Rose News From Around The World
A NOSE FOR A ROSE Part 2
With the flower in its high season, an expert explains the proper way to take in their scent
ASK MICHAEL MARRIOTT about a rose he saw 10 years ago and he'll tell you the genus, variety and exactly what it smelled like. Considered one of the world's most knowledgeable rose noses, Mr. Marriott is senior rosarian for the prestigious English breeder David Austin Roses (2,500 of its blooms covered Queen Elizabeth's barge at the Diamond Jubilee recently). Mr. Marriott also designs beautiful private and public gardens in Russia, Bhutan, Japan, Europe and the U.S. From his home near Shropshire, England, he explained the proper way to smell a rose.
How to sniff: "Stick it up to your nose, roll it round a bit. Think about what is there, even if you can't identify it. Don't gob it down quickly like you are nervously tasting the wine at a restaurant. If the first one you try on a certain shrub doesn't smell, try another. Younger roses are generally more aromatic. The whole point of smell is to attract insects and in the older ones the pollen may have already been taken."
Optimum time to do it: "When the humidity is high, morning is usually best. The other important thing is the temperature two to three days before the flowers open. The perfume is formed then. If the weather is cold, you won't get much scent, but if it is lovely and warm you will get more fragrance."
Where does the smell come from? "In big flowers, like the old roses, it is made from three or four hundred oils in little glands on the flower petals. Three to four of them give it the overall character, but the others create the finer differences. In musk roses, with smaller flowers, it is made in the stamens, which smell clove-like. Clove is a preservative so it is thought that the scent helps preserve the stamens. Himalayan Musk is a great rose that climbs 30 feet in trees, producing tens of thousands of flowers that waft fragrance through the air."
The Gertrude Jekyll, above, is his current favourite.
Which roses smell best? "My immediate favourite is Gertrude Jekyll, which has a strong, classic old rose fragrance, and a strong pink colour. Lady Emma Hamilton has beautiful apricoty orangy colors and smells like guavas and litchis. Creamy white Claire Austin has a wonderful myrrh fragrance and grows to a good-size shrub."
Do roses ever smell bad? "Well, I don't like Maigold. I think it smells rather like saturated fat. But then Graham Thomas, one of the greatest plantsmen ever, really liked it. A few people think the myrrh roses smell like hospital rooms but I find them delightful—an anise smell like pastis."
How to preserve a cut rose's scent: "One good thing is to mist them to keep humidity up. Use a large vase for the same reason. Don't put them too close to the air conditioner or the fireplace because that will dry them out. Change the water on a fairly regular basis, of course."
Health benefits to sniffing: "Actually they did an experiment in Japan on stressed mice—they shocked them, not very nice—and found that smelling rose oil had a very beneficial effect, even better than Diazepam."
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