Earlier this spring, a friend had the opportunity to tour a perfume factory while on a Mediterranean tour. She followed the entire fragrant process from processing flower petals to extract precious oil to concocting blends for making perfumes. At the end of this heady experience, visitors could sample and purchase fragrances in the gift shop.

The Mediterranean has the perfect climate for growing flowers for the fragrance industry. In particular, two roses — R. Gallica and R. Damascena — are grown specifically for perfume because they are heavily fragrant and productive.

According to the National Garden Bureau, it takes an amazing 10,000 pounds of rose petals to make 1 liter of rose oil, one of the main components in many perfumes. Crabtree & Evelyn has have a rose specifically bred for their signature perfume, Evelyn Rose.

The florist rose industry produces more than 1 billion stems each year in more than 30,000 greenhouses around the globe. On Valentine’s Day, for example, the roses we enjoy in bouquets may come from Ecuador, Colombia or another country.

President Ronald Reagan officially named the rose the U.S. national flower in a White House Rose Garden ceremony in 1986.

Gallica roses are among the oldest garden roses, grown by Greeks and Romans and hybridized by the Dutch and French. Most are heavy bloomers that are hardy to Zone 4. You’ll find Gallicas in shades of pink, reds, purples and crimson red stripes. R. Damascena, the Damask rose, is another very old rose.

One of my favorite Gallicas is “Rosa Mundi,” which is just beginning to unfurl its blooms in my garden. Soft pink and white striped blooms have golden yellow stamens, and the aroma is a classic sweet rose scent. Heavy bloomers and hardy to Zone 4, there are Gallicas in shades of pink, red, purple and one that is a crimson red stripe. This spring, I added “Henri Fouquier” (France 1854), which promises very double, very fragrant pink-blend blooms on a lush bush.

My rose collection — all fragrant — gives me plenty of reasons to celebrate “the year of the rose,” as proclaimed by NBG. What cracks me up is, I was one of those gardeners who swore I would never grow roses because they required so much love and attention. How times have changed!

As for garden roses, about 35 million units are sold each year, a number that is increasing after years of decline. There are more than 150 species of roses, but we grow a mere portion of those in today’s gardens. Floribundas, climbers and miniatures make up a portion of sales, but hybrid teas remain the most popular — for now.

They may soon be eclipsed by easy-to-grow landscape roses with familiar brand names like “Knock Out,” “Easy Elegance,” “Drift” and “Oso Easy.” Iowans can take credit for some of the commercial success of landscape roses, thanks to Griffith Buck and the roses he cultivated in the 1950s at Iowa State University in Ames.

Roses need full sun — 6 to 8 hours daily — and good air circulation by properly spacing plants. Water them deeply, especially when the weather is hot and dry, but avoid wetting the foliage to prevent disease. I use an all-in-one systemic rose care product that fertilizes and protects against pests and diseases.

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Arts/Special Sections Editor

Special Sections Editor for the Courier

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