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What Do Roses Really Smell Of?

What Do Roses Really Smell Of?

There are seemingly limitless decisions to be made when choosing a rose for your garden. Here we break down the 6 fragrances and give you some examples of what to look for.

constance spry pink rose


This is a warm spicy fragrance with a touch of liquorice and aniseed. However, everyone experiences scents differently and some people think it smells like antiseptic! It’s mostly found in English roses, and particularly in the pink and peach coloured varieties like Constance Spry and Scepter’d Isle.


Roses are distantly related to apples, pears, strawberries, raspberries and apricots so it’s not surprising that some of them retain a fruity scent. Some people even detect notes of citrus, lychee and guava in roses. Fruit scents are present in many different colours of rose, including the varieties Jude the Obscure and Lady Emma Hamilton.

jude the obscure rose
the snow goose rose white


Humans are very sensitive to musk scents, and even a small amount will smell deeply fragrant to us. Musk is a very popular ingredient in perfumes, so these roses might smell like your favourite cologne! Rambler roses tend to have very prominent stamens (the part of the plant where this scent is produced) so often carry a strong musky fragrance - try Snow Goose or The Generous Gardener.

Old Rose

This is the classic scent of roses that will be immediately familiar to anyone who’s wandered around the grounds of a stately home or a botanical garden with old varieties of rose. It’s a scent found only in pink and red roses, such as Gertrude Jekyll and Harlow Carr.

gertrude jekyll pink rose
port sunlight orange rose

Tea Rose

This rose scent is named because it’s said to be similar to the smell of a freshly opened packet of China tea leaves. The scent in these roses tends to be very strong, fading over a few days to reveal other, softer notes. You’ll find this scent in yellow and apricot coloured roses, including Port Sunlight and Graham Thomas.

Return to The Complete Guide For Roses

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