Rediscovering the Fragrance of Garden Roses: Unveiling the Scented Secrets of Roses
Long before the incredible diversity of rose varieties we enjoy today, roses were known for their single layer of petals, beautiful green foliage, and captivating fragrance. For centuries, their enchanting scent has inspired artists and poets alike. Roses and other scented flowers owe their aroma to volatile oils—compounds that quickly evaporate when exposed to air and sunlight. The captivating fragrance of roses is a result of a gene that triggers the production of monoterpene geraniol, a chemical found in the petals. However, the scent of roses has changed over time due to breeding practices that prioritise other traits over fragrance.
Photo credit: David Austin Roses
Why Some Roses Are Fragrant While Others Are Not:
Roses produce scents primarily to attract pollinators, aiding in the important process of pollination. The intensity of a rose's fragrance can vary depending on factors such as the time of day and the age of the bloom. Some roses possess a stronger scent due to higher concentrations of aromatic chemicals and naturally occurring essential oils found in glands on the undersides of the petals. While the stamen also contributes to the scent, it is predominantly the petals where the fragrance is derived.
The Dwindling Fragrance:
In the pursuit of specific traits such as size, disease resistance, and vibrant colours, rose breeders have inadvertently compromised the fragrance of certain varieties. Commercially grown roses often prioritise durability for transportation and longevity in a vase, leading to a decrease in fragrance. Moreover, breeding for disease resistance has further diminished the scent of roses. This trade-off has raised the question of whether the sacrifice is worthwhile.
Preserving and Identifying Fragrant Roses:
To restore the fragrance of roses, breeders are striving to combine the best of both worlds—reintroducing the wild-rose scent and hardiness while maintaining the beauty and resistance of modern varieties. When choosing a fragrant rose, consider indicators such as the number of petals, as more petals often correlate with a stronger scent. Additionally, darker roses tend to have an increased perfume, and different colours can offer varying fragrance profiles. For instance, red and pink roses generally have a traditional rose smell, while white and yellow roses may exude spicy, licorice, or citrus notes. The scent of roses can also vary depending on factors such as the time of day, age of the bloom, and environmental conditions.
The Science of Rose Scent:
Researchers have made strides in understanding the biochemical pathways responsible for rose scents. A key enzyme called RhNUDX1 plays a vital role in producing the sweet fragrance of roses. By re-introducing this enzyme into modern varieties that have lost their scent due to intensive breeding, it may be possible to enhance their fragrance once again. The discovery of new biochemical pathways and the manipulation of genes may offer potential avenues for breeding roses with both visual appeal and delightful scents.
Rediscovering Fragrance at The Real Flower Company:
At Daily Flower Market, we share a passion for cultivating exquisitely scented garden roses that preserve their natural fragrance. With meticulous curation and cultivation, we have assembled an unrivalled selection of scented cut roses. Our roses not only boast exquisite beauty but also offer a diverse range of scents, thanks to the presence of scent genes that have been preserved. Experience the pleasure of aromatic roses by choosing from our collection.
While some roses have lost their fragrance due to breeding practices and commercial considerations, efforts are underway to restore the captivating scents of these beloved flowers. By understanding the genetic mechanisms and biochemical pathways involved in rose scent production, breeders can work towards creating roses that are visually stunning and fragrant. As we appreciate the artistry of rose breeding, we invite you to explore the world of fragrant roses, where beauty and scent intertwine, bringing joy to gardens and bouquets alike.