Two Dozen Wonderful Red Roses

In the words of the famous Scottish poet Robert Burns,
O my luve is like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June
O my luve is like the melodie
That’s sweetly played in tune.

Or the 19th century poet John B O’Reilly,
The red rose whispers of passion
And the white rose breathes of love
O the red rose is a falcon
And the white rose is a dove.

Red roses have long been associated with love. It is hard to look at a deep red rose and not have it provoke some strong emotion. Every garden should have one good red rose – whether to enjoy on your own or to give to someone special when you want to say, “I love you.”

Surely red roses must be at the top of the list of favorite roses – even with color fads that come and go, reds remain a perennial charmer. The American Rose Society has two categories of solid red-colored roses – medium red and dark red. These span quite a range from very light red to nearly black. Many of the deep red roses have buds in that color range, then turn bluish as the bloom ages. In the heat of summer, the color can fade, and the blooms tend to bull nose more than other colors. All that said, there are lots of good choices to fill your garden, and your passion, with red roses.

One of the first popular modern red hybrid teas was ‘Chrysler Imperial’ (ARS rating 7.8), the 1953 All American Rose Selection (AARS) and 1965 James Alexander Gamble Fragrance award winner. It was (and still is) a bloom with classic flower form, deep velvety red color, and an intense, spicy fragrance. This rose was an offspring of ‘Crimson Glory’ (ARS 7.6), introduced in 1935, and has been used in the development of a long list of prize-winning reds.

The list below includes two-dozen terrific red roses, from old garden roses, to musks, climbers and miniatures. In addition to these, I have reds that do well in my garden but fall a tad short of the 8.0 or higher American Rose Society nationwide rating. One of the most scrumptious of these is ‘Papa Meilland’ (dark red HT, 7.9), winner of both the James Alexander Gamble award for fragrance and the World Federation of Roses award in 1988. This rose produces huge flowers that are burgundy wine purple red with a heavenly fragrance.

‘Ingrid Bergman’ (dark red HT, 8.0) is a sturdy plant that is always covered with blooms. It is the winner of the World Federation of Roses Award in 2000, the only red other than ‘Papa Meilland’ to win this prize. It’s an offspring of ‘Precious Platinum’ (dark red HT, not rated), another steady performer that has spotless foliage and lots of bloom. ‘Ingrid Bergman’ was used to produce ‘Opening Night’ (dark red HT, 7.8), a 1998 AARS winner, and very prolific rose.

On the darker side of red is ‘Taboo’ (dark red HT, 7.7) – a tall, vigorous plant with deep purplish-green leaves, and buds that are nearly black, opening to a full, ruffled, dark red bloom. One of my favorite floribundas is a gorgeous deep, velvety red that is always in bloom, and rarely bothered by disease. ‘Lilli Marlene’ has an ARS rating of 7.9; in my garden it would rate at least an 8.5!  ‘Firefighter’ (7.8), introduced in 2004, is a dark red hybrid tea with a powerful perfume – it received the James Alexander Gamble Fragrance award in 2017.

If you don’t have one or more of these glorious red roses now, it’s time to add one!

Name Type Color ARS Rating Year Introduced
Eddie’s Crimson Hybrid Moyesii Medium red 9.1 1956
Alika Hybrid Gallica Medium red 9.0 1906
Dortmund Hybrid Kordesii Medium red 8.8 1955
Roseraie de l’Hay Hybrid Rugosa Dark red 8.7 1901
Lavaglut Floribunda Dark red 8.6 1978
Robusta Shrub Medium red 8.6 1979
Travemunde Floribunda Medium red 8.6 1968
Peggy “T” Miniature Medium red 8.5 1988
Altissimo Large-Flowered Climber Medium red 8.4 1966
Dublin Bay Large-Flowered Climber Medium red 8.4 1975
Kardinal Hybrid Tea Medium red 8.4 1986
La Belle Sultane Hybrid Gallica Dark red 8.4 1795
Olympiad Hybrid Tea Medium red 8.4 1982
Robin Hood Hybrid Musk Medium red 8.4 1927
Super Hero Floribunda Medium red 8.4 2008
Veteran’s Honor Hybrid Tea Dark red 8.4 1999
Europeana Floribunda Dark red 8.3 1968
Mister Lincoln Hybrid Tea Dark red 8.3 1964
Etoile de Hollande, Cl Climbing Hybrid Tea Medium red 8.2 1931
Home Run Shrub Medium red 8.2 2004
Red Ribbons Shrub Dark red 8.2 1990
Winner’s Circle Large Flowered-Climber Dark red 8.2 2007
Showbiz Floribunda Medium red 8.1 1983
Miss Flippins Miniature Medium red 8.0 1997

Rose photos from top left: ‘Dortmund’, ‘Europeana’, ‘Ingrid Bergman’‘; all photos by the author.

Updated December 2019

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