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Looking for a True Red

Christiana, TN(Zone 7a)

Does anyone know of a pure red shrub rose? (please no recent commercial vars. like Knockouts)
Every red I've tried is actually some degree of purple red.
Thanks for any suggestions.

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Oh, have I got a rose for YOU!!!!

Finding an unfading red rose is tricky. I've been trying for years (since 2003) and many of them shift color.

Navy Lady. It's a fairly new Canadian rose. I bought one last year and it's so amazing I bought another. It is a true, unfading red. Mine is in full, bright sun and stays red. It blooms in clusters. The flowers last a long time. It's from 2003. It grows about three feet high and two feet across, based on this last year's. Because it is so new, there are not a lot of images of it. Mine is at the beginning of its second year, and it must have 30 flowers on it. They are a dark red, and they don't lighten. or turn purple. I would describe it as blood red. It is about three feet tall. The only source I know is High Country Roses, and right now it is out of stock, but I trialed it last year, have now bought a second one, and recommended it to a client, who bought two. The flowers nod just a bit, not drooping like many roses.

There is a picture of a single flower on the High Country Roses web site, but although the color is true, it gives you very little sense of how wonderful this rose is.

And for the record, I really hate Knockouts. The curse of my life is that many of my cleints have these boring roses, which by the way actually require a lot of care to thrive. Many of them die over the winter. Most of the variety commercial roses to which you make reference end up in people's gardens because of lazy landscapers who have deals with garden centers. And the big commercial growers have the money to advertise so people know there names. OK, I am biased. I love old garden roses. But modern roses can be beautiful too.

I have several red roses that shift in color: Quadra (the Canadian Explorer) flowers turn darker, and it's best not grown as a shrub. It is an extremely vigorous climber. The Dark Lady turns fuchsia in about ten seconds, and Tess of the d'Uurbervilles stays rather dark red, but its normal growth pattern is somewhere between a shrub and a climber, and you would spend a lot of time pruning. Charles de Mills turns purple and blooms only once.

For true red, you can use Dublin Bay, which can be grown as a shrub or a climber. It is widely available, and would be a fine second choice.

Christiana, TN(Zone 7a)

Thank you, Donna. I definitely plan to get my hands on Navy Lady.
I also prefer older roses. But I'll go for brand new if it has merit.
I planted 'Miracle on the Hudson' a couple of years ago. I'm liking it so far.

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Bozeman, MT(Zone 4b)

Hi I have a few suggestions for true red roses that I grow here in Montana:
Emily Carr
Linda Campbell
All hardy to at least zone 4.

Christiana, TN(Zone 7a)

Thanks, nlvwroses. I will check them out.
MotH is proving to be a good red so far.

This message was edited Jul 22, 2017 4:13 AM

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

I just ordered 2 Jean Rex from Antique Rose Emporium. I have been after this rose for two years.


It's a sport of Prospero (an Austin rose) discoveed by Robert Rex in 1998 and introduced by Hortico.

Here is a link from Help Me Find (I love these guys). Note that it is listed as zone 6-9 (which is marked as default) but Anquque Rose Emporium lists it as zone 5.

It will come next May.

I have a lot of pink and white roses so I was trying to add red, which was tricky. I had Dublin Bay in the past (great), Quadra before and now (BIG), Tess of the d"Urbervilles before and now two, a Charles de Mills, a Dark Lady and two Navy Lady. It sounds like a lot, but I have 41 roses.

Christiana, TN(Zone 7a)

Oh, how I envy you, I can't afford it right now. Iam going to try to update my have list. Hopefully I have something worthy of a trade for cuttings after you you get it well established.

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

I buy most of my roses from High Country Roses. Matt Douglas and his family are wonderful. He does a preseason 25% off gift certificate, and for the last two years I bit. And he has lots of $15 roses, as opposed to my garden center, which sells them for $30 (they get desperate at the end of the season and sell them for $20). Then I start putting roses in my "cart" and pick a ship date. I just keep putting them in, and he charges it against my gift certificate, and then ships them all at once. Shipping individual roses will kill you. And if you look at David Austin's site, a single rose will actually cost you $40 with shipping.

I have never successfully done a rose cutting. I have sent people alliums in bud, and plants like fragaria vesca reugen, but I don't do roses. I can grow lilies from seed, but I find it simpler to just buy roses, especially when they cost $14, which is what I paid for Navy Lady.

I only buy roses from Antique Rose Emporium when I want something that simply is not available anywhere else. The shipping is awful.

Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

Chrysler Imperial is a lovely red hybrid tea rose. And very fragrant. It's one of the few hybrid tea roses Antique Rose Emporium offers. ARE only offers tough roses from what I can gather. I love Chrysler Imperial.
It is upright about 4' tall by 21/2 ' wide. I wouldn't buy a grafted rose only own root roses.

This message was edited Aug 5, 2017 3:39 PM

This message was edited Aug 5, 2017 3:39 PM

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

The only company that had grafted roses DOWN was Pickering. They used a very hearty rootstock (the name escapes me). I bought roses from them for years without understanding that they were grafted, and none of them ever reverted. David Austin grafts on Dr. Huey, which is not workable here because it is not reliably hardy in my zone, which is 5a (moving to 6). I bought at least 15 roses from them, including some zone 4 roses, like Quadra, which was a zone 4 rose. I was shocked when I finally realized I had been buying grafted roses all those years.

I have a client in my zone who bought a bunch of David Austin roses over the years and most of them reverted. Dr. Huey is the most "popular" rose in the United States because of grafting. I have two clients who bought other roses and ended up with Huey.

Hybrid teas are not reliably hardy in my zone because of the climate. You have to take special measures to protect them.

Have you looked at ARE's website? They have a considerable number of roses that are hardy in zones 6 (definitely more than 50), 7 (at least 70 - I stopped counting) and even 8 (five). One issue for me has been that I can't have some of their wonderful roses without overwintering them in the garage.

Now I buy only own root roses, and happily they are pretty widely available. David Austin only recently started offering own root roses - very expensively! It amuses me that the roses in the only garden center to carry Austins carries a very limited selection of about three each season, and the containers are labels "Easy to Grow Roses" and "Own root". They take some of the most reliable ones - last year it was Charlotte and Winchester Cathedral. This year it's those two, Queen of Sweden and an orangy rose I can't recall. And yes, those are some of the most reliable Austins. They are big roses, and they ask about $30, which isn't bad. But there are few takers and every year around this time they start selling these big plants for $20, which is great. I gave two Charlottes to a client who loved them so much she asked me to buy one for a friend. And I gave in and got a $20 three foot Winchester Cathedral, a sport of one of the most reliable Austins, Mary Rose.

I have never owned a hybrid tea, and grandifloras and foribundas die in my garden. On the other hand, I have two zone 6 bourbon roses. A rosarian in St. Louis told me to ignore the naysayers and get a bourbon called Zephirine Droughin and he was right. It made it nicely through every winter at my former home, where the temperatures commonly reach -20 fahrenheit. Even if the rose loses a lot of wood it jumps out of the ground in spring. I felt so confident that last year I acquires a sport of it - Kathleen Harrop. What a rose!!!!! (First three pictures)

I have it next to a peony I was sent by mistake, which I believe to be Edulis Superba. This rose is two years old in this picture. My neighbor across the way, who is a major Knockout fan, asked me please please please could I tell him how to acquire it.

Here is its grafted sister at my former home. I have now reacquired it, but own root, and am growing them side by side. It is sold as a climber but as you can see climbers often turn into fountains. Better yet, it reblooms throughout the year, is thornless, and smells like heaven. There is another paler sport called Martha, but I have run out of room!

Speaking of a climber that turn into a fountain - the last picture is David Austin's first rose, Constance Spry. It only blooms once, but with hundreds of flowers over a 6-8 week period, with flowers the size of peonies and ascent from heaven - and zone 4!!!!

My community is very tolerant. All of theses roses are on my parkway with their blessing. Which is great, because my garden style is a bit over the top.

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Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

Beautiful rose pictures. I like all of them!
I called an order to David Austin this spring, and I asked if they were own root roses. She said "No". I told her to cancel the order as I only grow own root roses.
Ah yes. Dr. Huey. It's all over the yards in my community. I am sure it's from growing a grafted rose and the graft died and now, it's Dr. Huey. In my early garden years, I learned the hard way about grafted roses and Dr. Huey.

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

OK, be patient for my DA rant!

In his catalog, he has a listing of own root roses. It's relatively small, and he has only been offering them to the public for a couple of years. Where has he been? He saves his bigger own root roses for garden centers, where they try to get $30. When no one bites, it goes down to $20. He tries to get very high prices for own root old garden roses that have been in commerce forever.

I just hauled a Jude the Obscure out of the ground that has been there for at least five years. I was sent it by mistake. GORGEOUS flowers, but in five years I have gotten perhaps a total of 15. And then it started dwindling down, so I pulled it out and threw it into a pot. OK, it's leafing out again, but it's less than a foot tall. Does it deserve a spot in my garden? Jury is out.

I find you shouldn't pay any attention to what DA says about his roses. He's a salesman. I instead go to the Chicago Botanic Garden, where the soil is really awful and where they don't take care of their roses, and see what grows well. Or I go to a garden center in August, when they are sick of taking care of the roses, and don't choose ones with disease.

I love it when he is introducing a new rose and disses the old ones. No royalty on the old ones, you see. Years ago he promoted Glamis Castle. I found one in a garden center in Racine Wisconsin in August. It was perfect! They get tired of taking care of them by then. No blackspot! No mildew! And it had been marked down from $27.99 to $9.99. OK! Then he disavowed it. I was selling my house a few years back and was only coming once a week to take care of the garden, which means I wasn't doing much other than watering. I got out of my car - the thermometer read 101, to find what you see below. In a corner of hardscaping (no air circulation), no water. The pic doesn't reflect it, but it had more than 20 flowers on it. So when I moved here I bought two. I think it's one of his best.

He screamed about what a great rose William Shakespeare was. Then he discovered it was really terrible - a diseased mess. And introduced William Shakespeare 2000. So what do you do if you have the original?

Several of his roses I have been stuck with don't rebloom until fall or produce no more than three or four roses at a a time or are not the color he says. Here is 'The Dark Lady' upon arrival. Here is the description from his web site:

"Dark, dusky crimson, loosely formed blooms, reminiscent of tree peonies."

Uh huh.

So I only own his classics, like Constance Spry. Heritage is nice, but the flowers shatter almost immediately. I like 'Tess', but he describes it as growing 3-4 feet, or 6-8 as a climber. It does both - which is OK if you know it. But it sprawls all over the place, so it is best against a trellis with some room in front of it so it can do what it wants, and baby, it will.

He claims that he took old garden roses and made them better. Except he didn't. I have a beloved client who has a bunch of his roses (oh, yes, several hueys - I was able to identify them for her). You have to feed the heck out of his roses to get them to produce, and it doesn't always work. Look out for phrases he uses like "better grown in threes" - it means they are skimpy, or "benefits from summer pruning" which means it grows really awkwardly and randomly sends up tall stems that make the plant unbalanced, or "benefits from rich feeding" which means that you have to give it lots and lots of food and compost to get a half way decent performance.

I'll take Morden Blush or Gruss an Aachen or Marie Pavie any day. They bloom and bloom and bloom with no care. I don't grow floribundas (they die in my yard) but I got 'Julia Child' and I don't grow hybrid teas but got 'Just Joey' for a client last year and they are wonderful. If you like yellow, Julia is a wonderful rose. Lovely, shiny leaves (it's hard for fungus to stick to shiny leaves) a very balanced shape and consistent bloom. 'Just Joey' is apricot, with eager bloom. I just put Joey's graft union half way to China.

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Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

Lovely rose pictures and lots of good information.
I have Jude the Obscure, and it gets 7 feet tall. It must be too cold there for it.
I don't do much for it, and it blooms and blooms. The fragrance is wonderful also.
I do have one hybrid tea rose I'm going to get rid of and that's Frederick Mistral. It's a black spot magnet, and it's a favorite of the Japanese Beetles. I also find that in general, Japanese Beetles like pink roses best.
The deer are eating the roses I planted this spring for my church. I haven't seen hardly any blooms. :(
My best rose is Chrysler Imperial. It really doesn't require much. It has wonderful fragrance. I also have Fragrant Cloud. I moved it from a really lousy soil. The builders had put their left over gravel there when they built the house. So, the soil was lousy. I have worked on improving the soil and have Gallardia, Echinacea, Larkspur, Asclepias tuberosa and Glandularia canadensis (which I love) in that area.
I moved Fragrant Cloud to a different spot but the soil was clay. Again, we have been improving the soil each year. It has pouted for years. This year, it has started putting out nice size blooms but it's still stingy with the blooms. It has wonderful fragrance but no black spot, and a small shrub rose. It's bright red-orange, and I have it on the far side of my front yard. When I look out my living room window, it brings that part of the garden closer to me which I like. :)
One of my requirements for a rose is very good fragrance. Everyone sticks their nose into a rose expecting fragrance so I only grow roses with excellent fragrance. Everyone has their priorities.
I've looked at Just Joey and Constance Spry often and have considered purchasing them. I'm limited on space so that's a big consideration. Plus, pruning all of the roses in late winter gets to be a pretty big chore. Plus, one has to prune clematis and buddleia.

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

I think your point about japanese beetles is true. I have three Morden Blush. I love this rose. It's lovely and blooms like crazy, but it's the one rose on which I find, literally, 90% of my japanese beetles - and it has no scent, but the three are together! I have 41 roses, but that's their favorite at my new home. I have a lot of pinks with scent - two pink reblooming bourbons are nearby. I have a bunch of scented pinks all over the yard, and they leave them alone. And interestingly, they didn't want my raspberries this year.

I certainly prefer to grow roses with scent, but I am in a zone where cold hardiness really starts to matter. A lot of people don't grow roses because of the temperature issue, and they are only familiar with hybrid teas. It's such a shame, because their solution was Knockouts, and they aren't as easy as people think. They actually require winter protection to do well. I see dead ones in the spring all the time. Of course, that may be that people think they require no care at all. I take care of peoples' gardens, and I notice that people just stick them in the ground and walk away. No water, no fertilizer and no deadheading. And then they die. What a surprise. I find that they are very productive if you mound their bases with compost in winter, deadhead them promptly, and provide them with at least two gallons of water each week and full sun. Then they thrive, but I can treat Marie Pavie, the beautiful polyantha with almost neglect and it rocks out. It's zone four. It has a gorgeous scent. It's close to thornless. If I neglect it for a while and there are no flowers on it, I can literally take a hedge saw to the spent bloom and within a week it's covered with flowers. It just gets rain water. The third picture shows two of them.
I think it's not popular because it's white and, being very old and French, no one gets a royalty for it. Bless Joel at Pickering. It was his suggestion. I must have 20 "Joel's Picks". That man knew his stuff. I suggested it to a dummy who kept losing Knockouts in shade before I moved them and gave them the treatment I described and she turned up her nose and said, "but it's white".

I put in in hardscaping and had an entrance at which I needed two roses that were cold hardy and bloomed a great deal. And was beautiful. Morden Blush looks like an old garden rose. It LOOK like it should be scented, but it's not. But look at this rose. Doesn't it LOOK scented?

By the way, have you noticed a new behavior in japanese beetles beetles? I go out every morning with my bowl of soapy water, tap the rose they are on, and a number of them - perhaps one out of three - don't drop. They cling to the rose. I actually have to pry them off. First some of them developed resistance to milky spore. Now this. What will they do next? Bite you after they eat the rose flowers? Are they messing with my head by going after unscented flowers?

I didn't order Jude - Heirloom Roses sent it my mistake and told me to keep it. It's supposed to be zone 5, so I have no idea why it has been such a loser.

And yes, I hear you about pruning roses in late winter. How the heck did I get to 41? There was a time when I did them all at once. Now it's taking three days.

Oh, my goodness, I do go on.....

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Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

FORTY-ONE roses. Wow! That would take awhile to prune.
I'm not sure about the scented vs. unscented roses with the Japanese Beetles. Mine are all scented except one white rose. It's a Griffith Buck Rose: 'Prairie Star'. It is TOUGH. It's in poor soil, full sun, south side of the house with pretty much just rain for watering. It is quite pretty. I have had it for years now and it just keeps pumping out the blooms. It's about 6' tall. All of my rose bushes get taller than their description. The JB don't bother it much.
I also have Paul's Himalayan Musk which is a light pink. The JB like it but not as much as the Frederick Mistral.

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Did Jude hear me?

I put it in a pot on June 29 and all of a sudden - boom! It has several buds on it.
More than I have ever gotten. It had nada all year. I think it's toying with me but I am going to put it back in the ground. Although I got very few flowers, they are some of loveliest I have ever seen. I just don't know why it has been so skimpy, but hey!

And do you pick up the same guava scent I do?

OK, Jude, you win.

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Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

Yes, Jude has beautiful blooms: Big cabbage type roses. And they smell wonderful. I'm not sure what the fragrance is but it is divine! :)
Griffith Buck grew really hardy roses. He grew them in Iowa with no extra pampering. Here's a picture of one of his red roses.


Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

I think Buck roses are absolutely wonderful. I have seen several that I would love to have, but what happened with me is that I grabbed a lot of hardy Canadian roses and ran out of room.

Jude is going back into the ground today or tomorrow.

Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

Yes, it's quite easy to run out of room with roses. :)

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

I am actually digging up hardy geraniums to make room for them. Those geraniums were holding plants - the kind you put in because you have tons of them and want to avoid weeds. I have two Glamis Castle that are hard to see so they are going to get those spots. Jude got one of those spots. I actually have three more roses coming. The most unusual is 'Old Port'. It was recommended to me by Peter Schneider when I met him years ago. I ordered it from Greenmantle Nursey in California and the lovely woman there is propagating it for me.


It's by McGredy. He is one of the greats. He went from Ireland to New Zealand, and even though you can't import from New Zealand his roses are so great that they are widely available. He hybridized 'Dublin Bay', which is often categorized as the world's finest red rose. Having owned it in the past, I agree.

Sierra Foothills, CA(Zone 8a)

Donna ~ You must have a lot of roses. And room! Some roses need lots of room.
Those are nice selections.

So far, my Climbing Iceberg is surviving. It is very thorny, so I am going to have to get some "rose garden" gloves in order to tie it to the arch over the garden gate. It has survived beetles, and either leaf-cutting ants or bees, not sure whuch, since I never caught them in the act. I have had to water it a lot with this heat wave.
I will let you know how it turns out next spring.

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

I have a lot of roses that top out at under 4 feet: Gruss an Aachen, Morden Blush, Rose du Rescht, Prairie Snowdrift, Glamis Castle, Marie Pavie. They all grow fairly upright, too, which is half the trick. When I find roses like these, all of which bloom all season, I get them in multiples. In a relatively small space, roses that are short but spread to four feet limit my ability to gorge on roses. Sea Foam, for example, will spread to six feet wide, in my experience. I love it, but I have to place it carefully (I have two). The real loser is a so so rose that spreads that doesn't bloom well. A lot of David Austin roses are like that. I have a client who has 'Sceptered Isle'. It has gorgeous flowers, but it spreads, in her garden, six feet across so to earn it's keep it really needs to bloom frequently. He also has a lot of roses that poop out after about five years.

So for my new yard I bought roses that I thought had great qualities and did well. I experiment from time to time, but a large rose that doesn't perform is exasperating.

There was a person (who shall remain nameless) who is no longer on these threads but wrote a thread titled "I Love English Roses". She bought tons of them and promoted them heavily. As time went on she became quite a David Austin rose hater, because she purchased them without researching them and later complained that they didn't make it through the winter or didn't bloom and then the thread became basically I hate these things and I'm only buying rugosas. I actually don't own any rugosas (although I tend to them for clients) because although completely disease resistant they are viciously thorny, sucker like mad, and japanese beetles love them so much that they will (as is happening in my client's yard) ignore all the other roses and go after rugosas so intensely that they wipe out any rebloom. Then once they did that they moved on to the climbing hydrangea (completely brown from the chewing of the beetles that had gorged on the rugosas) the hibiscus plants, and at this writing they are going after the wisteria, which they never bothered in the past. Which is gross because the magnificent wisteria climbs up to the patio, where my clients get to say "hi" to dozens of disgusting buzzing beetles. Their garden had literally thousands - I have never seen anything like it. There was a vine I couldn't even approach because this one vine had - and I am not exaggerating - at least 2000 beetles on. And you could hear them from several feet away. They brought out professionals to spray. And they concluded that the rugosas (they had several) had lured the little darlings to their yard in the first place.

I do like the look so I researched hybrid musks that are hearty in zone 5. And bought two 'Ballarina'. Delightful.

Christiana, TN(Zone 7a)

I found another good red. I had ordered and received 'Alain' from somewhere in England off of ebay when I made original post. It was dried out and I was sure it would die. I potted it up anyway....and it survived!
It just recently bloomed and I love the color.


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Navarre, FL(Zone 8b)

Beautiful RED and STRONG rose frangrance... Alec's Red

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