The Sweetest Flower

Which flower has the most entrancing scent?


‘The rose looks fair, but fairer we it deem
For that sweet odour which doth in it live….’

So writes William Shakespeare in Sonnet 54. Does the rose have an uncommonly sweet odour? Do we deem it fairer because of its scent? Is Shakespeare right?

Of course he’s right. Bill knows his business. Gardening Magazine asked 3500 members to identify their favourite flowers by scent.


Top 5 Flowers By Scent
i. Roses (with an emphatic win)
ii. Sweet Peas
iii. Honeysuckle
iv. Lavender
v. Jasmine


Rachel Ruysch. Flowers in a Glass Vase with a Tulip. 1716


Shakespeare’s poll-loving fellow Brits agree. Country Living reported out on a 2017 poll asking 2000 Brits to identify their favourite flowers. Once again roses came out tops. Good thing, as the red Tudor rose is also England’s national flower..

Their Favourite Flowers

  1. Roses
  2. Lilies
  3. Tulip
  4. Daffodil
  5. Sunflower
  6. Orchid
  7. Carnation
  8. Bluebell
  9. Freesia
  10. Poppy
  11. Sweetpea
  12. Snowdrops
  13. Lilly of the Valley
  14. Gerbera
  15. Peony
  16. Dahlia
  17. Daisy
  18. Foxglove
  19. Magnolia
  20. Iris
  21. Forget-me-not
  22. Violets
  23. Pansy
  24. Chrysanthemum
  25. Lilac
  26. Snapdragon
  27. Lupin
  28. Hyacinth
  29. Dandelion
  30. Hydrangea


Rachel Ruysch. Spray of Flowers, with a Beetle on a Stone Balustrade. 1741.


So, as the holiday season inches near: If your loved one is into gardening, are sweet-scented roses a safe gift purchase?

Well, not necessarily. In 2019, BBC’s Gardener’s Magazine revealed the garden plant that topped their ‘most hated’ polls. Turned out, it was the same plant that topped their ‘most loved’ polls: the rose. While some gardeners love to stop and smell their multi-hued roses, others complain of aphids, thorns and high maintenance tending.

Flowers in a Glass Vase with Fruit. Jan Davidsz. de Heem. ~ 1665


Gardener’s Magazine Most Divisive Plants

Hardy Geraniums


There is one rose that even Shakespeare can’t get behind: the dog-rose, or the canker bloom  – sonnet anti-hero..


Jan van Huysum. Still Life with Flowers and Fruit. 1715


Sonnet 54. William Shakespeare. 1609

O how much more doth beauty beauteous seem,
By that sweet ornament which truth doth give!
The rose looks fair, but fairer we it deem
For that sweet odour which doth in it live.
The canker-blooms have full as deep a dye
As the perfumed tincture of the roses,
Hang on such thorns and play as wantonly
When summer’s breath their masked buds discloses:
But, for their virtue only is their show,
They live unwoo’d and unrespected fade,
Die to themselves. Sweet roses do not so;
Of their sweet deaths are sweetest odours made:
And so of you, beauteous and lovely youth,
When that shall fade, my verse distills your truth.


Header Photo: Jan Davidsz. de Heem. Still Life with Flowers in a Glass Vase. 1650-83



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Costuming For Halloween 2022

Elizabeth Newton

Elizabeth Newton