Rasho Todorov, 40, picks roses in rose gardens in Maglizh, Bulgaria, on May 25, 2018.
The most common oil-bearing rose of The Rose Valley is a pink-petaled rose of the botanic type Rosa Damascena Mill. In the Kazanlak region, Bulgarian scientists suspect that the climate conditions have formed a new type, a local population of a Kazanlak oil-bearing rose they call Rosa Kazanlika.
One of many accounts traces Rosa Damascena‚Äö√Ñ√¥s origins to Damask, Syria‚Äö√Ñ√¥s capital (hence, some say, the name); another, to Iran; and Bulgaria‚Äö√Ñ√¥s local rose population, to a Turkish merchant in the XVII century. Rosa Damascena no longer grows in the wild on its own - it must be cultivated - and it is said to be a hybrid of 2-3 rose species: Rosa Gallica, Rosa Moschata, with pollen from Rosa Fedtschenkoana. Three to five tons (or 3,000 - 5,000 kg) of rose petals are needed to make just 1 kg of rose oil, hence its nickname, ‚Äö√Ñ√∫liquid gold‚Äö√Ñ√π (whereas, 1 kg of rose petals makes 1 kg of rose water.)
Roses like sandy, permeable, clay-free soil, and a mild, clear, sunny climate with enough humidity during their flowering period - just the climate of The Rose Valley. Its two rivers and the Balkan mountain range, as a shield from atmospheric volatility, provide these gentle conditions. In the Valley, it is usually sunny before noon, and rainy in the afternoon - with cool mornings and hotter afternoons. Temperature amplitudes during the flowering period provoke the production of rose oil, which is formed as a defense reaction of the plant.
The rose flower is very sensitive, and its oil resides in the top layers of the flower, so it evaporates easily with rising temperatures. Cold dew drops in the morning hinder the evaporation of oil, the moist air preserving both the plant‚Äö√Ñ√¥s moisture, turgor and oil content, which is why farmers usually pick the flowers between sunrise and 11:00 a.m.
Photo by: Yana Paskova for National Geographic Traveler