Breeders of Note:
Henri Delbard was born in the center of France in
1944. He is a member of the French rose breeding firm of Delbard (father
Georges, and his brothers Francois & Guy). They have been introducing
their roses from before 1955. Among their better known roses are
Centennaire de Lourdes (1958), Altissimo (1966), Blue Nile (1981), Grand
Siecle (1986), Empress Farah (1992), and the "Impressionist" series of
roses, named after famous painters.
But, his involvement in roses is more than that of a mercenary, though
talented, nurseryman, eking out a living. He believes that 4 senses
(sight, smell, taste, & touch) must be employed in order to achieve a full
appreciation of the rose. He further postulates that education in the
modern world has generally emphasized the functions of the "left brain,"
(i.e. language, abstraction, deduction), and has generally left the
functions of the "right brain" (i.e. sensibility, vision, intuition) to
atrophy. Thus, with the exception of a few connoisseurs of food, wine,
art, or music, most of us have received no real instruction in how to
"knowingly" use, or appreciate, of our senses.
Having been thus ignored, all our senses must first be "tutored." He calls
this tutoring of the senses an "education in sensibility." "This means the
re-education of the right hemi-sphere of the brain. But sensibility
requires a realm in which to manifest itself. And this is provided by
flowers and plants, nature in its broadest sense, which helps us to open
up the paths that lead to a sensuous understanding of the phenomenon of
life. ....Here is a paradox: We cannot educate the sensibility unless we
have access to the living domain of nature. And we cannot receive the
TEACHING OF NATURE if our own sensibility is not open to it." This is
where the rose enters in. In his 1994 book, "Diary of a Rose Lover," he
presented practical applications of his preceding beliefs.
"The language of color has an alphabet based on the color wheel." Color
has 2 "temperatures," "warm" & "cool." Your first task is to decide if you
prefer cool or warm colors. Then, you can select the basic color on the
wheel that "gives you the greatest pleasure."
Since your garden will not be composed of just one color, you need to
learn about color combinations: "Do you like combinations to be strong or
If mild contrast, you combine flowers in your favorite color with
neighboring colors on the color wheel.
Conversely, if you like combinations with strong contrast, you'll choose
flowers in colors that are directly opposite on the color wheel. These
"opposite" colors are called "complementary" colors. "But in this case,
since you are using both cool & warm colors, you will have to measure them
out, and emphasize the color whose temperature you preferred at the
These are just the beginning of the types of things you can learn to pay
attention to, and to appreciate. There are also considerations of color
saturation, brightness, intensity, etc.
In addition, Delbard holds that, just as different carpenters' tools (i.e.
hammers & saws) perform different tasks, so too do the different colors:
White enhances other colors, and can "provide lightness & liveliness."
Blue can be used to give "depth." Blue "extends the horizon, and unites
the earth & sky."
"Red, the color of blood & embers, stimulates the senses, and draws the
attention. It marks out the perspectives and views that you want to
Yellow "warms and illuminates."
"Green calms, cools, and refreshes."
It is difficult to summarize Delbard's conceptualization of how the next
sense ( smell) should be exercised in our experience of the scent of the
rose. An analogy (such as St. Patrick used with the shamrock) is perhaps
the easiest way to convey the sense of his thoughts.
A symphony has "races" of instruments (strings, woodwinds, brass, &
percussion). It also "families" (i.e. violins, violas, cellos, basses).
And it has individual members of those families. And finally, all the
individual members may be playing the same notes, or some may be playing
different notes ("counterpoint").
As a symphony is a "whole," so the scent of a rose is a "whole." Delbard
has learned that "all scents are an assemblage of natural olfactory notes:
lavender, citronella, peach, lilac, cedar, jasmine, etc." He has created a
schema in which the scent is divided into the "head, heart, & base" of the
The initial "notes" of a scent that we notice are the most volatile &
fleeting, composed of the "citrus" family ( lemon, bergamot, etc.) and the
"aromatics" family (aniseed, lavender, etc.). He characterizes these
initial notes as the "head," or "spirit" of the rose's scent.
"Then come the notes of flowers family (lilac, jasmine,..), fruits family
(raspberry, peach, ..), spices family (cloves, nutmeg, ...), and vegetal
family (grass, leaves, ivy,...). These are the perfume's heart, its
Finally come the deep and lasting notes of the perfume's "base:" wood
family ( cedar, moss,..) and balsam family (vanilla, heliotrope, ..).
Delbard color-coded these families of scents, and then created a
"fragrance pyramid" to represent the "whole" scent of individual roses. At
the top of the fragrance pyramid for a particular rose, he will put the
color(s) that represent the "notes" of the "head" of the scent (i.e. a
stripe of blue for aromatics, like anise, or a stripe of yellow for
citruses, like lemon). Then come longer stripes of color to represent the
"heart" of the scent (i.e. light green for vegetal, like grass; and
perhaps a stripe of tan for spices, like cloves. And finally, come the
widest stripes of color, at the base of the fragrance pyramid, to
represent the "base" of the scent (i.e. for wood family, like
He elaborated further, stating that science has shown that "it takes
almost 12 hours for a rose to play all its notes. In this way the
intensity, as well as the composition, of its scents varies in the course
of the day." Speaking more plainly, he wrote of their "Claude Monet" that
"in the morning, it's the herb garden of your childhood, with its notes of
citronella, at noon, the orchard with its odours of pears, peach,
apricots, and in the evening, the notes of sandalwood and cedar will lead
you among the trees.
In his book, he presents us with both the pictures of various roses which
his firm has bred, and their "fragrance pyramid," with the family colors
labeled, to denote which family members are present at each level. It is a
visual aid to the sense of smell (unlike the more arid, & less
stimulating, text description found in most books). Again, he is
encouraging us to exercise and synthesize, the left brain functions of
sensibility, vision, and intuition.
He also addresses the senses of taste and touch, but in not so interesting
a manner (anybody want a recipe for Salmon Meuniere with lemon juice in a
warm cream sauce, tarragon, and "cezanne" rose petals? How about rose
Additionally, he makes some interesting use of Marcel Proust's finding
that experiencing food, smells, etc. which we have not had for many years
will let loose a flood of long-forgotten old memories associated with that
food or smell. There is too much to go into here, but, it involves roses,
food, family, childhood, and home.
There are other tid-bits which he has shared, including the fact that in
the breeding roses, the female parent "generally supplies the vigor, and
the male transmits the color and scent of their offspring."
The current highlight of the Delbard breeding program is their line of
roses named for Impressionist painters such as Claude Monet, Paul Gauguin,
Paul Cezanne, and Henri Matisse. Delbard learned that "the Impressionists
used little touches of pure color; these mingled, and produced the desired
colors only when the painting was seen from a certain distance." He named
this line of roses "Impressionist" after he became convinced that they
reflected the "Impressionist style."
Happy Rose growing.