• Meenal Harankhedkar, Director of Horticulture

Botanist's Lens: Stop and Smell the Heirloom Roses

Especially the eternally divine heirlooms, the Gallicas and the Damasks.


Heirloom roses with carpenter shop in the background

Modern roses are plentiful to choose from when it comes to color and shape, but when it comes to fragrance, they aren't even close in comparison to the old world charms. Longevity of the petals, repeat blooms throughout spring and summer and bold colors seem to be the key for hybrid's success.


Also, increased shelf life for transit from grower to a florist's refrigerator and then to the customers coffee table are key. But have you ever smelled the roses you buy at the florist? They surely don't fit the quote "Stop and smell the roses," rather they seem to fit "Most bang for your buck."


A rose isn't a true rose if it doesn't have its soul: its eternal fragrance. Old world charms - heirloom roses as they are referred to - aren't ample in the trade, but they are certainly available for sale with specific growers.


Two deeply fragrant old world charms growing at London Town, amongst the many modern hybrid roses ar, Rosa gallica var. officinalis and the Rosa damascena that have been around for thousands of years.


Rosa gallica var. offcinallis

Rosa gallica var. offcinallis "R. gallica var. officinalis is also known as the apothecary rose. The oldest of old garden roses it appears in the ancestry of most other roses". Check out the following for a comprehensive list of varieties: http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/id/id118/id118.pdf

Rosa x damascena

Rosa x damascena

"Rosa × damascena is a cultivated flower that is no longer found growing wild. Its origin was by tradition the Middle East, but recent genetic tests indicate that it is a hybrid of R. moschata x R. gallica". Source


David Austin Roses at London Town Using roses in the garden is easy, based on your priority of fragrance, color, repeat blooms, size, climbing or dwarf habit. There are ample to choose from. In fact, you can even find roses suited to grow in large planters. But if you want a mix of all, then I would suggest growing David Austin roses. They might be expensive, but that's a rose in a garden you would certainly stop and admire.



Dwarf roses at London Town

But there truly isn't a match to heirloom roses. It is not only their fragrance, but they are also more disease resistant, prolific in blooms (even though some have single bloom period), carefree and some can even take the shade. The Greeks, Romans, Persians and Egyptians all grew the heirloom roses and extensively used them for their aromatic essential oils.

One breath of a wild rose is deeply soulful to certainly make you stop and smell the roses. Heirloom roses fragrance will take you back in time and see nature as it was mean to be before the hybridizing industry took over and changed the rose forever.




Grow the ReLeaf Fund

Recently, London Town launched the ReLeaf Fund. This newly created fund was inspired by the cycle of renewal in our gardens. Donations to it will ensure that London Town will grow again. Funds will be matched up to $35,000! Learn more and donate today!


839 Londontown Road, Edgewater, MD 21037          410-222-1919         londontown@historiclondontown.org

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