A Dozen Wonderful Orange Roses

What comes to mind when you think of the color orange? Tropical fruit? Sunsets? Halloween pumpkins? The San Francisco Giants? Orange is a color that can conjure up all kinds of impressions – like this one from gardening guru, author and television host Jeff Cox as he discusses colors in his book, Landscape with Roses – “A certain hue of creamy orange-red might make me think of my childhood lunches and all those bowls of cream of tomato soup I stared at while eating my grilled-cheese sandwiches.”

Orange, along with reds and yellows, are considered warm colors – they are generally vivid, convey a sense of energy and draw the eye to the garden and make it look smaller than it is. They can brighten up a dark spot or add excitement to a solid green planting. The trick with orange is to use it wisely. In designing your garden space, color plays a vital role. Analogous color schemes combine colors that are adjacent or side-by-side on the color wheel – for orange roses analogous colors would be yellows and reds. A complementary color scheme combines colors directly across the color wheel; in this case it would be achieved using green, blue-green and blue. These complementary colors are also considered cool colors, which can help counterbalance hot orange colors.

You won’t find many old roses that fall into this color group. It appears that this color range is the work of hybridizers and seems to be a color that has fashionable cycles. One of the first orange roses that achieved wide popularity is the 1960 All American Rose Selection (AARS) winner, ‘Tropicana’. As the name implies, this tropical fruit colored hybrid tea has been widely grown for decades, and still maintains an American Rose Society (ARS) 7.7 rating. If you look at the list below, there aren’t many new roses that have an ARS rating of 8.0 or higher that were produced in the last 30 years; however, whenever I have folks into my garden, the orange blend colored roses are the ones that seem to attract the most positive attention. So goes fashion!

The ARS has three categories of orange colored roses – orange/orange blend (ob), orange-pink and orange-pink blend (op) and orange-red, and orange-red blend (or). To my eye, these colors range from a soft apricot orange, through coral, to hot, fiery pepper orange. ‘Fred Loads’ exemplifies the color orange – this is a big shrub rose by the hybridizer of ‘Sally Holmes), that puts out huge trusses of bright orange single blooms. A rose labeled as an orange blend is the ever-popular hybrid tea, ‘Just Joey’, which I would describe (as least as it grows in my garden) as apricot in color.

In the orange-pink arena, try the climbing rose ‘Compassion’ – with its hybrid tea form, and sheer abundance of bloom, it is one of the most highly rated of the orange roses (though in my garden it really is more pink than orange,) One of the all-time winning exhibition roses is ‘Touch of Class’ – an orange-pink blend that I would describe as coral colored. It produces classical high-centered single long-stemmed beautiful blooms. ‘Dicky’, previously known as ‘Ainsley Dickenson’, is something like a smaller version of ‘Touch of Class’ – loaded with sprays of coral that darken as the bloom ages.

One of my favorite orange roses is the rather obscure ‘Disco Dancer’. It is an orange-red floribunda that is always covered with deep green foliage that beautifully offsets the near fluorescent orange color of the bloom. While it comes with a 7.4 ARS rating, in my garden it is nearly disease free and rarely out of bloom. I’ve even picked a pretty large bouquet at Christmas.

A note about the ARS color categories – the ARS does not decide on the color classification of a rose – that is done by the hybridizer, so that you can have some roses that don’t seem to exactly fit into the listed category. This may be an artifact of the trend in fashion; if a rose that is a real orange, but an apricot color may sell better, the hybridizer can make that call.

Now, go out and find that perfect location for one of these terrific orange roses:

Name Type Color ARS Rating Year Introduced
Pierrine Miniature Orange pink 8.7 1988
Mons. Tiller Tea Orange pink 8.6 1891
Touch of Class Hybrid Tea Orange pink 8.5 1985
Nymphenberg Hybrid Musk Orange pink 8.4 1954
Playtime Floribunda Orange red 8.4 1990
Millie Walters Miniature Orange pink 8.3 1984
Compassion Large-Flowered Climber Orange pink 8.3 1972
Fred Loads Shrub Orange red 8.3 1968
America Large-Flowered Climber Orange pink 8.2 1976
Dicky Floribunda Orange pink 8.1 1984
Fragrant Cloud Hybrid Tea Orange red 8.1 1967
Sarabande Floribunda Orange red 8.0 1957

By Nanette Londeree, Master Rosarian
Photos from top: ‘Touch of Class’, ‘Fred Loads’, ‘Disco Dancer’; all photos by the author
Updated December 2019

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