Question: I'm looking for a true orange rose. I have tried about seven different varieties and found only ‘Gingersnap’ to be a true orange. Unfortunately, it is not hardy for us here in USDA Zone 4/5. Our garden is dark blue, orange and a little white—in deference to the Chicago Bears. Geraniums and marigolds take care of some of the color, but I would like a rose for perennial orange.
Answer: As you’ve discovered, a truly orange rose is a bit of a tall order, and even more so for northern gardens. David Austin Roses, which is known for reliable, easy-care fragrant shrub roses, offers several possibilities for your zone; admittedly, they fall on the softer side of orange. Shown,Lady of Shallot (‘Ausnyson’), new in 2011, offers deep red-orange buds; once open, the petals are salmon on top and golden yellow on the back, creating an orangish effect. Pat Austin (‘Ausmum’) blooms a warm coppery color, and Lady Emma Hamilton ('Ausbrother') glows a peachy tangerine. None of these are truly an “athletic” orange, but you might see what you think.
Having tried seven roses already, perhaps you’re ready to turn to other more strongly orange and hardy plants. You have many choices in herbaceous perennials.
Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is an adaptable summer-blooming perennial native to most of the continental United States (save for the Pacific Northwest and the northern Mountain States). It likes full sun, grows in Zones 3 through 9 and will add orange to you garden both through its flowers and the Monarch butterflies it attracts. A few years ago we asked for native-plant recommendation from groups across the country. The Tennessee Native Plant Society recommended butterfly weed, noting its color sits well with University of Tennessee athletics fans.
Another native perennial you might like is Helen’s flower, or sneezeweed (Helenium species and cultivars). (Despite the common name, it does not cause allergy symptoms.) Grow it in full sun and moist but well-drained soil, Zones 3 through 8. Varieties come in shade of yellow throught red. One good selection is Mardi Gras (‘Helbro’), which has yellow-and-red streaked petals that give an orange effect from even a short distance. It blooms in late summer, right up to the frost.
- ‘Savannah Sunset’, a German bearded iris (Iris germanica ‘Savannah Sunset’) blooms for three weeks in spring, with glowing orange flowers. It’s a drought-tolerant plant for full sun or part shade and Zones 3 through 9.
- ‘Orange Gnome’ campion (Lynchnis arkwrightii ‘Orange Gnome’) has very dark foliage that really sets off its vivid deep orange flowers. It blooms in late spring or early summer, prefers full sun and average soil and thrives in Zones 3 through 9.
- ‘Borisii’ avens (Geum coccineum ‘Borisii’) has a similar bloom time, but it will flower sporadically throughout the summer if you deadhead it. It needs moist soil and takes Zones 5 through 7.
- ‘Rocket City’ daylily blooms in midsummer, in vivid orange tones; full sun or partial shade, any soil, drought tolerant and appropriate for Zones 3 through 9.
As you can see, planting a mix of the above perennials will keep your garden in orange from spring through autumn.