As we walked through the Alnwick Garden’s rose garden one morning last week, the moist air was filled with the most splendid fragrance.
It was not one instantly identifiable fruity aroma – like, say, citrus, raspberry, plum or suchlike that the catalogues use so freely – but a blend of all that is good about summer.
It’s been a similar story walking down the lane at eventide, the mock orange, honeysuckle and roses offering a blend of scents not experienced any other time of year.
And any keen gardener can create a similar environment.
Embrace the favourites, of course, but consider adding an element of other plant groups to broaden the experience.
Roses have to be at the heart of any such quest because they offer a stunning range of perfume. No wonder one of the leading firms, David Austin, calls on the services of a professional perfumer to describe the differences.
I recently came upon an instantly recognisable old hybrid tea rose which has not changed over the years.
Ena Harkness is crimson-scarlet and has large blooms with beautiful form, but a weak neck, and so drops her head.
You have to cup the flower in your hand and lift it up to inhale the sweet aroma.
Other timeless hybrid tea favourites that are a joy to savour are Alec’s Red, Fragrant Cloud, Josephine Bruce, Madame Louis Laperriere and Admiral Rodney.
But these are not the only old roses that continue to entertain in such a way.
The Bourbon group has several stars.
Boule de Neige (ball of snow) has been around since 1867 yet remains a popular cottage garden choice. It appears happiest in association with other plants. Two in our garden grow up through beech and privet hedges respectively and are in full bloom at present.
Madame Isaac Pereire has double, deep carmine blooms and dates from 1881.
It’s a lovely piece of living history, but you need supports to keep it upright. There are some notable shrub roses that have a heady scent.
Blanc Double de Coubert is still sought after despite its late 19th century introduction, and Frau Dagmar Hartopp offers large hips, as well as shell pink flowers.
Rosaraie de L’Hay is a similar beauty. And you must consider the centifolia rose Fantin la Tour. The colour illustrations and descriptions in the David Austin catalogue A Handbook of Roses, to be found online at www.davidaustinroses.com, bring them all to life.
There you can find fragrance galore, not least from his creations Gertrude Jekyll, James Galway, Brother Cadfael, Teasing Georgia et al.