Dozens of Wonderful Fragrant Roses

A close up of a flower

Description automatically generated

When you see a rose, what’s likely the first thing 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 doesn’t 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.

A pink flower on a plant

Description automatically generated

Fragrance in flowers is associated with the attraction of pollinating insects so the genetic triggers for releasing fragrance are associated with the time of day and environmental conditions when pollinators are active. Substances detected primarily by human smell are generally those that are 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 that have intense fragrance, from the strawberry ice cream colored garden favorite ‘Double Delight’ to the wonderfully lemony floribunda ‘Sunsprite’; the velvety purple ‘Wild Blue Yonder’ to the sunset colors of ‘Sheila’s Perfume’. The American Rose Society Awards Committee can give the James Alexander Gamble Award to outstanding, very fragrant roses. Only 23 roses have been given this honor since the awards  inception in 1961 with the latest award going to the dusky red hybrid tea ‘Firefighter’ in 2017.

Listed below are a couple dozen wonderfully fragrant roses; don’t forget to stop and smell the roses!

 Name Type Color ARS Rating Year Introduced
Sombreuil Climbing Tea White 8.7 1850
Celsiana Damask Light pink 8.6 <1817
Celestial Alba Light pink 8.5 <1810
Buff Beauty Hybrid Musk Apricot blend 8.4 1939
Erfurt Hybrid Musk Pink blend 8.4 1939
New Dawn Large-Flowered Climber Light pink 8.4 1930
Nymphenburg Hybrid Musk Orange pink 8.4 1954
Sweet Chariot Miniature Mauve 8.4 1984
Compassion Large-Flowered Climber Orange pink 8.3 1972
Double Delight* Hybrid Tea Red blend 8.3 1977
Europeana Floribunda Dark red 8.3 1958
Mary Rose Shrub Medium pink 8.3 1983
Mr. Lincoln* Hybrid Tea Dark red 8.3 1964
Sunsprite* Floribunda Deep Yellow 8.3 1977
Fragrant Cloud* Hybrid Tea Orange red 8.1 1967
Margaret Merrill Floribunda White 8.1 1977
Sheila’s Perfume Floribunda Yellow blend 8.1 1982
Tiffany* Hybrid Tea Pink blend 8.0 1954
Granada* Hybrid Tea Red blend 7.9 1963
Papa Meilland* Hybrid Tea Dark red 7.9 1963
Wild Blue Yonder* Grandiflora Mauve 7.9 2004
Firefighter* Hybrid Tea Dark red 7.8 2004
Angel Face* Floribunda Mauve 7.7 1968
Falling in Love* Hybrid Tea Pink blend 7.6 2006

* Awarded the James Alexander Gamble Award for Fragrance

By Nanette Londeree, Master Rosarian
Roses from top left: ‘Double Delight’, ‘Wild Blue Yonder’, ‘Falling in Love’; photos by the author
Updated December 2019

Scroll to Top