Saturday 14 December 2019

Everything's coming up roses: Enjoy this lovely bloom

Probably the most famous plant worldwide, this beauty comes in an almost endless array of colours and perfumes.

Dermot O'Neill

Everyone can enjoy the pleasure of growing these exquisite flowers. The joy of seeing your first roses in bloom is always memorable.

There are hundreds of rose varieties available and, each year, breeders bring new varieties on the market.

I have loved roses from the day I started gardening as a youngster and I remember them in my own grandmother's garden.

They also grew in my mother's garden. They seemed to be everywhere – old-fashioned, hybrid tea varieties.

In 2006, I was fortunate to travel to America promoting my rose book, alongside the Irish Garden Plant Society, by lecturing in different states.

This gave me an opportunity to meet people who also enjoyed the beauty of roses. Roses give a joy all over the world and their scent is appreciated everywhere.

This is a selection of six of my favourite scented roses.

From my years of experience, these stand out from others for several reasons, but most especially their scent.

Irish rose breeder David Kenny recently bred a new rose and has named it after me – a great honour. I am extremely pleased that the profits raised from the sales of this rose will go to the Irish Cancer Society.

Currently, the rose is being built up by Irish rose growers around the country so that they will have stock for your local garden centre when it's released later in the year.


I have always loved growing roses and over a long period of time I have been fortunate enough to find and grow some very special varieties. Out of the thousands of roses available, it's always marvellous to find something special that stands out.

When I came across the rose 'Harry Edland', I was delighted with its wonderful colour, its strong growth and magnificent fragrance. This is a floribunda which produces its flowers in clusters – large lilac/mauve/pink.

The fragrance is exceptionally rich and sweet and – if planted in a sunny spot in good quality, well-drained soil – you'll find the fragrance will travel through your garden. It also makes a wonderful cut flower. This rose should be better known. It was produced in 1978 by Harkness, one of the UK's leading rose breeders.


If ever a rose lived up to its name, it is this one. Bred in the 1960s, today it is regarded as a great classic. My mother and grandmother both grew it, and I can remember it from my childhood.

Only recently I came across it again. The moment I inhaled its sweet fragrance I was transported back in time.

It's amazing how powerful a reminder a fragrance can be. The scent was so magical, I decided there and then that this was a 'must-have' rose that I hope I'll never again be without.

Since its introduction, 'Fragrant Cloud' has continued to win top rose awards all over the world including, in 1970, the Alexander Gamble Rose Fragrance Award and, in 1981, the World's Favourite Rose Award, as chosen by popular vote in the member countries of the World Federation of Rose Societies, and announced at World Rose Conventions.

These awards are testimony to its continuing popularity. The flowers are an unusual vermilion-red colour.


This award-winning rose created great excitement when it took centre stage in the world of roses. Hailed as the first near-blue rose, it captured the collective imagination and was voted 'Rose of the Year' in 2003 by a global panel of experts.

On top of this, 'Rhapsody in Blue' has received numerous awards for its exceptional fragrance, which are fruit-notes of peaches, lemon and honey.

I wasn't sure I'd like a blue rose but on my first encounter with it I was surprised.

Its colour is extremely pleasing and easy to use in the garden, and I imagine it's a flower-arranger's delight because it's so different to all the other roses we grow.

Renowned plantswoman Helen Dillon grows it to visual perfection in her Dublin garden, in combination with Salvia 'Purple Reign'.

To sum up, I think it's fair to say that this isn't just a novelty rose but rather one that's quickly establishing itself as a first-class garden plant. I recommend you try it.


This is all a rose should be and is regarded by many leading experts as the world's greatest crimson rose.

It has to be one of the most sumptuous roses you can grow. You may wonder why it's not in our 'Best Red Rose' section, well, let me tell you it also has a powerful fragrance – opulent, penetrating and sweet – to match the richness of its colour.

The buds are exquisitely and perfectly pointed and the flowers open to velvet crimson blooms with recurved petals.

These flowers are very large and always appear one-per-stem, which makes them perfect as cut flowers.

I've tried growing 'Papa Meilland' in Ireland, but it prefers warmer conditions, so I've thought of growing it in a conservatory.

That would give it the protection it needs and shelter from our wet winters, but the main reason for having it in a conservatory would be to capture its penetrating, sugary sweet fragrance and be able to enjoy it at close quarters.


This climbing rose is not widely available but it's worth seeking it out.

I understand that it can be ordered from Peter Beales' back catalogue and from Roseraie de Berty in France.

Its fragrance is above and beyond that of many roses and reminds me of opening a box of rose-flavoured Turkish delight on Christmas morning – a delicious fruity perfume, rich and intoxicating, powerful, heady and sweet.

I first bought 'Sénégal' from a nursery in the south of France and have now grown it on a low fence for many years.

It flowers here throughout the summer, giving an especially good flush in June.

It's one of the deepest red climbing roses I grow, with blossoms of a deep purple-red, the colour of a great Bordeaux wine.

As the buds open, the colour brings to mind the richness of purple plums covered in powdery bloom.

There's a moment every year when I find myself falling in love with 'Sénégal' all over again and it's just as the first flowers begin to open and the new growth is still fresh.

Then the leaves are the colour of stewed rhubarb and when the sunlight catches them they glow.


This wonderful old climbing rose was a great favourite of the writer and gardener Vita Sackville-West who is famous for her garden at Sissinghurst in Kent.

It's a rose you'll always find in the very best of gardens, but it's not one I would recommend for a beginner.

However, treat it like a prima donna and it will reward you with an exceptional performance – a display of incomparable, darkly rich, velvet-textured wine-red roses which, in some lights, verge on black.

Their scent is strong, sweet and complex. I sometimes detect spicy notes blended with vanilla.

But fail to look after this rose and it will sulk and not produce flowers at all.

I saw a great example of it growing at Jim Reynold's rose garden in Butterstream, Trim, Co Meath.

It was grown on the shaded side of a grey stone wall, the colour of which made the flowers stand out like rubies.

It trailed over an archway leading from one part of the garden to another.

I remember thinking what a super choice of position this was, as every visitor was able to have a close encounter with its blossoms and enthralling scent as they walked through the garden.

Roses by Dermot O'Neill is published by Kyle Books, priced €10. Photography by Sarah Cuttle

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