Delightfully Scented Foliage

I was walking through cemetery in another state a few years ago, it was Autumn and I collected a hip from a large rose growing near a very old marker I assumed it was probably some kind of old garden rose due to the age of the cemetery. The two seedlings that grew from those hips did not bloom the first year, but did grow QUICKLY, LARGE, and THORNY. They bloomed this year, their third year. The blossoms were unremarkable, typical wild rose look, small, with five pink petals. I had decided to cull them. That was, until I started noticing a very pleasant scent coming from somewhere in the garden. At first I couldn’t detect the source of it, but finally discovered it was from the foliage of the two mystery seedlings. It is a luscious green apple scent that at times can be detected from yards away, even if the foliage is not disturbed. If they weren’t so large and thorny, I’d grow these roses for their scent alone. Some research has led me to believe they are probably Eglantine (Rosa rubiginosa). I’d sure like to have something with that scent, only in a more manageable size. Any suggestions?

You’re likely correct about the identity of the rose. There are further hybrids of it with some of its scent, but they are also pretty much not “garden worthy” for the average modern garden due to their large plant sizes, architecture and once flowering habit, unless you need their extra cold resistance and your season is short enough to make their flowering period coincide with the major portion of when you should expect roses to flower. I’ve not encountered anything smaller, more manageable, with that apple scented foliage. Even with the Fedtschenkoana hybrids, I’ve found the scent “morphing” very much from one generation to the next, taking on other scent elements and, often by the third and fourth generation, completely disappearing. There are OGRs with highly scented new growth tips, sepals and peduncles, with repeat bloom and more controlled sizes, but none I’ve found with the apple scented growth.

Thanks for the information, Kim. If I can keep hacking away at one of these and keep it within reasonable boundaries, I may still hang on to it for a while. It is such a refreshing scent, and I can sometimes smell it as much as 50 feet away, when working in my vegetable garden. I think that is why it took me so long to discover where it was coming from.
Thanks Again,

You’re welcome, Tom. I grew Eglantine in a five gallon can beside my condo door for a few years in Chatsworth, CA. I had to water it twice daily and it developed into a tall pillar (with CONSTANT trimming) and flowered well each spring. I enjoyed precisely the same perfumed air when conditions were right, you mention. That’s why I had it there. When I finally had somewhere to plant it, the plant suffered too much mildew and spider mite difficulties so it went to another garden. The scent is lovely and it would be marvelous if we could get that on a more “modern garden suitable” plant. Perhaps Golden Angel X Eglantine might produce something useful? Just a thought. I have Golden Angel if cuttings are needed. No, thank you, I don’t need/want/have room for Eglantine!

I think it has been settled that the leaf fragrance is inherited through the female line, but not through the pollen.

Now, I wonder whether anyone has tried pollinating the sweet brier by some Mini, either diploid or tetraploid.

Thanks Kim and Karl,
I may take one of them out and leave one. I may try hitting the other with pollen from Golden Angel or some other miniature in the spring. Then give them all the “nose test” and cull any that showed signs of becoming monsters. I have at least one plant where the scented foliage MAY have come from Dad. Unnamed Ugly Tea Seedling x Apothecary resulted in Unremarkable Apothecary with larger flowers. However, it does seem to maintain some of the, difficult for me to describe, coniferous scent that I get from young growth, buds, etc. on Apothecary. Thanks so much for your input. I will have a long Indian winter to ponder some of this and make plans.

Karl wrote: “I think it has been settled that the leaf fragrance is inherited through the female line, but not through the pollen.”

I don’t think it’s that cut and dry, Karl. My own results show pollen can carry foliage scent, too, depending upon what it’s mated with. I had little success with Fedtschenkoana using it for seed with other pollens, but its pollen worked with Orangeade, creating Oadefed 'OADEFED' Rose , both of whose seedlings have nicely scented foliage. The DLFED seedlings (Dottie Louise X Fedtschenkoana) all carry scented foliage. Of course, they vary in the intensity of the scents, but they are all sufficiently scented to be enjoyed. L56-1 X Grandmother’s Hat generated scented foliage and new growth shoots, from well scented to almost imperceptible, but there is scent to the same parts to some of them. L56-1 X Crestline Mulberry (probably La Reine) also resulted in some scented foliage and a “wonderful” level of rust, which is why all but the most rust resistant seedling have been culled.

I should have specified that the leaf fragrance of the Sweet Brier is transmitted through the seeds, but not (so far as I know) through the pollen. It’s that weird Caninae meiosis at work. The “fragrant leaf genes” are apparently on one or more of the chromosomes that pass to the ova, but not to the pollen.

Rosa foetida is reported to have sweetly scented foliage. I didn’t know about this the last time I saw one, so I didn’t sniff it. If this is true, then there is a fair possibility that the pollen of ‘Lady Penzance’ would carry some “fragrant leaf genes”.

Has anyone raised OP from ‘Lady Penzance’? I’d be interested to know whether and how the scent is modified from the original Sweet Brier.

Thanks for the clarification, Karl. The Foetida hybrids do have varying degrees of foliage scent. It’s something I have paid particular attention to for thirty-plus years. Foetida foliage, to me, smells like Juicy Fruit Gum tastes and I’ve found varying levels of that scent in its hybrids, including some of the Pernetiana types. I’ve not raised selfs from them, but I have planted self seeds from the various Fed. and Hugonis, Minutifolia and Puzzlement seedlings this year just to see “what if?”. I would also be interested learning how the Penzance hybrid selfs varied as to scent types and levels. With Fed., they quickly morph from the “Nobel fir with hardwood smoke” to other “evergreen” scents…pine, spruce, cedar, etc. Grandmother’s Hat and Gloire des Rosomanes possess the “sweet, peppery cedar” type new growth, peduncle and sepal scent.