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  • Rita Perwich

The Colors of July: Red, White…and Striped!

Rita Perwich

Consulting Rosarian, San Diego Rose Society

Roses & You, July 2020

The rose is our national floral emblem and it is also a symbol of love. During the month of July, we often wear red, white and blue and we celebrate our nation with parades, parties and fireworks. We think of those we have loved and lost in service to our country. We can plant our gardens to reflect our patriotic colors and spirit. There are hundreds of fabulous red, white and striped roses. Some have patriotic names and bear witness to historic events and the names of famous people. Although the roses 'Rhapsody in Blue', 'Wild Blue Yonder' and 'Out of the Blue' may sound as if they are blue roses, in reality, the true blue rose is unlikely to ever occur because the genus Rosa lacks the gene governing the production of blue pigments. These wannabe ‘blue’ roses are really just a shade of purple or lavender. But we can still catch the spirit of this month in our gardens when we plant blue companion plants.


One of my favorite red roses is 'Firefighter', a tall and vigorous red hybrid tea rose with an exceptionally strong rose fragrance. In my coastal garden it does get some rust but this is easy to forgive as it is so very generous with its lovely blooms. This rose honors the 343 firefighters who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. Everyone loves the intense damask rose fragrance of 'Mister Lincoln', the well-known long stemmed hybrid tea rose with large deep velvety-crimson blooms. Other popular fragrant red hybrid tea roses include deep red 'Chrysler Imperial' with its spicy fragrance and rich velvety 'Papa Meilland' with its powerful old rose fragrance. 'Double Delight' is distinctive with its very fragrant large red and creamy-white blooms and is a favorite hybrid tea rose in many gardens. These five hybrid tea roses have all won the James Alexander Gamble Fragrance Medal. Beloved by exhibitors, 'Veterans’ Honor' is a beautiful red hybrid tea rose with beautiful large blooms with exquisite form. It is a fitting tribute to the men and women who have served our country over the years. Two other elegant long-stemmed hybrid teas that are exhibitor favorites are strawberry-red 'Let Freedom Ring' and velvety deep red 'Black Magic'. One of my absolute favorite roses for its irresistible strong rose fragrance is 'Francis Dubreuil', an 1894 compact dark crimson tea rose. The 2017 American Rose Society Members’ Choice rose was 'Oh My!' which is a disease-resistant floribunda with large sprays of deep red velvet blooms. Other red disease-resistant floribundas to consider for your garden are dark red 'Lavaglut' and orange-red 'Trumpeter'. 'Home Run' is a winning disease-resistant garden shrub rose with bright red single blooms and deep green foliage. 'Wing-Ding' is an engine-red polyantha which is not only a vigorous and profuse bloomer in the garden but its large clusters of single blooms are also loved and highly rated by exhibitors. 'Cooper' is a dark red miniflora that has beautiful hybrid tea form and very good disease resistance. Red David Austin roses include 'The Squire' with its huge dark red fragrant quartered blooms, bright crimson 'L.D. Braithwaite', red-pink 'Benjamin Britten' and deep crimson 'Darcey Bussell'. 'Dortmund' has red blooms centered with a white eye and is a very highly rated Kordes rose with glossy leaves that can be grown as a shrub or a climber. Altissimo’s large single blood-red blooms are contrasted against golden-yellow stamens that bees find irresistible. 'Demokracie', also known as 'Blaze Improved' is a scarlet-red vigorous and hardy climber and is rated 8.9 in the American Rose Society’s Handbook for Selecting Roses (Handbook). Two other highly-rated climbers are medium-red 'Dublin Bay' and dark red 'Don Juan'.


White roses are used to great advantage in the garden as they harmonize with all other colors and help the garden look especially magical at dusk. 'Iceberg' is the best known and used landscape rose. This floribunda always seems to be covered in huge white billowy profusions of blooms. It is also available as a climbing rose with canes that reach 12 to 14 feet. Three fabulous older white climbing roses are fragrant 'Sombreuil' (1880), 'Mme. Alfred Carrière' (1879) which is a vigorous, nearly thornless sweetly scented noisette that can grow to 20 feet, and 'Albéric Barbier' (1900) which is a fragrant hybrid wichurana rambling rose with fully double blooms that bloom in clusters. Another rambler of note is Darlow’s Enigma, a sweetly fragrant and very healthy hybrid musk with small simple pure white flowers that frame a burst of yellow stamens. In hybrid teas, 'Pope John Paul II' and 'Sugar Moon' receive top ratings for fragrance, vigor and an abundance of blooms, and 'Honor' and 'Randy Scott' have beautiful exhibition form. French Lace is a wonderful floribunda with elegant ivory-white blooms. Rated 8.8 in the Handbook, 'Sally Holmes' is classified as a shrub rose but this outstanding rose which blooms in a spectacular profusion of large ivory-white trusses of blooms is easily grown as a climber. If you are looking for a smaller shrub rose, 'Pillow Fight' explodes into bloom with large sprays of fragrant pure white flowers. 'Tooth Fairy' is a dainty single polyantha and 'Mme. Hardy' is a multi-petalled lovely damask rose with a spicy fragrance. David Austin white roses include 'Snow Goose', a charming repeat-flowering rambler, 'Wollerton Old Hall' with myrrh fragrant chalice-shaped blooms and fragrant 'Desdemona', a disease-resitant rose that blooms and repeat blooms prolifically.'Gourmet Popcorn', 'Whirlaway', 'Irresistible', 'Starla', 'Grace Seward' and 'Peter Cottontail' are notable and popular garden and exhibition miniature and miniflora roses.


There may be no blue roses but we can capture our patriotic spirit by using roses with stripes! We celebrate the Fourth of July with fireworks and there is a 12- to14-foot climbing rose, very appropriately named 'Fourth of July', that makes a similar spectacular explosion and demands attention with its wonderful clusters of large, striped semi-double brilliant blooms with bright yellow stamens and a fresh apple and sweet rose fragrance. To add to the stunning display, every bloom on this rose appears to be different and the plant blooms and re-blooms beautifully. Understandably, in the UK this rose has a different name and is marketed as 'Crazy for You!' 'Soaring Spirits' was named to honor the victims of 9/11 and is an outstanding, large-flowered 10- to 12-foot climbing rose with huge clusters of showy swirls and stripes in pastel pink, yellow and cream hues. In 1976 the 18- to 30-inch striped fragrant miniature 'Stars ’n’ Stripes' was introduced to celebrate the bicentennial of the United States of America. And since all celebrations require music perhaps you also want to consider the striped and fragrant hybrid teas 'Rock ’n’ Roll' and 'Neil Diamond' for your garden? Need yet more fragrance? You will achieve that with 'Scentimental', a floribunda with red and white swirls that blooms in clusters and received the Gamble fragrance award in 1999.

Our red, white and striped roses add fragrance and fireworks to our garden and are gorgeous planted all on their own. But when we add blue plants such as agapanthas, forget-me-nots, lobelia, verbena, spiky delphiniums, salvia, alyssum and nemesia as companions to our roses, we discover that a perfect location to celebrate July and our nation is in our own garden.

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