Try An Orange

Patsy Cunningham 

(Reprint from the Rhode Island Rose Review, February 04, edited by Angelina P. Chute)

 Roses are redÖor maybe pink, or white.  An orange rose is a little off beat.  Itís sure not traditional to give to your sweetheart.  You donít see orange roses while youíre driving in a typical neighborhood and only recently have you been able to find them at a florist.  Orange roses also donít show up often in the court in a rose show.  Orange even as a color in man-made items is avoided; orange dresses and orange cars are not wildly popular. 

            But I love orange roses. Apricot, tangerine, buff, amber, coral, salmon, russet, pumpkin, and even neon orange.  Plant them together in an area of your garden for a rich and unusually colored bed. They all also go very well with yellow or white roses.  Actually, in my mind, they go well with everything except strident pinks and purples. Put them in your front yard.  Theyíll catch the eye of passersby who might then become interested in growing roses themselves.

            I know of no real orange roses grown today that were bred prior to 1900.  That doesnít mean none were bred at that time. There are some ďorange-blendĒ roses listed from that time that are no longer in commerce.   There are also some early ďorange-pinkĒ roses, though none are common.  Gloire de Dijon, a noisette bred in 1857, is buff pink to orange pink, a beautiful pale color but not really orange.  Then in 1905, Dickson introduced Irish Elegance, a beautiful single hybrid tea with pale apricot petals overlaid with blush veining, giving it an understated orange tone.  In 1931, the Spanish breeder Pedro Dot, known for his love of unusual colors in roses, bred Duquesa de PeŮaranda, an orange red rose.

By the end of World War II, orange roses began to be acceptable to more breeders.  There were actually at least nine roses with ďorangeĒ proudly used in their name.  The public apparently still found orange an unacceptable color for roses; none of these are still significantly in commerce. 

At that time, Dr. and Mrs. Brownell of Little Compton, Rhode Island introduced a number of moderately orange roses at this time; still saved by collectors. They include the creeper/pillar Orange Everglow, the climber Copper Glow, the apricot hybrid tea Break OíDay, Magic Carpet and Golden Orange Climber.  

Break O'Day

Orange Ruffels

They bred Orange Ruffels soon after, it a fresh pale orange color with rosy overtones.  We have a specimen in the Roger Williams Park rose garden.  Iíve seen photos of a couple of brilliant orange roses from the 40s in old ARS Rose Annuals, but they didnít last till the present time
   Then Jackson and Perkins introduced us to Tropicana in 1960, and orange was embraced as a desirable color for roses.  Years before I grew roses, I saw a cut bloom of Tropicana and it seemed to almost glow in the vase, I never forgot it. Tropicana is an orange red almost salmon color and remains hugely popular even today.  Actually, it may be one of those cultivars like Peace that have suffered from overpropagation, losing some of its clarity of color.  Since then hundreds of varieties of orange roses have become available, so Iíll just describe the ones that we grow.           


After Tropicana, the first orange rose we bought was Liviní Easy, a tall floribunda.  The buds start out a deep orange red and open to a loosely double orange bloom.  The bush is very disease resistant and gives you loads of blooms.

Livin' Easy

Oranges & Lemons

Westerland came soon after.  Listed as a shrub, it can be grown as a climber and is very vigorous.  The orange color is striking and is hard to describe.  Itís a sherbet color in the center and graduates to a deeper rosy orange towards the outside.  This is another heavy bloomer.

Oranges and Lemons is a floribunda with a rather loud combination of orange and yellow stripes.  It has shiny rich green leaves with deep red new foliage which provides a good contrast to the blooms.  The bloom colors do fade as the bloom lingers, becoming medium pink and off white.  It can be grown as a moderately sized shrub or the canes can be grown long to arch over.

My favorite orange Austin rose is Pat Austin, named for his wife.  The color is a clear rosy orange petal with a paler sherbet reverse.  The contrast between the two really makes this fragrant cupped rose an eye catcher.  Be forewarned that the first few years you might find the stems to be spindly with the blooms nodding downward, but once it settles in it becomes sturdier.

Pat Austin

Louise Clements

There are 2 roses bred by the Clements at Heirloom Roses that we like.  The first is a small shrub named Louise Clements, with an evenly colored clear creamy orange colored bloom. 
More notable is their ďclimbing English roseĒ The Impressionist.  This rose has a very brilliant egg yolk colored center shading to lighter apricot-pink at the edges.  The earlier blooms of the season are more yellow than orange. Itís a short climber, and would work well on a pillar.

The Impressionist

Abbaye de Cluny

There are a lot of less strident oranges available, mainly in shades like apricot.  Two that are particularly worth growing are Abbaye de Cluny and Just Joey.  Both are hybrid teas with simply enormous blooms. Abbaye de Cluny is the stronger grower and is a heavy bloom producer.  It was apparently liked so much in the Roger Williams Park rose garden that someone dug a bush up one night to take home.
Just Joey is similar but with a stronger fragrance.  Itís particularly impressive as an open bloom.  It sometimes needs winter protection in zone 6.

Just Joey


 Tamora is an Austin shrub in the same color range though with smaller old fashioned blooms. 
Our most brilliant orange rose is called Lydia, a shrub by Kordes.  The petals have a bright yellow reverse.  The orange color is even more orange than a pumpkin, and is almost neon in appearance.  The heavily petalled blooms show up in the garden like little beacons at dusk. I wouldnít describe it as elegant, but itís a real pleasure to see. 


      Thereís a number of worthwhile orange minis.  The colors on Denverís Dream are different than the others Iíve described so far.  Itís a blend of orange, orange-red and rich russet.  A simpler orange is Gizmo, a disease resistant single petalled mini; itís scarlet orange with a white eye.
Hot Cocoa is in a class by itself.  Smoky russet orange, itís beautiful and subtle.  The color can change depending on the amount of sunlight it gets.  In full sun it can be a lighter cocoa shade, while with too much shade, Iíve even seen some shades of purple mixed in.

Hot Cocoa


Finally thereís a great group of roses that are raucous blends of red, orange and yellow.  Those colors look just right together.  Think back to your grammar school days, you mixed red and yellow to get orange.  Some of these roses do just that, they blend gradually from red to orange then yellow.  Playboy is the first to come to mind and the most popular despite being a single.  It's very disease resistant.

          Rio Samba is in this group, its claim in your garden is that even as the blooms fade, they continue to give your garden color.  This is a flashy 2004 introduction by Weeks: Chihuly.  Itís named after Dale Chihuly, a glass artisan from Rhode Island known for his bright creations.  Chihuly is a floribunda with nicely formed blooms of brilliant red, orange and yellow.  The dark green and red foliage really show off the blooms.


               So, expand your color horizons.  Brighten your garden and neighborhood.  Try an orange.          


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