A rose by any other name would smell as sweet… or would it? Here you’ll find the most fragrant for your garden.

Roses can offer fragrances as rich and exotic as any perfume counter – fruity or spicy, headily exotic or cucumber cool. With the help of leading perfumer and rose expert Robert Calkin, we chose a mixture of shrub rose, easy-care varieties to grow among other flowers in the border, and climbers you can train up a wall, round the door… wherever you’ll enjoy their delicious fragrance. All will put up with harsh winters and hot summers – never mind their delicate looks, roses are tough. Nice of them will flower for months at a time as long as you remember to dead-head them, but we couldn’t resist one gorgeous old rose that flowers only once – gloriously!

1.    Graham Thomas

Description: Graham Thomas

Graham Thomas

Magnificent large climber

Many yellow and apricot roses offer a soft, smoky tea scent – think Lapsang Souchong rather than PG Tips. ‘Graham Thomas’ has one of the best fragrances, as does ‘Climbing Lady Hillingdon’ (15ft) – which offers luxuriant foliage and masses of yellow blooms all summer.

2.    Stanwell perpetual

Description: Stanwell perpetual

Stanwell perpetual

Good for wildlife

This lovely old Burnet variety (5ft x 5ft) has all the grace of a hedgerow rose, but flowers through summer and autumn, well into December. The scent, reminiscent of rose geranium leaves, is the perfect match for the delicate, shell-pink blooms and pretty grey-green foliage. This rose also thrives in the poorest of soils.

3.    Gertrude Jekyll

Description: Gertrude Jekyll

Gertrude Jekyll

Superb all-rounder

Reliable, free-flowering and powerfully scented, ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ (main picture and below) is gorgeous both in bud and in full bloom. If you have room for only one rose, make it this one. Makes a medium shrub (4.5ft x 3.5ft) or short climber (6-8ft).

4.    Climbing etoile de hollande

Description: Climbing etoile de hollande

Climbing etoile de hollande

Best crimson climber

A velvety crimson rose should have a sensuous, sultry scent to match – but most are disappointingly feeble. Three cheers, then, for the curiously masculine fragrance of this ravishing climber (18ft): deep, rich and spicy, with a hint of cedar wood.

5.    Zephirine drouhin

Description: Zephirine drouhin

Zephirine drouhin

Classic climber

An ideal candidate for a shady north wall, this thornless climber (12ft) can be a martyr to black spot, but is worth the trouble for its incomparable sweet, fruity fragrance.

6.    Scepter’disle

Description: Scepter’disle


Sweet border rose

This small (4ft x 3ft), pink-cupped shrub rose has a strong, sweet, slightly aniseed fragrance that is reminiscent of sweet cicely

7.    Buff beauty

Description: Buff beauty

Buff beauty

Pervasive perfume

No other rose fills a garden like ‘Buff Beauty’ – a blend of musk and old rose, with a dash of tea and a hint of violet. Makes a large bush (5ft round) or small climber (8-10ft).

8.    Madame legras de st germain

Description: Madame legras de st germain

Madame legras de st germain

Exquisite old rose

With curtain of perfectly formed, silky white blooms delivering pure olfactory bliss, who cares if Madame Legras’ (8-10ft) season of glory is relatively brief? To ask for more would simple be greedy. Train the thornless, pliable stems over an arbour, and for three rapturous weeks you’ll be in scented heaven.

9.    Jude the obsvure

Description: Jude the obsvure

Jude the obsvure

Large-flowered English rose

Huge, full, apricot-yellow flowers evoke a luscious fruit cocktail of mango, lychee and guave. A disease-resistant, sturdy English rose (3.5ft x 4ft) that likes drier conditions.

10.  Quarter Saisons

Description: Quarter Saisons

Quarter Saisons

Historic shrub

Closely related to roses grown in the Eastern Mediterranean for attar of roses (rose oil), this historic damask variety (5ft x 5ft) has a sumptuous, spicy, old-rose fragrance. Used by the ancients to honour Venus, it has never been surpassed. Rose expert Robert always says, if sunshine had a smell, this would be it!

Plant now!

Container-grown roses can be planted at any time of year. Choose a spot where they’ll enjoy at least a few hours of sun each day, enrich the soil with compost and a handful of general fertiliser, water generously, and mulch. Keep watering throughout the first season – once established, roses are very little trouble, but it’s worth getting them off to a good start.

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