For centuries, roses have been prized for their beauty and cursed for their thorns. Gardeners who want to position roses near high-traffic areas can find species and varieties that are both fragrant and thornless or nearly thornless. The best known of these varieties are classic ramblers or climbers that usually require support and large spaces. Sometimes they can also be used as "scramblers," planted so that the long, flexible canes scramble along the ground alongside other plants in a mixed planting scheme. Though fewer in number, there are also smaller thornless bushes with fragrant flowers.
Zephirine Drouhin was introduced in 1868 and is still in commerce today. Classified as the Climbing Bourbon rose, Zephirine features large, semi-double cerise flowers with a sweet, raspberry-like scent. The plant grows to about 10 feet tall, with a spread of 6 feet, and is most dramatic when trained to a pillar or trellis. The canes are thornless, making pruning and arranging very easy. Unlike many older rose species, Zephirine Drouhin is also a repeat bloomer.
Ghislaine de Feligonde
Ghislaine de Feligonde, introduced in 1916, is a cluster-flowered rose. The small, fragrant, semi-double flowers are borne in great abundance and a mature plant can support hundreds of blooms. The buds open yellow and age to cream. Ghislaine is a large shrub that can also be grown as a short climber to save space. Its major flush of bloom comes in late spring, but the plant produces additional flowers throughout the growing season. The canes are thornless.
J.P. Connell combines strong fragrance, thornless canes and pale yellow, semi-double flowers. Introduced in 1986 by Agriculture Canada, the rose is also distinguished for its cold tolerance and disease resistance. The shrub reaches 5 feet tall, with a spread of 4 feet. It produces a large flush of blooms in late spring and repeats throughout the growing season.
Iced Tea is classified as a miniature rose because it grows only 18 to 24 inches tall. This trait makes it ideal for container growing or small space gardening. The flowers are camellia-like, with 17 to 25 petals that blend pink and shades of pale yellow. The fragrance is light and sweet and the canes are thornless.
Another miniature rose, Pacific Serenade, is slightly taller at 2 to 3 feet with semi-double, yellow flowers and a light fragrance. Like Iced Tea, Pacific Serenade re-blooms throughout the season.