The Most Fragrant Garden Roses

Many new English shrub roses have both beauty and fragrance!

New roses are being bred with intoxicating fragrance once more, bringing a winning marriage of old-fashioned fragrance and new-rose vigor. Rose fragrances vary a lot, so scents come with lots of pleasing descriptors, such as citrusy, fruity, musky, spicy, and sweet, among others. Here, I have hand-picked newer roses for both their effortless beauty and first-class fragrance, while adding a few beautiful antiques along the way.

New fragrant roses are rooted in the past. Many storied antique roses are the parents of today’s most aromatic new varieties. They are the originals grown for perfumery and flavoring. Those who garden for fragrance can’t be without one or two of these classics, which fill the garden with romance.

Historic Fragrant Roses

The old Bourbon climbing rose ‘Zephirine Drouhin’ has few to no thorns and an outstanding fragrance.

Bourbon roses are old French hybrids of China roses that have unmatched spicy, fruity fragrances. Most are voluptuous doubles that are still grown today (hybridization records go back a couple hundred years or more). They tolerate heat and drought once established and perform well in the South. One that is still popular is the nearly thornless climber ‘Zephirine Drouhin‘ with large, double, deep-pink blooms all summer but does require spraying to stave off fungal diseases. Its flowers have a sweet, fruity fragrance. Plant it along a pergola trellis for summerlong enjoyment. (Click here to see more Bourbons for sale.)

The highly scented Gallica roses were the first to be cultivated in Europe.

The highly fragrant Gallica roses (Rosa gallica hybrids) were the earliest European roses in cultivation. The spreading shrubs originated from central and southern Europe, and many heirloom varieties still exist. One of the oldest is the semi-double, rose-pink Apothecary’s rose or red rose of Lancaster (R. gallica ‘Officinalis’, Zones 4-11, 4 x 4 feet), which has been valued for its traditional wild-rose scent and beauty since Medieval times, possibly earlier. The 1860 Gallica heirloom ‘Reine des Violettes‘ is another heirloom worth growing that has fragrant, fully double flowers of rose-purple. Expect lots of bees to visit the flowers.

Fragrant musk roses are believed to originate from the Himalayas. (Image by Dinesh Valke)

The Asian Musk Rose (Rosa moschata, Zones 6-10, 6-12 feet) has famously fragrant roses with an intense musky scent. The large shrub rose has single-white blooms and attractive grey-green foliage. They bloom once in a season towards late spring or early summer. Bees love them!

Musk and Gallica roses were crossed to produce the powerfully fragrant Damask Rose (Rosa × damascena, Zones 5-11), which is still the predominant rose scent that you will find in perfumery, rose oil, and rose water production. Many old forms are still sold. The double, pink damask ‘La Ville de Bruxelles‘ (Zones 5-11, 5 x 4 feet) from 1849 is one to try. It only blooms once in a season, but its spectacular fruity-scented flowers are divine.

New Fragrant Roses

Pink and Apricot Fragrant Roses

Boscobel has gorgeous coral-pink flowers with a strong, complex fragrance.

Gabriel Oak English shrub rose (Zones 4-11, 4 x 4 feet) has dense, double roses of deepest rose-pink with the strongest fruity fragrance imaginable, according to David Austin Roses. Its flowers are so intensely pink that they are almost magenta.

Boscobel English shrub rose (Zones 5-11, 4 x 4 feet) is an effortless bloomer that has big, coral-pink roses that are fully double and wonderfully scented. David Austin Roses describes them as having a “myrrh fragrance” with “delicious hints of hawthorn, elderflower, pear, and almond.”

Over The Edge (Zones 5-9, 4 x 3 feet) is new in 2022! The Jackson & Perkins floribunda rose introduction has big double blooms of apricot with a dark-pink edge. Each flower has a fruity, spicy, strong scent that will waft through the garden. Its fantastic beauty and high disease resistance have put this all-around winner on my list of must-grow roses.

Red Fragrant Roses

‘Munstead Wood’ has flowers with a strong fruity scent.

The deepest red, cupped, double flowers of ‘Munstead Wood‘ (Zones 5-10, 5-6 feet) English shrub rose have a pungent, antique-rose scent with fruity notes of blackberry, blueberry, and damson plum. The 2007 introduction blooms continuously and commemorates the garden designer Gertrude Jekyll’s home in Surrey, England.

Firefighter® (Zones 5-10, 5-6 feet) is a 2009 introduction whose initial proceeds went to help victims of 9-11 through the “Remember Me” fund. It’s a real beauty of a long-stemmed, velvet red, hybrid tea rose that’s vigorous, disease-resistant, and reblooming. The highly fragrant flowers have a classic rose scent, and the stems have few thorns, which makes them a delight for cutting.

Yellow Fragrant Roses

Ch-Ching is an award-winning yellow rose with outstanding fragrance.

David Austin Roses gives ‘Charles Darwin‘ English shrub rose (Zones 5-11, 4.5 x 4 feet) the best rating for fragrance. The dense, double, yellow blooms (140 petals/bloom) are cupped. The fragrance is “strong, delicious and varying between soft floral tea and pure lemon.” The repeat bloomer is also ideal for cutting.

The citrus-scented ‘Radiant Perfume‘ (Zones 5-10, 5-4 feet) is a long-stemmed Grandiflora rose with big, double blooms of lemon yellow. It flowers continuously and is highly disease resistant. The Jackson & Perkins introduction looks so good, I am hooked and plan to grow one this season!

Ch-Ching!™ (Zones 5-10, 6 x 5 feet) is an everblooming shrub rose with spectacular large, double, golden-yellow flowers that have a strong, sweet rose scent. The 2007 AARS winner is a must-have in the fragrant rose garden.

White Fragrant Roses

Pope John Paul II Hybrid Tea Rose is award-winning and has an exceptional citrus fragrance. (Image by T.Kiya)

The old rugosa rose, ‘Blanc Double de Coubert‘ (Zones 4-9, 4 x 7 feet), is an 1892 heirloom with clear white, semi-double, fragrant roses that are produced all summer long. Later in the season, it bears huge red hips that look pretty and attract birds.

The hybrid tea rose Pope John Paul II (Zones 5-9, 4 x 5 feet) has large, fully double roses of ivory that smell strongly of fresh citrus. The award winner gets top marks for floral form, disease resistance, and performance. It is an excellent variety for cutting.

Planting New Roses

Plant roses in the spring. Full sun is required for most of them to grow and bloom to their fullest. They prefer fertile soil with a slightly acid pH of 6.5 and good drainage. If your garden has poor drainage and fertility, then it’s a good idea to amend it by evenly working Fafard Premium Natural & Organic Compost or Topsoil into the existing soil before planting. Because good drainage is required, some gardeners choose to build soils up and berm them to facilitate better drainage when planting roses. After planting, be sure to keep your plants lightly moist and fertilized as needed. One of the best all-natural fertilizers for newly-planted roses is alfalfa meal (3-1-2).

For an excellent overview of how to plant and site shrubs, click here. To learn how to grow roses with no fuss, click here.

Bayberry for Landscapes and Candle Making

Bayberry for Landscapes and Candle Making Featured Image
Bayberries are tough, shore-side shrubs with the most fragrant, waxy berries. Bayberry for Landscapes and Candle Making (Image by Jessie Keith)

When we visit Cape Henlopen, Delaware along the Atlantic coast in fall, I always enjoy plucking a few waxy bayberries to rub between my fingers on the way to the beach. Their warm, familiar scent quickly fills the air. My children like the aroma, too, and it’s no wonder. Bayberries have been a staple of American candle and scent making since colonial times and earlier. But, they offer even more; utility, resilience, and adaptability, make these tough, native shrubs perfect for shore-side and inland landscapes.

Bayberries (Myrica spp.) have other unique attributes that give them a shore-side edge. They tolerate salt, moist soil, set deep roots, and grow well in sand or clay. Most importantly, they are able to convert atmospheric nitrogen into soil-bound nitrogen, like plants in the pea family (legumes). That means that they fertilize themselves and plants around them. (Click here to learn more about other garden plants that feed the soil naturally.) The berries also feed native birds, such as Carolina wrens, through winter.

Good Bayberries for Gardens

Northern bayberry
Northern bayberry loses its leaves in winter, but has attractive dense foliage in the growing months.

Before planting bayberries, it is important to understand that they are dioecious, meaning that some shrubs and male flowers and others have female flowers. That means that a male and female are needed in the landscape for fruitset.

Northern bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica, Zone 3-8) is a deciduous shrub that produces some of the finest smelling bayberries. It tends to become quite a large shrub reaching 5-12 feet, but there are a number of varieties that stay much smaller. Southern Bayberry (Myrica caroliniensis, Zones 6-10) the evergreen is similar in most traits other than foliage but is far less available at plant nurseries.

Bobbee™ (Myrica pensylvanica ‘Bobzam’) is a female variety that reaches 4-6 feet and bears copious waxy fruits on stems lined with deep green leaves.

Silver Sprite™ (Myrica pensylvanica ‘Morton’):  A compact female that has grey-green foliage, bears many fall fruits that are excellent for candle making, and has dense branching, and a tidy broad-oval habit. Mature specimens can reach 4 to 5 feet high and 6 to 7 feet wide. Plant it with Male Silver Sprite™ (Myrica pensylvanica ‘Morton Male’), which has the same habit but produces make flowers. The leaves of both turn deep purple in fall.  

Wax myrtle
Wax myrtle is evergreen and female plants produce lots of fragrant berries. (David J. Stang)

Wax Myrtle (Myrica cerifera, Zones 6-10) evergreen foliage makes this Oceanside bayberry great for home landscapes. In the wild, it commonly dots the dunes and beaches from New Jersey down to Florida. Uncultivated specimens can form small trees reaching 10-15 feet, but there are plenty of dwarf varieties well suited to home landscapes. The small, tidy ‘Don’s Dwarf‘ (3 feet), with its blue-green fruits and olive-green leaves is one of the best and most widely available.

Planting and Care

These adaptable shrubs will tolerate excess moisture and drought once established. At planting time it helps to feed the soil with a quality amendment, such as Fafard Topsoil. (Click here to read more about how to site and plant trees.)

Prune large specimens liberally, as needed, after flowering or fruitset. Compact varieties only need light pruning and shaping early in the season. August and September are often the best months to collect berries for harvest. If you have them in your landscape, be sure to leave a few for the birds.

DIY Homemade Bayberry Candles

The waxy berries of Myrica cerifera and M. pensylvanica
The waxy berries of Myrica cerifera and M. pensylvanica are copious and covered with fragrant wax nodules.


  • 4 cups bayberries
  • 5 cups of water
  • Saucepan (just for candlemaking)
  • Cotton wick
  • Clothes Pin and Popsicle Stick (see below)
  • Metal Washer
  • Two 8 oz canning jars
  • 8 oz. Beeswax
  • Label
  • Pyrex bowl
  • Disposable chopstick or bamboo skewer

It takes approximately 4 cups of bayberries to yield 1 cup of wax. Start by picking mature bayberries; they should be fragrant, blue-gray, and waxy. This recipe will make two 8 oz. candles for gifting.

Place the bayberries in the saucepan, cover with water, bring it to a boil, and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and allow it to cool. Once fully cool, the wax will harden and can be removed by hand from the pan. Be sure to remove any stray berries. The wax should be olive-green and fragrant. Your saucepan will smell of it forever, which is why we recommend purchasing an inexpensive saucepan just for candle making.

Fragrant bayberry wax is generally mixed with other natural wax, such as sweet-smelling beeswax, to make candles. Place the bayberry wax in a Pyrex bowl (preferably with a spout) along with the beeswax. Place it over a saucepan of water, double-boiler style, and bring it to a low boil until the wax has melted. Mix the waxes together with the wooden chopstick.

Tie the wick to the washer and dip it in the wax to prime the wick. Center the wash at the bottom of the candle and use the clothes pin to hold the wick at the center of the jar. Then slowly pour the melted wax in, being sure to leave 1/2 inch of headspace at the top. Repeat with the second jar.

Label your candles, secure their lids, and you are done!

Homemade candle with clothespin to keep the wick centred
When making any candle be sure to prime and center the wick. A clothespin lengthened with a popsicle stick glued to the base works well. Trim your wick once the wax has hardened.

Fantastic Fragrant Garden Flowers

Paeonia lactiflora 'Sarah Bernhardt'
Peony ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ is an old-fashioned pastel pink bloomer with a heady sweet fragrance. (Photo by Jessie Keith)

By the end of winter, gardeners long for the sweet scents of flowers.  Some of us take solace in cut flowers from the florist or supermarket while thumbing plant catalogs and indulging in flowery daydreams.  Convert those daydreams to reality by planning a few fragrant garden flowers to your beds, borders and containers.

Scents of Early Spring

'White Pearl' Hyacinth
The ultra-fragrant ‘White Pearl’ is an exceptional hyacinth for the spring garden. (Photo by Jessie Keith)

Daffodils (Narcissus spp.) are the essence of spring and some varieties are delectably fragrant.  ‘Campernelle’ is one of them, a multi-flowered yellow species narcissus that blooms early and gracefully.  Towards the end of the daffodil season, luxurious ‘Rose of May’, a double-flowered white bloomer, lives up to its name, exuding a sweet scent.

The legendary courtesan, Madame Pompadour, loved hyacinths (Hyacinthus orientalis) and nearly three centuries later, they still carry the fragrance banner into mid-spring, with stocky heads of highly scented florets in an array of Easter egg colors.  At about the same time, intensely fragrant lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis) scent shaded places with their unique “Muguet des bois” aroma, long a favorite of perfume makers.  If you already grow lily-of-the-valley, dig up a budded clump, pot it up with some Fafard Natural and Organic Potting Soil and enjoy the fragrance indoors while the flowers last.  Afterward, return the clump to the garden.

Late Spring Fragrance

Deep purple blooms of sweet pea 'Cupani'
The deep purple blooms of sweet pea ‘Cupani’ offer spicy fragrance from late spring through summer. (Photo by Jessie Keith)

In pots or trained against walls or trellises, old-fashioned annual sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus) send out a ravishing scent.  The maroon and purple Cupani types are among the most fragrant, but all varieties please the nose while tantalizing the eye with delicate orchid-like flowers.  Get a jump on the season by starting sweet pea seeds indoors in trays or cell packs filled with Fafard Natural and Organic Seed Starter.

By late spring, fragrant garden peonies (Paeonia lactiflora) command center stage, with tall stems, handsome dissected leaves, and big, bountiful flowers.  Older varieties, like the rose-pink double, ‘Sarah Bernhardt’, offer winning fragrance and make excellent cut flowers as well.  Well-tended peony plants will live for decades in the garden.

Summer Scent Extravaganza

Sweet scents abound in summer.  Biennial stocks (Matthiola incana) are sun lovers that grow one to three feet tall and bear colorful, dense clusters of spice-scented flowers.  Carnations (Dianthus caryophyllus) echo that clove fragrance, with familiar ruffled flowers in single and bi-colored combinations of reds, whites, yellows, pinks, and purples.  Both stocks and carnations can be grown from seed started indoors eight to 12 weeks before the last frost date, but are also available from nurseries in starter packs.
Standing tall at the back of the early summer border, nothing perfumes the air like Oriental lilies (Lilium spp.).  Hybridized from several different Asian lily species, Orientals grow three to four feet high and may require staking.  The effort is worth it to support the enormous scented trumpets that are borne in profusion on mature plants.  Freckled pink ‘Stargazer’ and pristine white ‘Casa Blanca’ are among the best-known Oriental lilies.

Evening Stars

Nicotiana 'Domino White' (DOMINO SERIES)
The Nicotiana alata hybrid ‘Domino White’ scents the air on summer nights.

Fragrant night-blooming plants open their petals in the evening hours to attract pollinators.  One of the best is flowering tobacco (Nicotiana alata), which bears long tubular flowers that flare into white or yellow-green trumpets.  Look for the fragrant species form, rather than unscented hybrids, and plant near seating areas or paths where evening visitors can enjoy them.

Fall Scents

Fragrance is harder to find as the growing season winds down, but plants that provide it are worth seeking out.  Perfume shady spots with cimicifuga, sometimes known as black cohosh or bugbane (Actaea racemosa).  Rising four to six feet tall, Cimicifuga bears elegant, deeply dissected foliage.  Sweet-smelling white flowerheads, each one bearing scores of tiny fragrant blooms, wave high above the leaves in the early fall.
Dahlias are great garden and cutting flowers, but are not known for fragrance.  It pays to plant the few that combine beauty and 'Honka' dahliascent.  ‘Honka’ is one.  Thriving in sunny spots, the single flowers sport eight narrow yellow petals apiece.  The combination of beauty, scent, and hardiness won ‘Honka’ the Royal Horticultural Society’s coveted Award of Garden Merit.

Location is Everything

Position fragrant flowering plants strategically throughout the garden and combine them with a selection of shrubs, trees and foliage plants that also exude distinctive scents.  Even weeding seems easier when the fragrance of flowers hangs in the air.

Many Dianthus are highly fragrant. (Photo by Jessie Keith)
Many Dianthus are highly fragrant. (Photo by Jessie Keith)