At the Regent’s Park in London, nestled below the Primrose Hill where flowers no longer grow.
Between the slight lake, ornamental bridge and ‘alpine’ blooms of a Japanese landscape, near the proper boxed-in beauty of Italian avenues there lies a rose garden.
Here, between late May and mid September, thirty thousand stems of four hundred different families compete each year in fragrant floral battle.
They are called ‘Song and Dance’, ‘Mountbatten’, ‘Radox Bouquet’, ‘Darcy Bussel’…
…after Broadway shows, royal relatives, soap sud-ed relaxation and retired young ballerinas.
All summer they spread their scents and crowd each other out: corollas inevitably bigger, bolder and more carelessly beautiful than before.
Join me now at this first flowering’s end, after a downpour has broken the uncommon heat, and in an humidity that humbles.
The flowers have begun their sweet decay. And the thirty thousand’s innumerable thousands of petals are distilled by a climate we despair of into nature’s perfume.
So many notes in this massed choir and yet they reach a harmony, and sing, if not with one voice, then in a a single accord.
The emotions of the blooming months so quickly passing by pass through my mind: summer fruits and festivals. incense burnt against insects, harvests preserved with cloves and cinnamon and spices in jams, chutneys, pickles: all to warm cold winter.
This is water to ward off long dark nights.
A sketch of nature’s most seductive daughter: Summer.
Portrait of a Lady is as simple as a rose garden made scent.
It may carry the notes of various varieties and species, but ultimately they unite to form a fragrance that is pitch perfect.
There are summer fruits here too, crushed raspberries and blackcurrants, their juice released directly onto the prying fingers that try to pick them.
Incense comes and goes and is as much sweet benzoin, spice and sandalwood as it is smoke. It never shouts down the floral heart of the perfume that is so attractive and enduring.
If English Rose is a Lady, this scent is a Royal Duchess, or at least an accurate and charming picture of her.
But never forget the rose is also the symbol of England itself and no Englishman, indeed no man of any country, should be embarrassed to wear the bloom in his buttonhole and the scent next to his skin.
The Perfumed Dandy.