Gardener, rose expert and the author of several books on roses, Stephen Scanniello has had a hand in creating some of the world’s most famous rose gardens, including the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden at the New York Botanical Garden and the Elizabeth Park Conservancy in West Hartford, Connecticut. Here, he shares a bit of the long and colorful history of roses.
When did roses first come to be associated with love and romance?
Throughout history, and as far back as the Middle Ages, roses have been a symbol of love, of secrecy, and of honesty. Roses were prominent in communicating many different things. It’s the really wonderful fragrance that puts it at the top of the list for romance. And they were also an ingredient in sex and love potions that were used way back in time. Nowadays, such a “rose potion” might come in the form of body fragrances or lotions aimed at a “feminine” audience. You don’t see roses in many men’s products, although there was a rose in the thirties that was named for [actor, vaudeville performer, and humorist] Will Rogers, and they refer to it as a “real man’s rose.”
Why do you think that is—does it smell different from other roses?
I don’t know, I think they probably ran out of ideas. [Laughs] It’s a beautiful rose. I mean, it’s hard as hell to grow, but it’s one of those black-red roses.
What are some other famous roses in history?
There’s one rose called the Rosa Mundi, and it was named for Fair Rosamund, traditionally known as Fair Rosamund’s Rose, which then got shortened to Rosamund, and now it’s Rosa Mundi. She was the mistress of King Henry II of England, and the legend is that when she was poisoned by the Queen and subsequently buried, this rose appeared on her grave, smelling wonderful. Another old romantic story revolves around the Sombreuil—technically, it’s called Mademoiselle de Sombreuil—and it was named for a woman who saved her father’s life from the guillotine by drinking a goblet of his blood. It’s a pure white rose.
Then there was Empress Josephine. At her gardens in Château de Malmaison, outside of Paris, she grew lots and lots of roses, and many of them were sent to her from England with rather stuffy names, like the Rosa Alba Incarnata. She was not into this scientific approach, so she changed the names of many of these roses, and this one became the Cuisse de Nymphe Emue, which means “the blushing sigh of an aroused nymph.”
Given the ubiquity of roses and the tens of thousands of varieties found around the world today, what would you consider the rarest rose?
A truly rare rose? I have one in bloom right now. In the Elizabeth Park greenhouses, I have two roses from two plants of the same variety in full bloom, and it’s a rose that was discovered in Bermuda on a property called Belfield. Bermuda was once the crossroads area of everybody going east, west, north, south, and a lot of plants they left behind acclimated. There are quite a few roses in this collection of pass-along plantings whose origins are unknown. They didn’t come with name tags attached to them, but they’re great roses, perfect for drought and heat.
This particular Belfield rose is rather simple—it has maybe eight or nine petals, it blooms wide open, and is not your classic cut-flower rose. But it doesn’t stop blooming if it’s the right climate (and that climate, for us, would be in a greenhouse). We think it actually had its origins in China and made its way to Bermuda, and eventually to England and France with the tea trade. This red rose was called, back then, Slater’s Crimson China. We can’t exactly say that what we have from Bermuda is that rose—it looks a lot like it—but the only thing we have to compare to it are botanical drawings of the original, which died off and was lost to commerce, once bigger and better came along. So we think that what we have is one of those roses, and if this particular rose is Slater’s Crimson China, it’s the great-grandaddy of every red rose in the world. All of the Valentine’s Day red roses in the world can be traced back to this flower.
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The Italian writer and thinker Umberto Eco, when explaining how he came up with the title of his beloved novel The Name of the Rose, wrote that he chose it “because the rose is a symbolic figure so rich in meanings that by now it has hardly any meanin
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Ginger is beloved by many for its peppery scent, clean taste, and wide-ranging health benefits. Lesser known is its couszingiber zerumbet), a tropical plant with reddish, pine cone–like forms that contain a fragrant gel that’s more likely to show up in a sh
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Royalty rarely inspires ambivalence. Therefore, durian—a large, greenish-brown food that’s commonly referred to as the “
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While many businesses, in the midst of the climate crisis, scramble to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, the New Yospoke with us about in 2019). Recently, the company ventured into the fragrance realm with Air Eau de Parfum, a unisex, limited-edition concotion pulled quite literally out of thin air.
Perhaps each of us has a Proustian trigger: a sensation that suddenly uncovers a memory buried in time, and by meeting o
In 2017, Carolina Prioglio and Adrien de Bontin took over management of a farm in Burgundy that’s nestled in the rollingMaison/Made, which they launched in 2019. It’s one of the first beauty brands to achieve Biodynamic certification, an accolade awar
Around the 1500s, tanners settled in Grasse, a sun-soaked hillside town above the French Riviera, to produce leather. Th
A solitary island nation marooned between the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans, Iceland is known for its extraordinary naturalÚtilykt, released earlier this fall.
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In 2015, former cheesemonger and self-proclaimed cheese evangelist Erika Kubick founded Cheese Sex Death, a blog and online resource for all things related to the fermented dairy product that has been revered for thousands oPlate magazine. What started as a Google search turned into a deep dive into the domain of pressed curds and milk, and Kubick
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This London Studio Draws on Smell-O-Vision as a Tool for Promoting Social and Environmental Advocacy
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As the overpopulated, multibillion-dollar fragrance industry introduces hundreds of scents every year, choosing one that4160 Tuesdays, and Samantha Scriven, who runs a blog called iscentyouaday, lend their encyclopedic knowledge of aromatic liquids to their upcoming book, The Perfume Companion: The Definitive Guide to Choosing Your Next Scent (Frances Lincoln), out next week on Kindle and in hardcover on November 9. Fluent in the science behind the olfactory sy
Michael Hingson was in his office at the data-protection agency Quantum on the 78th floor of the World Trade Center’s Tower One when hethud of the first airplane hitting the building, 15 floors above. Hingson, who has been blind since birth due to an eye diso
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Tasked with transitioning electric vehicles from niche to the norm, automotive designers are confronted with a singular vroom of an engine accelerating—which details will drivers long for if left out in future models?
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The Nihon Shoki, one of the oldest written records of Japanese history, traces the origins of incense in the nation to a single log of Ha Ko, a brand that offers delicate, leaf-shaped incense made from Japanese washi paper.
The two-year-old experimental radio website Poolsuite deftly mixes AOL-era computer graphics with disco-driven beats, channeling the cool optimism of the 1980s. Now, just inVacation, a new line of sun-care products and a corresponding perfume.
Drawing on the West Coast’s fresh atmosphere and spirit, Louis Vuitton’s ongoing Cologne Perfumes collection conjures upoud, a heady essence derived from agarwood trees.)
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Among the many olfactory ways to de-stress—sniffing a bundle of lavender, lighting a scented candle, taking a breath of Functional Fragrance with notes that soothe the mind, such as green cardamom, cilantro, and violet. Ninety-six percent of users the company
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Catherine Haley Epstein, author of Nose Dive: A Book For The Curious Seeking Potential Through Their Noses, is an artist and curator who specializes in scent and the ways our brains register it. Last year, with olfactory histoOdorbet, an ever-growing online database of terms they collect from various sources to describe smells. It also includes invent Why should we describe smells in nuanced, specific ways?
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Covering everything from a detective story by Edgar Allan Poe to the role that scent plays in racism, the new book The Smell of Risk: Olfactory Aesthetics and Atmospheric Disparities (NYU Press) investigates how, over the past 200 years, writers, artists, and activists have used smell in their work to
In the last decade, the rise of modest, product-focused scent brands has debunked the notion that the fragrance industryFanny Bal, who based her creation on the aromatic sap from the lentisc tree that grows on the Greek island of Chios, and senior sDomitille Michalon-Bertier, who designed her fragrance around the Inhotim Museum, an outdoor art center located in a Brazilian forest. Perfumer Delphine Lebeau recently learned about the Japanese pastry mochi, and used a trio of musks to embody the treat’s soft, mellow profile. The resulting 11 fragrances were unveiled at a viavailable for purchase in the U.S. on the website Luckyscent—providing a nose around what makes these master craftspeople tick.
Headquartered in Grenoble, a city in southeastern France, the six-year-old start-up Aryballe has a singular, if not entirely un-straightforward, goal: to capture, analyze, and digitally document smells. This work
Scent has the power to transport us instantly to another time or place. Consequently, the evocatively perfumed objects fHomesick enable wistful souls to travel to a cherished holiday, family tradition, or any state in the continental U.S., as well New York City, pumpkin picking, and more abstract experiences, such as a ski trip or a book club), then translates their feedback into an authentic, recognizable fragrance. More than a momentary escape, the scents suRoad Trip candle by day, and Beach Cottage by night.
Anyone who’s ever owned a dog (or been owned by one) knows that scent is paramount to how canines experience the world. Cat Warren, a science journalism professor at North Carolina State University, this observation became something of an obsession. What the Dog Knows: Scent, Science, and the Amazing Ways Dogs Perceive the World, followed by an edition that translates her research for younger readers, newly out in paperback—that detail the remarkable, often life-saving power of a hound’s snout. “We humans are highly German Shepherd police dog, Trakr, who located the last 9/11 survivor in the rubble of the World Trade Center, or the pooches that find drowning victims more than 200 feet under the sea. “Dogs can help make the invisible visible,” Warren says. “We need to watch them closely, know they can help translate
Your nose knows best. So says Harold McGee, a leading expert on the science of food and cooking, and author of the new bNose Dive: A Field Guide To The World’s Smells. Developed over the course of a decade, the blockbuster attempts to unpack the science of scent by looking in great dep
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Six decades ago, researchers at 3M and the NCR Corporation were looking for a more effective way of trapping ink inside functioned with scented oils that, when scratched, burst open, emitting their distinctive smells. The technique has since been used on stickers, stamps, and perfume-peddling magazine inserts. John Waters incorporated it into his 1981 film Polyester, when he distributed large cards that featured ten circular patches, laced with scents such as skunk and old shoes, forwine and whiskey, helps readers understand flavor through the scents of its aromatic pages, while co-authors Seth Matlins and Eve EpsteiThe Scratch and Sniff Book of Weed. Other titles employ the strategy in more subtle ways. Scent in Context, a deep dive into the work of Belgian olfactory artist Peter De Cupere, disperses hidden scratch-and-sniff odors among a journal from the California publisher Knock Knock that pairs scented stickers with writing prompts—a clever way to stimulate users’ emotions, creativity, and memory.