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Award of Merit Article


by Nanette Londeree, Master Rosarian

When you see a rose, what is one of the first things you do? Take a sniff? That’s a pretty common response to roses. Yet, when you put your nose up close, you may find a trace of a fragrance, but often not a very strong one. There are a few reasons for that – first, it may be that the variety of rose does not produce much of a fragrance. It could also be the age of the bloom, the time of day, or the differences in our ability to detect certain smells.

Fragrance in flowers is associated with the attraction of pollinating insects, so that the genetic triggers for releasing fragrance are associated with the time of day and conditions that these normal pollinators are active. Substances detected primarily by human smell are generally soluble in oil. Fragrances are exuded from glands on the lower petal surfaces (and in some cases, leaf surfaces, as with R. eglanteria) and the bristly glands of the moss roses. Sunny, warm weather releases odors found in volatile plant oils. Humidity helps to prolong the smell because it reduces the rate of evaporation. Some of these compounds evaporate faster than others so that the fragrance of a rose can change as the bloom opens.

Much is said about modern roses having little to no fragrance – that certainly has not been my experience. There are many modern roses – of all types, that have intense fragrance, from the ever popular hybrid tea Sterling Silver, to the wonderfully lemony floribunda Sunsprite; the deep dark red Oklahoma ,and the sunset colors of Granada. The American Rose Society Awards Committee may present an award to an outstanding new fragrant variety. The James Alexander Gamble Award is presented to the hybridizer of the rose. Only eleven roses have been given this honor since its inception in 1961, and the latest to win the award was Angel Face in 2001.

Listed below are a couple dozen wonderfully fragrant roses. Many of these are planted in our new rose garden, so when you have some time, stop and smell the roses!

Name Type Color ARS Rating Year Introduced
Sombreuil Climbing Tea White 8.8 1850
Celsiana Damask Light Pink 8.7 before 1867
Europeana Floribunda Dark Red 8.7 1958
New Dawn Large-Flowered Climber Light Pink 8.6 1930
Celestial Alba Light Pink 8.5 before 1797
Compassion Large-Flowered Climber Orange-Pink 8.5 1972
Double Delight* Hybrid Tea Red Blend 8.4 1977
Erfurt Hybrid Musk Pink Blend 8.5 1939
Nymphenburg Hybrid Musk Orange-Pink 8.3 1954
Sunsprite* Floribunda Deep Yellow 8.5 1977
Heritage Shrub Light Pink 8.4 1985
Mr. Lincoln* Hybrid Tea Dark Red 8.4 1964
Sweet Chariot Miniature Mauve 8.4 1984
America Large-Flowered Climber Orange-Pink 8.3 1976
Margaret Merrill Floribunda White 8.3 1977
Mary Rose Shrub Medium Pink 8.3 1983
Buff Beauty Hybrid Musk Apricot Blend 8.2 1939
Sheila's Perfume Floribunda Yellow Blend 8.2 1982
Fragrant Cloud* Hybrid Tea Orange-Red 8.1 1967
Beauty Secret Miniature Medium Red 8.0 1965
Granada* Hybrid Tea Red Blend 7.9 1963
Tiffany* Hybrid Tea Pink Blend 7.8 1954
Angel Face* Floribunda Mauve 7.7 1968
Papa Meilland* Hybrid Tea Dark Red 7.7 1963

* Awarded the James Alexander Gamble Award for Fragrance

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