A Simple Equation Or In the Search for the Perfect Rose

I deadened
The sounds, dissected music like a corpse,
Proved harmony by algebra. And then,
Then only did I dare, with all my lore,
Yield to the bliss of my creative fancy.
A. Pushkin, Mozart and Salieri

In celebration of this Valentine’s Day I brought you a bouquet of the rose stories. They all can be described by a simple linear equation:
Ax + ByWhere x is “a single rose stem” and y is “a colored glass container.” Changing parameters A and B I got three different results.

Ax + By = A Genetic Mystery

One of the rose bushes in my grandmother’s garden bloomed with big dark red flowers with velvety petals. They had a very light and unremarkable aroma but were extremely beautiful and, judging by the reaction of grown-ups, very rare. I don’t remember seeing anywhere else such roses. Or apples, apricots, cherries, tomatoes and many other agricultural wonders. It was a matter of fact that most of my classmates, who was growing in the big city without any relatives in villages or smaller towns, had never seen fruits or vegetables of that quality. But as a child I had never thought of how it came that my grandparents, who lived in a small town in a single family house with some land, had the best produce in the neighborhood where everybody grew those plants – I just was very proud of it. Now I realize that they both were big enthusiasts who were actively seeking good cultivars for plants they wanted to grow and spent a lot of time taking care of them. It was their hobby and they did it in addition to their regular jobs – he was a plant foreman and she was a surgical nurse. And probably thanks to their avocation, unlike many kids, I grew up loving fruits. But I was talking about roses.

As many beautiful things are, this rose was very fickle: it didn’t want to propagate through the cuttings. It didn’t reject the idea outright but it never produced the offspring of the same deep color. From everything I know about this method, it shouldn’t have happened but I saw it once with my own eyes and heard my grandmother’s neighbors and friends’ complaints that their new roses weren’t the same as on my grandmother’s rosebush. Of course, they didn’t grow to be yellow roses with divine scent but you would not be confused that they came from another bush. The picture below is the closest to the color I remember but the shape was different.

Dark Red Rose

A = “dark red”, B = “painted mason jar”: “A single stem of the dark red rose from Grandma’s bush under a painted mason jar” = an unexplainable evolution phenomenon.

Perfume to match: Amouage Lyric. When I wear this perfume I think of the beautiful and capricious rose that I saw last several decades ago and still remember. I wonder if a bottle in RL has that nice deep red color as on pictures. I think it’ll look nice on my shelf…


Ax + By = Lesson Learned

The second variety that grew in Grandma’s garden was a Tea Rose. Whereas it didn’t look as gorgeous as the whimsical dark red one it smelled wonderful and I remember it being used in conserves and home-made liqueurs. Have you ever tried rose petal conserve? The taste is nice but not too interesting: it is mainly sugar syrup with rose flavor. But the texture is very unusual: petals get soft during the cooking but they keep some residual firmness. Natural home-made rose petal conserves have light amber color and taste better than they look.

If instead of cooking rose petals were left to ferment (I saw the process many times but was too little to remember the sequence of adding water and sugar) and later fortified with alcohol, the result was a very tasty and beautiful dark-pink colored liqueur. I was allowed to taste some before Grandma would add alcohol.

One of the first perfume experiences in my life was using rose oil. I don’t remember if it was available where I lived but in the smaller town where I spent summers at my grandparents’ you could buy a tiny 1 ml vials on a card with Bulgarian Rose Oil. It wasn’t too expensive: I think you could have it for the price of two ice cream cones. But one can be expected to forfeit only that many ice cream cones…

Tea rose in the garden smelled very similar to the last drop of the rose oil in my vial and since I observed my grandmother’s dealing with all those petals – how hard could it be to make my own perfume?! I picked the most scent rich flower from the bush, tore off the petals, put them in a small cobalt glass jar (somehow I knew that it shouldn’t be transparent) and left for several days to steep. It smelled rather nice during the first day and I had high hopes for the end product… When a week later my grandmother explained (as much as she could – I was 10) the disappointing result of my experiment and bought me another rose oil vial, she allowed me to throw away the jar without trying to clean it. It was the last time in my life when I experimented with making my own perfumes.

Lancome Mille et Une Roses

A = “tea rose”, B = “cobalt glass jar”: “tea rose steeped for a week in a cobalt glass jar” = I still love blue bottles but will stick to buying “ready-to-wear” perfumes.

Perfume to match: Lancôme Mille et Une Roses. Many years ago a friend shared with me a decant of this perfume. She said it wasn’t as good as the original 2000 et Une Rose but I liked it. Since then I’ve added a bottle to my collection. The color of the juice mesmerizes me and even though real blue color is unobtainable for the roses (we won’t count dyed white ones or genetically engineered with blueish hue), the beautiful peppery rose of Mille et Une Roses doesn’t smell artificial.

Ax + By = An Improvised Holiday Decoration

When moving overseas with limited luggage allowance one has to choose carefully what to pack and what to leave behind. Among other things, bringing which was completely out of question, were vases with which I grew up. Those were massive cut crystal vases that alone would have sent our suitcases into the excess baggage category.

When it’s your first apartment in the new country and you need to buy pots and pans and plates and cutlery and bedding and … everything, vases aren’t high on the list. So at least for the first several years the only vases I had were those free ones that came with premade bouquets. One day when I came across Moselland Cat Bottle Riesling, I bought two bottles – white and black – just for bottles themselves. Wine was perfectly drinkable (back then, I’m not sure if I would think so today) and bottles moved with me as we changed apartments.

Rose in a Cat Vase

With A = “red” and B = “white cat bottle” you get “red rose in a white cat bottle” – a romantic single rose bouquet, which is good for any occasion but especially for Valentine’s Day. A = “black artificial” and B = “black cat bottle” result in the perfect Halloween decoration.

Perfume to match: Les Parfums de Rosine Rose d’Amour. It is not a big favorite in the Perfumeland, you’ll find maybe a couple of reviews and those aren’t too glowing. But I loved it the first time I smelled it in the store, tested it for a while, bought a bottle six months later (which is really fast for me) and enjoy wearing it almost every time I put it on (it doesn’t work in hot humid weather).

There are many other rose perfumes that I like and wear so one day I’ll add their stories to the bouquet. What about you? Do you have any rose [perfume] stories to share?


Images: dark red rose from here, all others my own.


34 thoughts on “A Simple Equation Or In the Search for the Perfect Rose

  1. Undina, what a gorgeous post! Roses, memories, gardening, fermenting, mason jars, colored bottles – this post ticked nearly every single one of my favorite things! Now to see if I have any samples of the perfumes you highlighted.


    • You are right! This post is as if I wrote it with you in mind! If I only could fit in some knitting :) Let me know if you can’t find those samples: I could do the last two now and I hope to get Lyric this year as well.


      • :)
        I will let you know! But I have promised myself that I will review/sample every single un-tested sample in my collection before I get new ones. Which reminds me, I must do a scented post soon!


  2. Lovely childhood memories, Undina! Thank you so much for sharing them with us – in a cute algebraic formula at that. We have a rather large (2 actually) rose bush growing to the side of our 1911 farmhouse. They’re probably 8 ft tall and the base vines are like thick thick tree branches. I always wonder how old they are, and what variety they are. I suppose I could spend a little more time looking. In the early summer, when they bloom, it’s a festival of light pink roses everywhere, too many to count. I’d love to do something with them this summer, perhaps sugared rose petals or something are in my future. :)


  3. Roses and me have a difficult relationship. I tend to kill them off in the garden, they simply don’t strive with me. And so I admire them in other people’s gardens and sniff them from afar. A bit like I do with rose perfumes. They always seem to smell better on someone else’s skin. The exception is Portrait of a lady, but you have to have seriously weird skin chemistry to make this one smell badly.


    • I love PoaL! And I’m sure there are other rose perfumes that will smell good on you – keep trying!
      I have difficult relationships with most plants, so I don’t even try to grow roses. But I always stop to smell them wherever I see them growing.


  4. I loved your algebraic approach – takes me right back to my schooldays! Equations were rather satisfying, I always thought, though I don’t have much use for them now. Percentages are an altogether different matter.

    And those stories were great fun – especially your abortive perfume making session, which made me smile. In your honour I have dug out all three perfumes mentioned: Rose d’Amour and Mille et Une Roses (decants provided by you), and Lyric by Lavanya. I am going to revisit each in turn, starting with Rose d’Amour today – have already had a compliment from a friend, herself a diehard Cristalle wearer. I guess there is that citrus green quality to it, along with the rose. Like you, I am surprised this one doesn’t get more affection in the blogosphere.


    • Percentages are extremely useful! Just earlier today I was calculating CAGR for some numbers that I didn’t want/couldn’t reveal ;)

      I’m honored! I hope you’ll enjoy wearing them all. I do it myself a lot: read on someone’s blog about perfume and chose to wear it in the next couple of days. Surprisingly, most of SOTD posts on FB or, let’s say, NST do not have the same effect on me, it has to be somebody I know (or “know”).


  5. All this (valentine’s) talk an´bout roses has made me want to find one that I would actually love to wear. As much as I love real roses, rose perfumes sit akward with me, except something like Parfum Sacre and Safran Troublant which to my nose really aren’t really rose perfumes at all.
    Anyway, I’m afraid I don’t have any nice rose story to tell you, but I truly enjoyed yours, as I said, so much so it made me desperately want to find my own rose perfume to love :-)
    And I would have got that cat-bottle/vase too.


    • Thank you, Asali. I appreciate kind words from my friends: it would have been a little (?) weird to write those stories if nobody had read them :)
      With the number of perfumes out there I’m sure you’ll find more than one rose-centric perfume to love, especially if you don’t set it as a goal but just keep testing.


  6. Nice stories, Undina! The only perfume I’m familiar with from the Perfumes to Match is Amouage Lyric and I have a decant of it, thanks to a generous swapper.

    Coincidentally, just this afternoon, I was at Wegmans (again! because I had to buy 2 more items and it was on the way home from church). Anyway, I passed by the Nature’s Market section and just happened to hone in on the fact that there are essential oils for sale! You bet I smelled through every tester and the ones that seemed worthy of buying (but I restrained myself) were Rose Absolute, Rose Otto, Geranium and Patchouli.

    As to rose stories — neither my parents nor siblings had any interest in gardening, but my grandmother on my dad’s side was an avid gardener. As a child, I remember watching her cultivating her, you guessed it – roses! She had some on the ground and also some in huge ceramic pots almost as big as she was (she was probably no more than 4 1/2 feet tall – really tiny). And the other rose story was I once had a secret admirer who left roses at my doorstep – this was really creepy because he never revealed himself!


    • You have to try the other two! I’ll send you some with the package I’m gathering for you.

      Don’t buy oils! With your application technique and dislike for re-application you won’t get much use from it. Keep wearing perfumes that already mix those oils in more wearable format.

      I like your Grandma story more than the secret stalker one ;) I never found those things to be romantic: somebody is doing something and watching my reaction… Brrr…


  7. Lovely stories. I also tried to make perfume as a child and t’s hard to believe that rose petals can end up smelling so putrid :)

    We did have a rose bush in our garden in the 70s/80s called Blue Moon and if I remember rightly, the blooms were a pale lavender-ish blue.

    The Lyric Woman bottle is a beauty in RL and it would look really great on your shelf :)


    • Thank you, Tara. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one with that “perfume-making” experience :)

      I think I saw (on Internet) that Blue Moon rose – beautiful color!

      I should definitely take a closer look at that Lyric bottle… ;)


  8. I love this equation. Creative combinations. This is the time of year when I am always craving “the perfect rose” and none of the roses in my collection quite serve and none of the roses I would normally wear smell like the platonic perfection of rose I can somehow imagine in my mind. Nonetheless, I wear them. :-) (Most often Le Labo Rose 31, Atelier Rose Anonyme, Amouage Homage, and on a warm day Eau de Chloe or Balenciaga Florabotanica.) I long for the massive vases you had to leave behind!


    • Thank you, J.
      Those vases were very nice, Bohemia crystal – the material that is sold in the U.S. with a lot of warning labels nowadays because of the lead presence.
      I wore Rose 31 a couple of days ago but for some reason it didn’t feel right this time. I need to try again Rose Anonyme – I should still have a sample somewhere.


  9. Pingback: Roses for winter « The Unseen Censer

  10. Undina, when rose is in the equation, suddenly I’m a fan of algebra. :-)

    These are all such lovely stories that let me see who you are – not just perfume-wise, but that too – which is what I love to read, as you know. The first two were my favorites. Seeing your grandparents through your eyes is fascinating, and you had every reason to feel proud. And now having some insight to them, and given what I know about you from your blog and in person, I have to say that, genetic mysteries aside, the rose doesn’t fall far from the rose bush. You are a true bloom (cane, branch?) from your grandmother’s side, at least in terms of her studious passion.

    To answer your question: no rose stories from me. I hate growing them and, in fact, have a wild and wooly rose bush that I would love to kill. It’s scraggly as all get out. But I adore rose perfumes (and rose conserves) and I can heartily endorse an Amouage Lyric bottle purchase. It really is as beautiful as the scent.


    • Thank you, Suzanne. One thing that I clearly didn’t inherit from my grandparents is a green thumb. But I do love roses, especially those with lemon-y scent ;)

      I see Lyric clearer and clearer in my future :)


    • I tried Sa majeste la Rose – not for me: too much of a rose. As to Nombre Noir – did I wrong you in any way? ;) I mean, why would you recommend me trying a discontinued, hard to find and extremely expensive perfume?


  11. No one else would combine algebra with rose and it made me smile.

    Sometimes I think the best roses are simple ones, like Jo Malone’s Red Roses and CBIHATE perfumes Tea/ Rose. I really like both of them when I just need straight up rose but everyone seems to find their own rose.


    • Thank you, Blacknall.
      As much as I like Jo Malone, Red Roses is awfully soap-y on me. One of my co-workers used to wear it and it smelled nice on her but on me it was almost unpleasant.


  12. I forgot the story-typical-well my best one is the teenaged boy who asked for a rose from my garden to make up with his girl. It was a very red rose called Precious Platinum with a heavy damask/ true rose scent. Hope the rose worked!


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