One of the war cries of traditionally minded gardeners is that modern varieties have no scent. The truth is that some modern varieties of roses, sweet peas, carnations etc have no scent and some old and traditional varieties of the same plants are unscented.
One reason that modern varieties of roses and carnations developed as cut flower are often unscented, in spite of general opinion that scented flowers would bring higher market prices, is that there is thought to be a link between fragrance and short vase life.
Imogen Stone, the florist delivery service, reporting the Flowers and Plants Association, says: “The scent genes are very strongly bound up with those for vase life and flower size - stronger scent often means shorter life or smaller flowers.” However A.M. Borda, T.A. Nell and D.G. Clark in their paper: The relationship between floral fragrance and vase life of cut flower roses report: “…fragrance can not be directly related with short vase life of cut rose cultivars. As an alternative, postharvest factors such as ethylene synthesis or sensitivity, may be more important for influencing the postharvest performance of fragrant cut rose cultivars.”
The Imogen Stone article reports these cut flower carnations as having a strong scent: ‘Bagatel’, ‘Gipsy’ and ‘Candy White’. But the carnations with the most powerful fragrance of all the old Malmaison carnations, from as long ago as 1857, rescued from obscurity by Jim Marshall, former Gardens Advisor to the National Trust in Britain and now the holder of the British National Collection of Malmaison Carnations.
Unlike the familiar cut flower carnations, Malmaisons (four shown here) have a shorter season, the flower form is a little disorganised, but the colours are impressive and the scent can be staggering. And they’re being planted commercially again.
In Britain a good range of Malmaison carnations is available by mail order from from Allwoods. Anyone know an American mail order supplier?
And note for the far flung future: when my time comes, a few Malmaison carnations would be just thing thing.