Many flowers this season lack fragrance, and I take this to be a reflection of the dismal gray chilly weather earlier in the spring.
You may have wondered, as I have, why anybody would grow roses that have no scent. No gardener can grow even a fifth of the world's marvelous roses, even if he has acres, so it has always seemed odd to grow roses that don't smell.
I do grow two or three that are worthless for perfume, however, but then they are superlative in other qualities. The China roses have no scent, despite the assertion that they do, and it is the great defect of both the old red 'Bengal' and the 'Pink Daily' (the red and pink forms that are very near the wild China). Euqlly worthless in this respect is the one called 'Mutabilis,' and yet no other roses equal these three in steady production of flowers through the year.
I also grow 'Violette,' which has no scent, but only because its color is so rare in roses. It is a deep red-black violet when it opens, turning to purple within a day. It is a rambler that will occupy 20 feet or so on a fence, and it is thornless except near the base of the long stems. That is something to think of, especially if you intend to prune out the old growths every year.
Some rose growers dislike violet in roses. I have heard terrible things said about 'Veilchenblau,' a violet rambler paler than 'Violette.' The thing that upsets its detractors most is the little white stripe on the petals, and the somewhat shaky (I admit) transformations of color in this variety.
If it is simply the general washiness that bothers them, the strong decided purple of 'Violette' should please them better. But if they simply dislike purples, they should of course avoid them.
I have noticed it makes a difference where any rose is grown and how it is grown. A popular rose in Washington is 'Joseph's Coat' and it can be very beautiful or fairly terrible.
As I once grew it, it was rich and brilliant in its red and yellow flowers.
As I later grew it, it was never better than a distressing sludge-color. And yet it was the same plant, moved from one garden to another.
It has been pointed out before, I think, that there is no public rose garden of any consequence in the capital, where new gardeners could go to see something of the grand riches of roses in general. I suspect, in my black heart, that this is due not only to the general indifference to the common welfare that is so often apparent in the town (as in the condition of the streets with potholes, dead city trees left standing for two years, etc.) but also to the well-known wickedness of rose nurseymen who doubtless fear a revolt among gardeners, if the vast beauty of roses were generally known.
There is nothing peculiarly wrong with the 'Blaze," say, which is a crimson-scarlet smallish flower that (in good strains) repeats its bloom fairly well. It has no perfume to speak of, and it does not make a particularly graceful plant, and it can be attacked by black spot, but it is not a bad rose. g
It would be harder to sell it, though, if it were judged in comparison with say 200 other climbing roses in a field, or in a garden, where all varieties were given the same culture. Gardeners would notice the number of other roses far lovelier.
Not it goes without saying that some gardeners would always chose it, possibly because its somewhat moderate beauty presents no danger of overwhelming anybody. Gardeners, like others, are sometimes uneasy in the presence of glory.
Any along a country road it does very well. I have seen it with wild blackberries and sassafras and so on looking quite festive.
It's distinctly strange, all the same, to see 'Blaze' everywhere and to rarely see its betters. If somebody wanted a rich red climbing rose, I think it is unarguable that 'Guinee,' the climbing sorts of 'Etoile de Hollande,' 'Crimson Glory,' 'Chateau de Clos de Vougeot,' 'Christopher Stone,' 'World's Fair,' are almost infinitely more beautiful, and the same is true of such other red climbers as 'Kassel,' 'Dortmund' and the like.
I can only conclude that 'Blaze' is less trouble (and therefore more profitable) in the nursery.
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden, in one of its publications, recommended 'Blaze' or 'Paul's Scarlet' above all other red climbing roses, and someone asked me to explain that for them.
But there is no need to explain such things. Possibly the fellow invented 'Blaze,' or possibly he had some harmless quirk by which he saw beauty there, in a vision denied ordinary mortals. Or possibly he simply knew nothing of roses -- a possibility always to be kept in mind when reading about roses.
I dare any nursery to grow 25 varieties of red climbing roses, including 'Blaze,' and tally votes from visitors. I can tell you 'Blaze' is not going to win such an event, no more than the average ward heeler is going to outrank George Washington in general esteem.
And yet, just as indifferent talents can rise to conspicuous positions among humans, so can indifferent roses.
It may be thought wrong -- a dangerous sign of elitism -- to observe that 'Paul's Scarlet' or 'Blaze' are substantially inferior to many other red roses in beauty. But then I have always expected to be among the first to go, come the revolution, when one rose is thought as good as another, and when the main emphasis will not be on roses anyway.
It's easy to be tolerant on subjects that do not interest you, of course, and this is one reason for the triumphant march of 'Blaze.' If I didn't like red roses, probably I'd like 'Blaze' as well as anyone.
And for many people (it is said, though I do not believe it and never will) all they want is a blob of red. Even if that were true (and I assure you the other roses mentioned make equal blobs of red) there is still the question of those few millions who would prefer the more gorgeous roses if they had ever heard of them or knew where to buy them.
We come, then, to the truth. The day is passing, or passed, in which nurserymen sold what they knew to be the most beautiful things.
They sell what people will buy, and people buy what they find for sale. It takes only a slight deflection of good judgment, at the beginning of this spiral, for a situation to exist in which 'Blaze' is all that will sell, and all that there is to buy.
That restriction of choice is the evil thing, not 'Blaze.' The action of the marketplace can restrict freedom, certainly for gardeners in their toddling days, as much as any political fiat.
It's funny, in a macabre way, that a nation that so prides itself on freedom, and which spends a lot of energy rhapsodizing about it, offers such little practical alternative to the new gardener who goes shopping around for red climbing roses.
A country so theoretically committed to diversity is almost utterly standardized to 'Blaze." A capital that in theory sets to much store by "education" and "know-how," and general public enlightenment, does not even have a public garden where people can judge roses for themselves. Not that that seems to bother anybody.
To make the point, which clever readers have begun to suspect: Of all the red climbing roses mentioned today, 'Blaze' least deserves a place in the Washington garden.