|Complete with cut out 'V' on the leaf!|
This week marks my first anniversary in the new Bonkers Towers. It has been an eventful year, what between the hydra-headed woodworm, the broken windows and dodgy boiler, the lack of work for half the year and the sadly departed cat. But there has been much to celebrate too - some strides have been made on the decorating front, and I now have a collection of herbs in pots on the patio. The other thing I love about the garden is that you never know what is going to pop up next, though now that the year has come full circle it should have yielded up all its secrets. I have especially enjoyed the many varieties of rose that I inherited. Following our meeting in Brussels last August, I promised Victoria of Bois de Jasmin that I would devote a post to the roses in my garden, but I may have been distracted by Charlie Bonkers' illness around that time, and then the moment passed, the roses went over, and I forgot about it.
But this year the display has been so varied and colourful that I decided to photograph each one before it was too late. I also gave myself the challenge of sniffing them all in a bid to match any of their scents with a specific rose perfume in my collection. Or failing that, just to come up with my own take on what roses smell of in their natural habitat.
Before I set to it, a post on Bois de Jasmin entitled The Ultimate Rose Perfume
came to mind, in which guest writer Suzanna singles out two scents in particular as being 'true' replicas of roses:
"For its realistic interpretation of fresh roses, Creed’s Fleur de Thé Rose Bulgare has little competition. After a somewhat perfume-y and oddly “green” start, this one is unmatched rose verisimilitude with green tea over a gently salty ambergris and musk base. Now discontinued, or pulled from production, perhaps to return from the Creed vault at a later date.
Far less expensive – and even more streamlined – is the drugstore icon Tea Rose from The Perfumer’s Workshop. I’ve had a bottle in my wardrobe forever. Tea Rose smells of rose oil and little else."
I have tried the former, but have long since used up my decant. Even though my memory is hazy, I do recall it being a very fine rendition of an actual rose. Tea Rose, however, continues to elude me, with The Perfumer's Workshop being a US brand.
So...over the course of a few days I went about systematically sniffing all the roses in my garden and recording my thoughts. There were some surprises along the way as you will see. Oh, and I should point out that I have absolutely no clue what any of them are called, hence why I favoured a Gertrude Stein quote for the title of this post over..er...something like 'The Name of The Rose', say. Because in Stein's view, the essential identity or quiddity of the flower is in no way diminished by its lack of a name. As in avant-garde turn of the century poetry, so in my garden!
Okay, that's a complete cop out, but moving on...here is a summary of my main learning points:
Dark red roses don't smell at all!
Or at least my particular varieties don't, and they are a far cry from the hothouse flowers that are so often thrust in your face at the end of a nice meal in an Indian restaurant: 'Thornless, odourless, soon-to-be-lifeless rose for the lady?'
The above specimen is strangely reminiscent of a red cabbage in cross-section, wouldn't you say?
And here's a picture of the 'control', which was just as scent-free as its friend the other side of the garden. If you know of a scented red variety - and I have no doubt there must be some! - do tell!
Some pinks are more tasteful - and odiforous - than others
This pink and white number had a very faint scent, which doesn't really warrant any attempt on my part to describe it, however it scores points for variegation. This is the shade of pink that makes me think of the more unwearable end of the Rimmel lipstick spectrum. 'Get the London look!' urges Kate Moss, the face of Rimmel's ad campaign. Not unless I was going to a fancy dress party specifically themed around unflattering lipstick shades. Hmm, that might be fun, actually...
Peachy pink and yellow roses have the most beautiful smell of all
Though not OF peaches, I hasten to add. I am including in this category peach with red tips, peachy vermilion, peachy pink (like the one pictured at the top of the post) and peachy leaning to yellow. And the more tasteful shades of pink that aren't strictly peachy.
This one scores points for variegation too, but has the most incredible smell
. How to describe it? I am not sure I could do justice in words to the scent on its own, not least because the experience of smelling a rose is inextricably bound up with other senses - the visual appreciation of its colour and the caressing touch of its petals. And oddly, rose petals always feel cool to the nose, even on a hot day.
Okay, here goes...The scent itself is 'perfumey' - I know, I know, that is rather a lame descriptor, but it is! Tender. Delicate. Fresh. Honeyed, but never cloying. Soft and silky. Heady. Feminine. Happy. Pure. Yielding. No, it's no good - I give up!
But if you can think of other good adjectives, please do leave a comment with your suggestions.
And here is what I take to be the same variety again, blushing at my compliments about its delicious scent.
This one was so tall I couldn't actually reach up to sniff it, but I am willing to bet it would have smelt just as amazing!
The only rose in my garden which smells like a perfume I own is...
This yellow one! IUNX Eau Frappée
perfectly captures the scent of yellow roses crossed with lemon sorbet. It is astonishingly refreshing and lifelike.
When it comes to budding, some shapes are more...ahem...aesthetic than others
The above rose illustrates the epitome of a bud opening in a socially acceptable manner.
This rose, notwithstanding its magnificent scent, looks a little too Georgia O'Keeffe - or do I mean Tiny Tears? - for its own good.
Roses are an object lesson in 'blowsy'
When I was at school, we had a number of very strict school rules, including not wearing 'technicoloured underwear' with our uniform, not wearing stripy socks ('the mark of a harlot'), and not loitering outside the Astoria Picture House, where boys from the neighbouring school might attempt to 'wrest' our scarves from us. Which we took to be a euphemism. Additionally, although it was the era of Farah Fawcett curls and Carmen heated rollers, we were not allowed to 'titivate' our hair into 'blowsy styles'. Ever since, I have been drawn to a tousled rumpled look wherever it manifests itself - Alexa Chung's hair, slouchy socks, and roses of a certain age.
Working the blowsy look.
Blowsiest! Oh, okay, more dying than blowsy,
and it is a fine line. Which leads me neatly to the final part of my rose investigations, which was to see what happens to the scent as the petals finally shrivel up and go brown.
Over the course of a couple of days, I continued to resniff these dead petals at intervals - I know they look like the shocking pink variety higher up the post, which had next to no odour, but trust me, this isn't that one. Initially I would get whiffs of their normal scent interspersed with a musty, dried up smell, plus a hint of indoles, and over time the ratio of mustiness increased till the perfumey scent had totally disappeared. The petals never got horribly indolic at any point, though I repeated the same exercise with some magnolia petals I found on a tree in the next street and they were off the scale indolic-tangy-phantom ylang-ylangy! Quite disgusting in the finish.
So there you have it - one rose perfume identified, and a few general colour-scent correlations tentatively advanced - but any horticulturally minded readers are most welcome to shoot these down. And what better way to round this post off than with a picture of a rose (or two)!
Oh all right then, here's another one!