American Rose Annual 41: 29-40 (1956)
The Fragrances In Our Roses
Dr. James Alexander Gamble

Tall Timbers, Maryland

Many people in America and the rest of the world regard the fragrances of the rose as the intrinsic value of the genus and its most delightful quality. However, it is the rose character about which we as yet know least.

How this fragrance first came into being, how it is manufactured within the flower and transmitted from one generation of roses to the next, and how, when blooms open one after another all season long in gardens, their perfume is elaborated for our exhilaration, is still a pleasing, teasing mystery. For centuries, the fragrance of the rose has been one of the delightful and well kept secrets of nature.

Over 16,000 improved rose varieties have been produced since Empress Josephine of France brought together the rose strangers of the world in her Imperial Garden at Malmaison, France, some 150 years ago. What a fortunate bringing together that was! Having each of them in one garden for the first time enabled variety comparisons. There followed the desire of those concerned, to combine into one or more of the most promising varieties the pleasing qualities of the others. Thus the delightful art of rose improvement for the increased enjoyment of humanity began.

Ever since then, hybridizers have dreamed and striven to make this flower increasingly more beautiful and fragrant. As a result of these long years of effort, most of the roses growing around our homes and in our gardens here in America are generally fragrant. This study of Modern Roses IV also calls to our attention the very great need for making the new rose introductions in all rose classes more delightfully fragrant and that accomplishing this is the greatest present need of the rose in America.

A study by the writer of the varieties whose years of production or of introduction are recorded in this American rose lexicon, discloses that 49 percent of those brought forth by 1900 possessed some degree of fragrance, those produced during the next 30 years (1901 to 1930) 59.5 percent, and of the rose varieties introduced since 1930 68 percent possess different kinds and degrees of fragrances.' This is an increase in fragrant varieties, percentagewise, of nearly 40 percent. This rose fragrance situation is a lasting, living, tribute to the gifted efforts of the rose hybridizers of the world.

The above percentage figures do not include some 80 other listed fragrant varieties whose years of introduction are not given in the text used.

FRAGRANCE IN THE DIFFERENT ROSE CLASSES

1 In Table I, varieties whose year of introduction was not given in Modern Roses IV are included in the counts shown.

The distribution and the different degrees of fragrance in the classes containing large numbers of varieties are shown in Table 1.1

TERMS USED TO DESCRIBE THE FRAGRANCES PRESENT

Many varieties in Modern Roses IV are recorded as being VERY FRAGRANT. Other terms used to describe such are Damask, Old Rose or Centifolia, Musk, China, Noisette, Gallica, Strong Tea, Wichuraiana, Sweetbrier, and Rugosa. Still other terms employed to describe the very fragrant include Strongly Fragrant, Deliciously Fragrant, Spicy or Clove, Sweet, Fruity and the like. Roses with any of the above mentioned fragrances were included in the VERY FRAGRANT percentages shown in Table I.

The term FRAGRANT, when used by itself, appears to have included different degrees of fragrances, and undoubtedly many of these are but slightly fragrant. In the percentages given under this heading, the writer also included wild rose, tea, honey, apple, peach, apricot, raspberry, blackberry, and similarly described fragrances.

The varieties recorded as slightly fragrant, delicately fragrant, very mildly fragrant, and the like, were all included in the SLIGHTLY FRAGRANT grouping.

Some readers might favor fragrance groupings other than those followed by the writer to arrive at the VERY FRAGRANT, FRAGRANT, and SLIGHTLY FRAGRANT percentages shown in Table I.

One is not only impressed by the wealth of fragrances possessed by the rose but by the disclosure that some entirely new fragrances have been produced from time to time.

HYBRID TEAS

As is well known to members of the American Rose Society, Hybrid Teas now lead all rose classes, not only in favor and in numbers, but in fragrance. Nearly three‑fourths of the listed Hybrid Tea varieties possess some degree of fragrance, and this study disclosed that as a class they lead all others in perfume.

HYBRID PERPETUALS

Much discussion as to whether or not Hybrid Perpetuals are more fragrant than Hybrid Teas has appeared in rose literature during the past few years. Because of the thousands of Hybrid Perpetual varieties produced, only a few over 200 are now listed in Modern Roses IV. It seems quite impossible to really know the true answer.

In this connection it seems reasonable to conclude that the best and most fragrant varieties of this class have been retained in commerce to supply the demands of the home gardeners who still prefer them. Even so, this survival‑of‑the‑fittest sample of the Hybrid Perpetuals is led in fragrance by the Hybrid Teas. However, as pointed out in Table I, the Hybrid Tea class contains nearly twice the percentage of slightly fragrant varieties than do the listed Hybrid Perpetuals.

FLORIBUNDAS

From a first-hand knowledge of the beginning of the production of what has since become known as Floribundas, in Denmark and Germany in 1935, the writer has since taken it for granted that the Floribunda varieties in Modern Roses IV resulted largely from the crossing of very fragrant Hybrid Teas with Polyanthas. Poulsen of Denmark in 1935 was using Ophelia, Hadley, Westfield Star, and other very fragrant Hybrid Teas in crossing with the Polyantha, Mme. Norbert Levavasseur and others. And Kordes in Germany had just crossed the very fragrant Mary Hart, of Ophelia breeding, with the Polyantha Dance of Joy in an attempt likewise to produce a race of very fragrant roses having both the bloom of best of the Hybrid Teas and the bloom-clustering habit and greater hardiness of the Polyanthas. Instead, the writer now discovers that most of the Floribundas listed in Modern Roses IV are, with few exceptions, the result of crossing other than of straight Hybrid Teas with Polyanthas. It was observed that while Crimson Glory, Etoile de Hollande, and one or two other fragrant Hybrid Teas, have been used on Polyanthas with some success, some 150 of the listed Floribundas have resulted from crossing with other than straight Hybrid Teas.

Both Poulsen and Kordes soon found that the very fragrant Hybrid Tea-Polyantha cross usually produced seedlings having little or no scent. Kordes in the meantime, however, did break through to the spicy fragrant World's Fair by a Crimson Glory x Dance of Joy cross, followed by Boerner in this country with a Crimson Glory x Pinocchio cross. This later produced Fashion, which has wild rose fragrance, and Vogue with tea fragrance. However, Pinocchio, being an Eva and Golden Rapture cross, is not a true Polyantha.

As a class, comparatively few of the Floribundas are very fragrant. And while in Table I, they rank next to Hybrid Teas in percentage of varieties that possess some fragrance, this is made up of a very high percentage of slightly fragrant varieties. The very fragrant Floribunda varieties include Brise Parfumee, Chatter, Dancing Doll, Elfe, Fashion, Geranium Red, Holiday, Kolibre, Lilibet, Ma Perkins, Poulsen's Yellow, Red Sweetheart, and World's Fair.

POLYANTHAS

The general lack of fragrance in the Polyanthas is well known to most home gardeners. What is less well known is the fact that this class of roses does contain some very fragrant varieties. Such include Adora, Bernice, Cassegrain, Denise, Fair Marjory, Golden Perfection, Golden Poly, Lisbeth Stellmacher, Margaret Elbogen, Margy, Mevrouw Nathalie Nypels, Nanjimoy Palmer, Pacific Triumph, Paulette and Titania.

Strangely enough, few of these seemed to have been crossed with very fragrant Hybrid Teas in an effort to produce fragrant Floribundas. Many of the above listed very fragrant Polyanthas are new names to the writer. As shown in Table I, some 60 percent of the Polyantha varieties counted were recorded as without fragrance, and over half of those that were fragrant are reported to be but slightly so. To date, it would seem that our hybridizers have been largely unable to produce very fragrant Floribundas by crossing very fragrant Hybrid Teas with true Polyanthas.

This study disclosed that but 40 percent of the listed Polyanthas counted were fragrant, as against 74 percent of the listed Hybrid Teas. It occurs to the writer in this connection that there may be come relationship between the nearly double percentage of fragrant varieties in the Hybrid Teas as compared to the Polyanthas, and that this may stem from the fact that Polyanthas generally contain but two sets of seven chromosomes, or a total of 14, compared to the four sets of seven, or a total of 28 chromosomes, generally found in the Hybrid Teas.

It might be of interest to investigate the petal surfaces of both the very fragrant and non-fragrant varieties in an effort to ascertain the structure of the cells which produce and release rose perfumes, and whether or not such are to be found on the petals of the varieties we find to be very fragrant as well as on those from which the human nose can detect little or no scent.

LARGE‑FLOWERED CLIMBERS

This is also an important class of roses for the reason that while most of them bloom but once a year, they are generally more hardy and flourish with less care and attention than is generally demanded by varieties that bloom more than once each season. Their long canes take the foliage and bloom up into better air and sunshine than often prevail near the ground. Some 55 percent of the Large‑flowered Climbers are fragrant.

RUGOSA

Sixty‑four percent of the Rugosa varieties counted were recorded as fragrant, and some 29.7 percent are very fragrant. A lower percentage was recorded as slightly fragrant than occurred in either the Floribundas or the Polyantha classes.

OTHER CLASSES

It could well be that these other classes contain much promising material for the further improvement of modern garden roses. Certainly a substantial number of violent outcrosses have been successfully made between the species and improved roses. These give promise of capturing some of the additional hybrid vigor needed to produce more durable and disease‑resistant rose varieties than we now have for planting in the several different rose‑growing areas of the continent. These violent first outcrosses could even mean the beginning of a new day in rose development.

The writer counted some 455 fragrant varieties among the 1429 listed. These included 28 H. Eglanteria, of which 75 percent were fragrant, as well as Chinas, Teas, Centifolia, Noisettes, H. Moschata, H. Macrantha, H. Spinosissima, and others. Among the listed varieties for which no fragrance was recorded, were some 270 specie varieties, 150 Ramblers, 85 Gallicas, 74 Moss, some 40 Teas and a goodly number of shrub roses.

3Lady Mary Fitzwilliam, by the writer, page 115, 1954 American Rose Annual.

Then, too, as brought out by the writer in Footnote 3, the bloodstream of the most highly prized and sought after Hybrid Tea varieties has already become narrow indeed. Over a third of the Hybrid Tea varieties whose parentage is listed in Modern Roses IV traces to one rose, Lady Mary Fitzwilliam.3

Livestock men have over the last hundred years had reason to know what too close breeding does to weaken animal strains and to open the way for the onset of reduced growth, fertility, disease resistance, and a lessened ability to efficiently convert feed into edible products for human consumption. Rose men are likewise well aware of the seeming increased susceptibility to blackspot which was introduced into the make‑up of garden roses some 35 years ago and the resulting curse it has been to rose home gardeners ever since.

COMPARING TABLES I AND II

A comparison of Tables I and II discloses that during the last ten years (1946 through 1955) the rose hybridizers of the world, represented by these 503 new Hybrid Tea varieties, markedly increased the percentage which possess some degree of fragrance and have done so largely by increasing the percentage of the slightly fragrant roses. They have also slightly increased the percentage of very fragrant varieties when compared to those produced before that time, as listed in Modern Roses IV.

During the last ten years there has also been a slight increase in the percentage of new Floribundas and Polyanthas that possess some fragrance. It would, however, seem so far that increasing the percentage of roses in each class that are very fragrant has been a tedious, dragging task, and the hybridizers concerned deserve great credit for what they have accomplished in this regard.

ROSE VARIETIES IN BUYERS GUIDE OF
THE AMERICAN ROSE SOCIETY

The Buyers Guide of the American Rose Society, issued each year, provides members with assistance in their selection of proved varieties for garden planting. Table III enables a comparison between the degree of fragrance in the rose varieties of the different classes contained in Modern Roses IV, and the fragrance possessed by the "New Roses of the World" listed in the American Rose Annuals of 1946 to 1955 inclusive, as shown in Tables I and II with the increased degree of fragrance of the varieties contained in the 1955 Guide for Buying Roses shown in Table III.

Table Ill discloses that the very fragrant Hybrid Tea varieties listed in the 1955 Buyers Guide are over five percent higher than those which have been introduced into commerce in this country during the last ten years. Likewise it was found that the Floribundas in the Buyers Guide that possess some degree of fragrance are over seven percent higher than those introduced since 1945. The further fact that of the 74 Hybrid Tea varieties preferred by color by the members of the American Rose Society 93.7 percent are fragrant, appears significant.

The information disclosed by Table III thus seems to show that over 15,000 members of the American Rose Society and the members of the affiliated area rose societies who also look to the Guide for the most promising rose varieties to buy, prefer and plant Hybrid Tea rose varieties that are fragrant. To say the least, fragrance in the rose varieties they buy is very much in demand by the rose gardeners of America. And this study should be of paramount interest to such.

Fortunately, also, the rose gardeners of America have free choice as to the rose varieties they buy, plant and tend. It furthermore appears significant that out of the thousands of rose varieties that are listed in Modern Roses IV, only some 240 are on the recommended list in the 1955 Guide for Buying Roses issued by the American Rose Society. Many of these preferred varieties, too, are not of recent origin but instead have been tried and proven over the past years by the rose gardeners of this country. Some 14.2 percent of the varieties listed in the Guide were produced before 1930; 24.5 percent from 1930 to 1939 inclusive; 50.8 percent from 1940 to 1950 inclusive; and but 10.5 percent since 1950.

Thus it appears that while many rose varieties are introduced, very few of them remain long as the preferences of the rose gardeners of America. It is also seen that the Guide for Buying Roses is of very great value to its members. Fortunately also, it is the rose gardeners of America who evaluate the new roses of the world as they come into commerce, for the particular growing conditions which prevail in the individual gardens in the different rose‑growing regions of North America. In view of the fact that most members of the American Rose Society are thus shown to prefer that the roses they grow be not only beautiful but very fragrant, it would seem desirable to many that the item for fragrance, deleted in 1936, be promptly returned to the rose score card of the American Rose Society.

While this study points up the demand of members of the American Rose Society for very fragrant roses, it also seems to point out two other things that need the attention of the leaders of our American Rose Society: (1) The number of varieties reported with but slight fragrance appears to be increasing, and (2) the very great need of a very much higher percentage of very fragrant varieties in all classes.

The writer pays full tribute to the late J. Horace McFarland for his foresight, courage and interest in making way for the advancement of the rose in America, by accumulating and publishing in alphabetic order the attributes of the important rose varieties of the world.

Tribute also is paid to Miss Sara Grimm, and more especially to Miss Catherine E. Meikle and the J. H. McFarland Company of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, who accumulated this essential rose information, variety by variety, and more recently published it in Modern Roses IV. This rose lexicon of theirs has enabled this and other essential studies of the rose flower to be made for the information of those who love and garden with roses in America, and to further the increased well‑being, uplift and pleasure of more of the 200 million people who live in North America.

WHERE ARE WE GOING?

To the writer the most startling disclosure of this study was the fact that comparatively few rose varieties are endowed with that pronounced and delightful fragrance which, over the years, has caused her to become known as the "Queen of Fragrant Flowers." Even among the Hybrid Teas which make up some 60 percent of the varieties counted and which are shown to lead all other rose classes in fragrance, less than 26 percent are very fragrant. Except in Hybrid Perpetuals, all other classes have a decidedly less percent of very fragrant varieties than do the Hybrid Teas, and but 18.5 percent of all varieties counted were very fragrant. Then, too, the 18.5 percent may be a maximum figure. By comparing the degree of fragrance in Hybrid Teas in Tables I and II it appears that the number of varieties reported as slightly fragrant during the last ten years has increased over twice as fast percentagewise as the very fragrant. This, notwithstanding the fact that no new varieties were reported as slightly fragrant in the 1955 American Rose Annual. The decided rise in those reported as only moderately fragrant the last ten years could include many varieties that are but slightly so.

Thus is pointed out the importance to the best future of the rose, of making her more universally very fragrant. Effecting this seems necessary in order to protect and to enhance her present standing as "Queen of Fragrant Flowers." For it was her delightfully fragrant varieties that promoted her ascension to this proud standing, and it is they, and they only, which will best continue to proclaim her "Queenship" in this regard to the world.

While it is true that a large percentage of Hybrid Tea varieties possess fragrance to some lesser degree, the fact remains that the reputation of this flower for perfume was not made by such, nor is it likely to be sustained by the production of new rose varieties that either lack fragrance altogether or have it so faintly that one has to sniff hard to discover the little of it they possess. Such new introductions will never permeate the homes, the gardens, or the public parks of America with the delightful fragrance of this flower nor supply the enchantment resulting from the fragrance released by very fragrant roses.

In this connection it also seems to this writer that the selection as the "Queen Roses" at rose shows, of varieties possessing no fragrance, should stop, as should also the awarding of certificates and medals by the American Rose Society to varieties which lack fragrance.

Thus, it appears to the writer that the seeming present trend toward an increase in the slightly fragrant varieties needs not only to be halted but reversed. If her high degree of fragrance is ever bred out of the rose or allowed to slip away, she will no longer rate as the "Queen of Fragrant Flowers," for her outstanding mark of freshness and her full appeal will have been lost.

In conclusion, the writer records full appreciation to the gifted rose hybridizers of the world who not only produced the very fragrant varieties that adorn our homes, our gardens, and our public parks, but in addition have supplied us with the rose fragrance information contained in Modern Roses IV which made this fact‑finding study possible. It is also appreciated when an otherwise nearly perfect rose is produced but which is sadly deficient in delightful fragrance, that none can possibly feel quite so badly as its creator.

It is also fully realized that our rose hybridizers are those on whom we must rely to sustain and to enhance the fame of this "Queen" by seeing to it that their new introductions are increasingly more delightfully fragrant.

TABLE I
ROSE VARIETIES IN MODERN ROSES IV

Rose
Class
Varieties
Counted*
Non-Fragrant Fragrant Degree of Fragrance
Number Percent Number Percent Slight Fragrant Very Fragrant
Hybrid Teas 3520+ 898 26.0 2622 74.0 14.0% 34.7% 25.3%
Hybrid Perpetuals 206 77 37.4 129 62.6 7.8% 33.9% 20.9%
Floribundas 253 83 32.8 170 67.2 32.0% 27.7% 7.5%
Polyanthas 315 188 60.0 127 40.0 22.2% 13.3% 4.5%
Large Flowered Climbers 149 67 45.0 82 55.0 16.1% 26.8% 12.1%
Rugosa 64 23 36.0 41 64.0 6.2% 28.1% 29.7%
All Other Classes 1429 974 68.0 455 32.0 7.2% 17.5% 7.3%
Total 5936 2310 38.9 3626 61.1

   *In making the counts shown in this study, the writer undoubtedly missed some inadvertently. It is believed, however, that had the few missed been included they would not have changed the results to any important degree.
   +This number of Hybrid Teas includes 175 color and 185 climbing sports of fragrant dwarf varieties not credited with fragrance in Modern Roses IV. According to genetics, with the exception of an occasional mutation, color and climbing sports of a fragrant dwarf variety have the same fragrance as the parent which sported them.
   The 1429 varieties in Other Classes include the some 300 specie varieties shown in Modern Roses IV. Some 30 of these have fragrance reported for them in this text. Many others are recorded as fragrant in other publications.

TABLE II
FRAGRANCE IN THE ROSES INTRODUCED DURING THE LAST TEN YEARS AS SHOWN BY
THE LISTS OF "NEW ROSES OF THE WORLD" PUBLISHED IN THE AMERICAN ROSE
ANNUALS OF 1946 TO 1955 INCLUSIVE
 

Number of Varieties and Degree of Fragrance

Rose
Class

Varieties
Counted

Non-Fragrant

Fragrant

Slight

Fragrant

Very Fragrant

Number

Percent

Number

Percent

Number

Percent

Number

Percent

Number

Percent

1. Hybrid Teas 503 42 8.4 461 91.6 105 20.9 225 44.7 131 26.0
2. Floribundas 164 43 26.2 121 73.8 52 31.7 57 34.8 12 7.3
3. Polyanthas 35 13 37.0 22 63.0 14 40.0 4 11.5 4 11.5
4. Large Flowered Climbers 27 5 18.6 22 81.4 4 14.8 14 51.8 4 14.8
5. All Others 62 16 25.8 46 74.2 20 32.3 18 29.0 8 12.9
Totals 791 119 15.0 672 85.0 195 24.8 318 40.1 159 av. 20.l

TABLE III

DISTRIBUTION AND DEGREE OF FRAGRANCE OF HYBRID TEAS AND FLORIBUNDA
CLASSES IN 1955 BUYERS GUIDE OF AMERICAN ROSE SOCIETY
 

Number of Varieties and Degree of Fragrance

Rose
Class

Varieties
Counted

Non-Fragrant

Fragrant

Slight

Fragrant

Very Fragrant

Number

Percent

Number

Percent

Number

Percent

Number

Percent

Number

Percent

1. Hybrid Teas 238 19 8.0 219 92.0 46 19.3 99 41.6 74 31.2
2. Floribundas 70 13 18.6 57 81.4 27 38.6 22 31.4 8 11.4
Totals and Averages 308 32 10.4 276 89.6 73 23.7 121   39.3 82 26.0
DISTRIBUTION AND DEGREE OF FRAGRANCE IN HIGH RATED HYBRID TEA AND 
FLORIBUNDA ROSES BY COLOR IN BUYERS GUIDE OF AMERICAN ROSE SOCIETY
3. Hybrid Teas 74 1 1.3 73 98.7 15 20.3 40 54.1 18 24.3
4. Floribundas 36 8 22.2 28 77.8 15 41.6 12 33.3 1 2.9
Totals and Averages 110 9 8.2 101 91.8 30 27.3 52 47.3 19 17.2