Learning to ‘stop and smell the roses’

As the garden comes up to its 25th Anniversary the Gallica roses have come into their full glory. The Cloister Garden was planted by the garden’s first Director of Operations Graham Rankin who chose to complement this beautiful historical house with the oldest of all garden roses: Rosa gallica ‘Officinalis’, or the Apothecary’s Rose. Grown by the Greeks and Romans, archeologists have discovered rose fossils dating back 35 million years and whilst we may have a way to go to reach that antiquity, 25 years is a milestone worth celebrating! These low branching shrub roses have a beautiful old rose scent and will be covered in hips in Autumn, as long as we allow the petals to fall rather than deadheading. But, beware, these medieval plants naturally sucker, as we found out last November whilst digging out the creeping roots that had worked their way deep along the old walls. We pruned out the old wood and tidied the shrubs to prevent them forming small thickets.

The old rose fragrance is only at its peak for two or three weeks in June and has a much purer scent than many modern cultivars. The more that roses are hybridised the more mixed the scents become. It’s a little bit like mixing colour, where two colours may look beautiful, but three or four create mud brown! And, according to perfumers we each have an optimum time of day when our sense of smell is heightened, we just have to work out when that is. It’s a good idea to try smelling the roses with our eyes shut until we can recognise the classic old rose note. Having just returned from a week’s work experience @BodnantGardenNT where the terraces are in full bloom, I was lucky enough to be there at the best time of year to take advantage of the sights and smells displayed there and was able to put my smelling skills into practice. I could hear people chatting about the sheer joy that fragrance brings and have come back to Aberglasney knowing that the same can be said here.

If you spot a gardener with their head buried in a mass of flowers, it’s likely to be me, making the most of the season, taking the time to ‘stop and smell the roses’!

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