The 12 Most Fragrant and Fabulous David Austin Rose Bushes

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By Jill Brooke

When you breed over 900 varieties of roses, with the standard of excellence David Austin started and his family continues, it’s a Herculean task to pick the 12 most fragrant roses in your repertoire.

Back in the 1950s when roses were being bred for longevity at the expense of fragrance, David Austin debunked that trend and found ways to maintain that heavenly aroma which he knew people craved.

Now that one of the greatest rose breeders of the century has passed, David Austin Roses is still a family business run by his son David and grandson Richard.

The family – which has won over 25 Gold Medals at the Chelsea Flower Show – cultivates both rose bushes in their root form and also sells fabulous luxurious rose stems that are used for home decor as well as wedding and celebratory events. 

It is a rare feat indeed when your name is an adjective. A David Austin rose in any form stands for both quality and beauty. After all, it takes 120,000 variations and nine years of patience, dedication and expertise to select one new rose variety. 

Here is their list of the 12 most fragrant roses which we can’t wait to discover.

1. Boscobel

This rose has a delightful medium to strong myrrh fragrance with a hawthorn character and hints of elderflower, pear and almond.

Details: repeat-flowering, beautifully-formed flowers of a rich salmon color that changes over time to rich deep pink. Approximately 80 petals per flower. Glossy foliage. USDA Zones 5-9.

2. Claire Austin

This rose presents a strong myrrh fragrance with dashes of meadowsweet, vanilla and heliotrope.

Details: repeat-flowering, pleasingly cupped buds of a pale lemon shade, which gradually open to form large, creamy-white flowers. Approximately 120 petals. USDA Zones 5-8.

3. Gentle Hermione

This rose is strongly perfumed with a warm classic Old Rose scent and a hint of myrrh. The variety bears some of the most perfectly formed flowers of true Old Rose character. The color is pure pink with soft blush on the outside and a lovely pure pink at the center. It has excellent health and is particularly resistant to rain.

Details: excellent repeat-flowering, grows to 4’ tall x 3’ wide. Approximately 90 petals. USDA Zones 4-10.

4. Gertrude Jekyll

This rose has a powerful and beautifully rounded perfume considered by many to be the quintessential Old Rose fragrance: strong, rich, complex and perfectly balanced.

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Details: repeat-flowering, large rosette-shaped flowers in rich glowing pink. Approximately 80 petals. USDA Zones 4-8.

5. Golden Celebration

This rose is known for its magnificent Tea fragrance that changes to a wonderful fruity scent with hints of citrus or lychee.

Details: repeat-flowering, exceptionally large cupped flowers that are beautifully-formed and full-petaled, rich golden-yellow color, particularly good winter hardiness. Approximately 75 petals. USDA Zones 5-9.

6. Harlow Carr

This rose boasts a heady Old Rose scent that fits perfectly with its classic Old Rose form. The fragrance has been described as a “true rose” floral scent.

Details: repeat-flowering, perfectly-formed, medium-sized flowers of purest rose pink, performs well in both hotter and colder areas. Approximately 120 petals. USDA Zones 4-10.

7. Jubilee Celebration

This rose features a bold fruity fragrance. The scent of the young flower is almost pure lemon zest, later becoming a delicious fruity rose fragrance with hints of fresh lemon and raspberry.

Details: repeat-flowering, large domed flowers in rich pink tinged with gold on the petal undersides. Approximately 90 petals. USDA Zones 5-10. 

8. Lady Emma Hamilton

This rose has a fragrance that’s strong and deliciously fruity with hints of pear, grape and citrus. The scent perfectly complements the rose’s tangerine-orange and yellow coloring.

Details: repeat-flowering, best in drier conditions, cupped flowers in rich shades of orange, apricot and yellow. Approximately 45 petals. USDA Zones 5-9.

9. Munstead Wood

This rose features a strong Old Rose scent highlighted by warm, fruity notes of blackberry, blueberry and damson. It’s a classic rose perfume described by floral fragrance expert Robert Calkin as “a real red-rose fragrance.”

Details: repeat-flowering, large shallowly-cupped flower in deep velvety crimson. Approximately 74 petals. USDA Zones 5-10.

10. Princess Alexandra of Kent

This rose has a royal inspiration. It has a delightful fresh Tea fragrance that over time takes on a lemony-scent, ultimately with hints of black currant.

Details: repeat-flowering, unusually large flower with full-cupped shape and rich, warm glowing-pink coloration. Approximately 130 petals. USDA Zones 5-10.

11. Scepter’d Isle

This rose offers a distinctive, award-winning fragrance that can be described as powerful English myrrh.

Details: repeat-flowering, cupped flowers in soft blush pink, winner of Royal National Rose Society’s Henry Edland Award for fragrance. Approximately 45 petals. USDA Zones 4-10.

12. The Generous Gardener

This rose is known for an award-winning fragrance that’s a delicious mix of Old Rose, musk and myrrh. When trained as a climbing rose, its scent hangs beautifully in the air.

Details: repeat-flowering, large flowers reminiscent of water lilies in palest pink. Approximately 55 petals. USDA Zones 4-9.

Nurseries around the world leaf through David Austin catalogs the way others read mystery novels. What will be the new rose for our “plot” of land? You can also order from the company directly – David Austin – or ask your nursery to order a rose that speaks to you.

What Meryl Streep is to acting is what David Austin is to roses.

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Photo credits: all images courtesy of David Austin Roses

Jill Brooke is a former CNN correspondent, Post columnist and editor-in-chief of Avenue and Travel Savvy magazine. She is an author and the editorial director of FPD.