If this is what angels smell like, then they must be heaven scent.

It was the Angel Face rose -- at least that's what my sister said her friend said she calls it because she, the friend, has some of these floral visitants from paradise in her, the friend's, backyard and she, my sister, has smelled them. The variety is of the palest lavender shade (is it wrong to describe a flower with another flower?) and smells of, well, angels.

Yet the marker on the bud's bed at the San Jose Municipal Rose Garden begged to differ, calling it a grandiflora Lagerfeld something or other, and I don't think it meant Karl, but you never know, seeing as how a Dick Clark and a Julio Iglesias were blooming gangbusters just steps away.

A visitor strolls through the San Jose Municipal Rose Garden just as the blooms hit their peak. (Karl Mondon/Staff archives)
A visitor strolls through the San Jose Municipal Rose Garden just as the blooms hit their peak. (Karl Mondon/Staff archives)

(Later, I looked up the Lagerfeld on the garden's website, and -- in addition to other stuff I didn't understand about parentage and hybridizers -- turns out there is indeed an "Ivory Tower Angel Face" connection in terms of pollen. And it really is named after Karl. So there. My life is complete.)

It's true that I'm pretty superficial when it comes to roses, but it totally doesn't matter when visiting this vast historic nirvana at Naglee and Dana avenues in the heart of San Jose, because it's all about the outward beauty, the showiness, the glam of the thousands upon thousands of roses that flirt and flaunt their way through any spring and summer romance.

And, unless you're so inclined, you don't need to have heart-to-hearts with these eye-candy objects. You don't need to prune your way into their personalities and thorny quirks. After all, you're not dating them, you're just an admirer with a wicked crush.

So leave the serious relationships to the volunteers and the Master Gardeners who care so deeply for this place that they brought it back from the brink of community blight a few years ago.

Yes, hard to believe this glorious garden, which opened in 1937, hit the skids in the mid-2000s, thanks to city-budget-induced neglect and weeds high as an elephant's eye. It was even put on horticultural "probation" in 2005 by All-America Rose Selections, which accredits gardens nationally. Luckily, the Friends of the San Jose Rose Garden was formed in 2007; rose lovers not only salvaged the garden's reputation, but garnered glory when it was named "America's Best Rose Garden" in 2010 by the very organization that had once cut it to the quick.

And it continues to receive accolades. Last month, the garden was named a "Frontline Park" by the City Parks Alliance, a national urban park advocacy group. Congrats, San Jose Rose Garden!

I wonder if somebody sent it roses.

That's all pretty cool, but you don't even need to know the history to enjoy the park. Feel free to frolic, and go ahead and call a rose by any gosh darned other name you want to.

The Lagerfeld -- the Angel Face to us -- was the first rose my sis and I encountered when entering the main gate on a recent weekend. This substantial nose knows a rose, so I went in for a full frontal assault, inhaling the scent so deeply I ended up with a petal partially vacuum-sealed to my right nostril.

Perhaps overwhelmed by the bud's sweet breath -- like when you test too many fragrances at the perfume counter at Bloomie's and have to sniff a cup of coffee beans -- I was surprised so many other roses had little or no scent at all. "Maybe they've been smelled empty," my sis offered, helpfully.

This lack of olfactory luster didn't seem to matter to the dozens of people wandering around that day. We saw someone photographing a very pregnant lady in a billowing red gown over by Julio Iglesias. The garden is a popular site for weddings. And, according to the website, it was even named "Best cheap date." (Wait, strike that, reverse it. Maybe start with "date" and work your way up to "very pregnant lady.")

If nothing else, it's fun to chuckle at some of the funny floral names. There's the Yabba Dabba Doo, buzzing with happy bees. The Eyeconic Lemonade. Dee-Lish. Class Act. Chrysler Imperial. Scentimental. And of course the Carefree series: Carefree Spirit, Carefree Delight and Carefree Beauty.

The adjoining expanse of grass and the shade of redwoods offer great spots for picnics. No dogs allowed, but blankets and baskets sure are. Make a stop at the equally expansive deli at Zanotto's Family Market just up Naglee a couple of blocks and pick up a grilled turkey-and-brie panini and a chocolate-dipped macaroon. Then get to the garden and nibble to your heart's content, sitting in a slice of Eden.

Follow Angela Hill at Twitter.com/GiveEmHill.

IF YOU GO

What: San Jose Municipal Rose Garden, Naglee and Dana avenues. Admission is free, and there's ample street parking. Info: http://friendssjrosegarden.org
Good to know: Permits are required for wedding and commercial photography. No dogs are allowed in the garden. The garden offers rose care workshops and Master Gardener programs.
Nearby eats: Stop at the deli or salad bar at Zanotto's Family Market, 1970 Naglee Ave., www.zanottos.com, to pick up a picnic lunch.