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The Decline of Fragrance

The Decline of Fragrance

by Robert-James Collingridge on September 19th

Win Some and Lose Some: Fragrance Disappears from Flowers


It is possibly a sad reflection on contemporary trends that as flowers become available in more and more different colours, varieties and indeed species that we have lost one of the most beautiful benefits of flowers; their fragrance.


This occurred to me when sending some flowers through my good friends at Clare Florists to an aged relative. As she gets older her ability to see and smell is diminishing so some of the joy she gets from receiving flowers as a token of love and affection is also declining. The delicate aroma of freesias always cheered her up, although she does not share my passion for lillies as sometimes they can be too cloying.


It is also a disappointing fact that flowers with scent have a shorter vase life; this explains why roses, the archetypal flower of love, are nowadays bred for colour and longer life, but have little or no aroma. To find a scented rose is now virtually impossible. Sometimes, however, an actual flower appears to have a very delicate fragrance all of its own, a background titillation which brings back the memory of what used to be and still should be there. One fine example of this is the humble and perhaps currently unfashionable carnation, which always seems to have a background “fresh” fragrance.


It is difficult to know which is the most uplifting characteristic of flowers, their beauty or their fragrance. But when I think about it, I have to say the fragrance wins every time. Do you (ladies!) remember the sight of the flowers you had in your bride’s bouquet, or the smell when you nervously dipped your head in them during the ceremony? Most people’s (men and women both ) first act when receiving flowers is to smell them. I hope breeders will take note for the future.

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