First up is ‘Madame Boll’, also known as ‘Comte de Chambord’ (see page 45), a warm-pink Portland rose introduced by French breeders Moreau-Robert in 1860. Its strong, delicious fragrance suggests its origins lie in the Damask roses, allegedly brought to Europe from Damascus by returning crusaders in the 13th century.
DNA analysis shows the Damask roses descend from the wild Rosa gallica (responsible for much of the old rose perfume), the musk-scented Rosa moschata and the branscented Rosa fedtschenkoana. Robert describes the scent of ‘Madame Boll’ as warm and heady, with a spiciness coming from the moschata and fedtschenkoana ancestors.
“If I had space for just three roses, I’d have to include a Damask because it is the rose used in perfumery and because of its history,” he says. “For fragrance, the quatre saisons rose [ R. x damascena var. semperflorens] with its clear-pink flowers is my number one rose. It is perhaps the oldest rose in cultivation and I like to think perhaps the one associated with Cleopatra. It has a more brilliant fragrance than ‘Comte de Chambord’ [ R. ‘ Madame Boll’] – intoxicating.” It repeat flowers too, so the fragrance can linger longer in your memory.