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Roses-Experts Pick Favorites

Anne Jaeger

“The Subject was Roses”

The smell of a rose is heaven scent. Mike Donahue has known this since he was a little boy growing up among the roses on a farm outside Albany.   Today the veteran anchor and reporter at KOIN local 6 News says the deep essence of his favorite rose reminds him of a “good smelling woman”, which by the way, coincides with the fact that he first planted Mister Lincoln (a velvety dark red and fragrant Tea rose) when Mike got married a quarter century ago.  Donahue’s appreciation for both love and roses has only deepened over the years. It doesn’t take long to figure out neither is enjoyed as much at arms length. Fragrance is a very “hands on” affair.

The most fragrant rose in history is said to be a 6 footer named “Madame Isaac Pereire”.  This intense magenta/raspberry-purple social climber was originally called “Blessing of the Bower” until another Frenchman bought it and renamed his “blessing” after the bankers wife!  Louise Clements of Heirloom Roses in St. Paul says Madame’s perfume will knock you over.   The smell is described as “old rose mixed with ripening fruit” which at first blush doesn’t sound very appealing to me.  But then again, smell is a very personal thing.   Louise Clements took a class on smelling roses while in France.    Now, this might not seem like a tough job until you realize your sniffer gives out after about the third whiff.  So the French perfume industry came up with a very satisfactory olfactory solution.  The experts smell a rose for :45,  savor the smell, then sniff fresh coffee beans before moving on to the next flower.  Heirloom Roses now has an entire garden room where every single old rose is fragrant.  I mean, that’s sorta what old roses are known for and the very reason modern or hybrid roses get a bad rap.  It’s not unusual for some snooty rose people to turn up their noses at hybrids or visa versa.  And here’s why:  while rose breeders pushed for the biggest and brightest, the scent became hybrid history.  Some roses have no smell at all, but the trend is head the other direction. Phil Edmunds former owner of Edmunds’ roses considers the sweet intensity of “New Zealand” the best of the new breed.    This light pink hybrid tea rose has an iron constitution able to fight off the worst of the rose diseases (black spot and powdery mildew) without chemical sprays.  So keep these tips in mind next time you’re shopping for THE best rose for you.


A Visual Aide to Fragrant Roses

Mike Donahue’s Favorites

‘Mister Lincoln’

Dark Red

Petals: 35 per flower.

5-7’ tall

(May need fungicide spray for mildew.)


‘Fragrant Cloud’

Orange Red

Petals: 25 per flower.

4’ tall


‘New Zealand’

Light Pink

4’ tall

Petals: 35 per flower.

Very Disease Resistant


Louise Clements


‘Mme Issac Pereire’

Dark Pink

6’ tall

Petals: Too many to count.

Virus Free

(May need fungicide spray for Blackspot & mildew)