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|
|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|
|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|
|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