Damask roses are divided in two groups (Huxley 1992):
Summer Damasks (R. × damascena nothovar. damascena) have a short flowering season, only in the summer.
Autumn Damasks (R. × damascena nothovar. Semperflorens) have a longer flowering season with some repeat; they are otherwise not distinguishable from the summer damasks.
‘Summer Damask’ has a light pink bloom with flowers varying in color from almost white to dark pink. The bloom is loose and borne in small to medium clusters. There is a strong fragrance. The foliage is gray-green with 5-7 leaflets.It is a deciduous shrub growing to 7 feet tall, the stems densely armed with stout, curved prickles and stiff bristles. The leaves are pinnate, with five (rarely seven) leaflets. It is considered an important type of Old Rose for its prominent place in the pedigree of many other types. Hips are bright red and bristly. It is once-blooming.
‘Autumn Damask’ has medium pink with flowers borne singly or in small clusters. There is a moderate fragrance with some repeat blooming ability. The foliage is also light gray-green with 5-7 leaflets.This is the oldest European rose to reliably flower more than once. It is one of the most important historic roses, probably going back to the Romans or earlier. The buds are distinguished by the elongated sepals of the Damask, and the rose is at its loveliest when the buds are partially opened allowing the exquisite fragrance to be detected. This is a rose we remember from old chintz, hand painted china and wallpaper. Its garden value is undeniable, with richly fragrant flowers occurring in abundance on a compact, hardy shrub in spring, followed by scattered blossoms through the summer and fall.
It is considered an important type of Old Rose, also, for its prominent place in the pedigree of many other types. Damask roses are renowned for their fine fragrance, and their flowers are commercially harvested for rose oil used in perfumery. The perfume industry often refers to this rose as the Damascus rose.
For centuries, the Damascus rose (Rosa damascena) has been considered a symbol of beauty and love. The fragrance of the rose has been captured and preserved in the form of rose water by an ancient method that can be traced back to biblical times in the Middle East, and later to the Indian subcontinent.
An Iranian doctor, Avicenna, is credited with the discovery of the process for extracting rose water from rose petals in the early 11th century. Damascus roses were introduced into England during the reign of Henry VIII and were frequently displayed and scattered at weddings and festivals.
Nowadays, they are popular in craft projects and as potpourri ingredients. They are used in wedding favors, gathered together in organza bags , and they replace the traditional Avola sugared almonds to make perfumed keepsakes. They are also used to decorate festive tables and as hair decorations when attached to hairpins.
The uses of the dried Damascus rose in beauty products are numerous. Soaking Damascus rosebuds in water for three or four days releases a rose essence which can be added to bath water or may be used to rinse hair after shampooing to leave the skin and hair soft with the fragrance of roses.
As the gentlest of all astringents, rose water is often used as toner for fair and dry skin or as an anti-aging product in facial creams. Damascus rose oil also has therapeutic properties that sooth the mind and helps with depression, nervous tension and stress.
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