officinalis to pair with my Rosa Alba Semi-plena. I wanted to have my own war of the roses. The original American Beauty is a highly fragrant Hybrid Perpetual. Another Hybrid Perpetual that I grow for fragrance is Barrone Prevost. Growing roses in Oregon is asking for blackspot and I have plenty, but I don’t grow exhibition roses, I just enjoy their fragrance. I am curious about Super Dorothy – is this a Dorothy Perkins reincarnation?

    1. Hi Mollie, love your suggestions! I chuckled when I read about your “War of the Roses”…I did that, too! Have you tried growing Rosa Mundi? If you like Apothecary’s Rose, I think you’ll enjoy it. Yes, to your question about ‘Super Dorothy’. ‘Dorothy Perkins’ is the seed parent. 🙂

      1. I’ve never grown Rosa Mundi, although it has intrigued me for years. It is certainly easier to find and purchase than Apothocary was. I really enjoy your blog – stumbled upon your terrific site about six months ago. 🙂

  15. Hello,

    Just to add a few that are fragrant in my garden and I didn’t see mention yet: Evelyn, Yves Piaget, Pop John Paul II, Mirandy, Chrysler Imperial, Carding Mill, Poet’s Wife, and Lady Emma Hamilton. I have high hopes for Paul Neyron, Boscobel, Lavender Crush, Aloha, and American Beauty, but they are too new for me to vouch for them as being very fragrant.

    Winchester Cathedral wins for strong, but disappointing fragrance. To my nose it smelled like diapers. Needless to say I immediately gifted it to a friend, who doesn’t really care about fragrance and was happy to have a floriferous white rose.

    My garden is small so fragrance for me is an essential quality for a rose to make its way in. Thanks for the lovely post!

    1. Thank you for your marvelous suggestions!! I, too, have a small space for roses (not a lot of full sun to be had in our garden), so I understand completely what you mean about fragrance being essential. Your comment about Winchester Cathedral smelling like diapers made me laugh! I have heard that it isn’t such a sweet smelling rose from other gardeners, too, so you’re not alone. 😉

      We just added Boscobel to our garden last summer and I love it so far. Have you tried Benjamin Britten? It’s also quite lovely!

  16. The most fragrant rose I have are: Double Delight, Neptune, Mister Lincoln, Pope John Paul II, Ebb Tide, Memorial Day, Stormy Weather, Pure Perfume, Heritage, Souvenir de la Malmaison, Clotilde Soupert, Heirloom, Midas Touch, Fragrant Plum, Heroes, Intrigue, Portmerion & Zéphirine Drouhin.

    I also have Cinco de Mayo, Melody Parfumee and Pumpkin Patch that was mentioned above but I find their scent rather mild to none sometimes.

    That Comtesse de Rocquigny is love – it made my heart palpitate! I’m adding that to my list for next spring! 😀

    1. Hello and welcome! Mr Lincoln….I’m so glad you mentioned that rose. It was one of the first Hybrid Teas I ever grew and my daughter, who was very young at the time, just loved that rose for it’s wonderful fragrance.

      I agree with you, Pumpkin Patch had very little scent, but a bunch of us at the society couldn’t wait to take one of the flowers home with us that day. The color is so beautiful.

      You will love Comtesse! Hope you can get one for your garden! 🙂

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