The Most Fragrant Rose in Portland

The Young Lycidas smells better than it looks.

The Young Lycidas smells better than it looks.

airstreamA rose is a rose is a rose. Unless you are at the Portland International Rose Test Gardens, where every rose is a thing to behold unto itself.

I’m in Portland all week while my eldest son is at Zoo Camp, so I’m taking the time to do a little traveling by nose.

What is traveling by nose you ask? Well, just seeking out the sensual travel experiences that incorporate smelling. It’s a great way to really focus on what you’re doing when you have just a little time to travel.

My first task was to find the most fragrant rose at the International Rose Test Gardens. Now before you go sniffing every bloom in the place (though I recommend that, too), know that the “most fragrant” has already been designated by the American Garden Rose Selections. According to that group, the most fragrant rose in the test gardens is located in section C1 and is the Young Lycidas.

These roses were named after the short poem “Lycidas” by Milton.  They bloom in clusters or alone and tend to droop a bit.

Good luck finding C1, by the way! Not only is it difficult to find in the garden, there is the problem of the roses I met on the way to the Young Lycidas.

In the meantime, I might have gotten a little distracted by some other roses.

057 062 066 073 075 076 080 082 089 097 102Now that you’ve thoroughly geeked out on roses, back to business. The Young Lycidas is actually in the miniature rose testing section. You can find its row by finding this sign.

110Then, I looked for the flowers themselves, which are full and round, large and deeply cupped. Their petals don’t seem to be arranged in any particular order. Kind of like chaos in a little ball.

Indeed, they are not the most beautiful roses in the bunch — but would you expect any different? The world of smells is so divorced from the world of visual beauty. Rank things can smell beautiful, beautiful things can smell awful. You have to go through the world inhaling it all to find out.

Hold on, I’m almost there!

092This is what always happens to me. The closer I get to a goal the more profound my conviction that I’ll never reach it. That last 10%. But then, when I was sure that I’d never ever find the smelliest rose in the garden and of course it doesn’t even matter because yes, they all smell and each is its own and why even pick the most fragrant, I found the Young Lycidas.

The Young Lycidas smells better than it looks.

The Young Lycidas smells better than it looks.

Except that the first one doesn’t even smell that good. Kind of stinky, actually. Like old roses that haven’t been dried properly. And then I smelled the next one and there is only the fairest hint of fragrance. And I started to wonder about these people, these rose people, like what is UP with their sniffers?

But then I happened upon the one that was blooming at the height of its scent. It hasn’t quite opened yet but is no longer in its tight little bud.

So we learn the only rule about the fragrance of the Young Lycidas. It changes right under your nose.

There is a delicious fragrance that changes markedly with the age of the flower; starting as a pure Tea scent and changing to a blend of Tea and Old Rose, with intriguing hints of cedar wood.– David Austin Roses

But isn’t that how real beauty works? Temporal, passing, catch it while it is there and die a little inside when it goes away.

2 thoughts on “The Most Fragrant Rose in Portland

  1. sasokisoaps says:

    Lovely! I wrote a poem along those lines a year or two ago – excerpt here for you – (feel free to delete) – Sarah x

    petal by petal,
    sensual bliss
    – one fleeting peak –
    and then
    each scented pastel fragment
    flags and falls,
    a memory
    – the past –
    – the future –


  2. Emily Grosvenor says:

    Well thank you for sharing this! I’m definitely finding that I love rose more and more as I get older, but the real roses, and the Bulgarian and Turkish Rose essential oils. Fake rose is icky. It’s great to be at the garden in Portland and see so many roses in so many states of blooming and decaying. It’s a far better representation of life than the florist’s, isn’t it!?


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