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A Subtle Beauty- Brown And Other Odd-Colored Roses
Part 2

In brown roses, color is everything—it’s their raison d’être. Although a number of these roses happen to be attractive plants with potentially "perfect" bloom form, my comments will naturally tend to focus predominantly on color.

Russet/Red-Brown/Oxblood Tones

Brown Study

This is a relatively unknown but lovely floribunda bred by Paul Jerabek in the 1990s. Due to its amazing color, it has climbed to the absolute top of my list of favorites. I hadn’t expected too much of it originally, so it was a big surprise when I first saw the smallish 2½–3-inch blooms—a subtle, deep lacquer red with a deep rust, almost oxblood overlay, and faint striping of "morocco leather"-red. Very, very attractive—and quite unique, even in the company of other brown roses. The plant is decidedly vigorous (unlike most brown roses, with the exception of Edith Holden, Brown Velvet, and one or two others), and can grow rather large for a floribunda (mine is already close to four feet), with leathery, olive green foliage that’s not exceptionally attractive in itself, but makes an ideal background to blooms. Brown Study has also proven to be a bloom machine. Despite disbudding, my now two-year-old plant produced over two dozen blooms in its first season and, now entering its third season, is almost continuously in bloom.

Brown Velvet (UK name = Colourbreak)

Until the advent of Hot Cocoa, this McGredy floribunda was, along with Julia’s Rose (see below), the best-know and most widely-available brown rose—and with good reason. It has everything going for it: vigor (my two-year-old grafted plant has canes that had reached six feet by the end of its first season), generous bloom production, beautiful, substantial, and extremely glossy—if somewhat narrow—leaves that are a fresh, medium shade of peridot-olive green (a perfect complement to the blooms), and considerable disease resistance. Along with Hot Cocoa, Brown Velvet is the most disease-resistant of all brown roses. The moderately-scented blooms, which come in flushes rather than continuously, are very full and, once the plant matures, surprisingly large for a floribunda—usually from 3½ to 4 inches across. If there is any downside, it’s that Brown Velvet’s color is extremely variable (but always interesting). The plum-colored, smoky haze that overlays the Chinese red/burnt orange base color and provides the "velvet" of the name (and the "brown," too, for that matter) is a cool-weather phenomenon. In spring and autumn, Brown Velvet’s blooms are the "typical" color seen in most photos. In the heat of summer, however, they can range from the cinnabar/red-orange mentioned above, to an almost tobacco-copper shade similar to Edith Holden. What most pictures don't capture is the "silk crêpe" texture of the petals that makes even the midsummer color completely different from a "real" red-orange rose like Kanagem or Alexander. As a cut flower, Brown Velvet is quite long-lasting in cool seasons, but tends to last only a couple of days in midsummer.

Cinnamon Toast (mini)

To be frank, I'm not an intrinsic lover of miniature roses, although I do appreciate many of the odd-colored ones. This mini, however (not currently in commerce, but due to make a reappearance in the near future), has me rhapsodizing. The semi-double blooms are a pure, deep rust color, very close to Brown Velvet and Brown Study in color (with a bit of Edith Holden's coppery coloration thrown in). It holds its color well, and seems vigorous and quite floriferous. My impression is that the blooms blow a bit faster than the average mini, but Cinnamon Toast's eagerness to produce blooms tends to make up for this. The medium green foliage is strong and fresh-looking. Having only recently acquired my own specimen, I can't comment on Cinnamon Toast's disease resistance, but in general minis tend to be quite a hardy lot in this respect. It would be very exciting to ring a large specimen of Brown Study or Edith Holden with several Cinnamon Toasts, something I may well to do as soon as I can get my hands on a few more specimens of this absolutely wonderful rose.

Edith Holden (a.k.a. The Edwardian Lady)

A unique floribunda bred by Britain’s Chris Warner (best known as a hybridizer of climbing miniatures), the semidouble blooms of Edith Holden have an unusual and extraordinary color—even among brown roses—and are probably as close as any rose will ever get to a true brown. The striking copper penny-colored blooms, with glints of ochre, tobacco, and burnt orange, are remarkably reminiscent of a Palomino’s coat, and have the same almost iridescent shimmer in bright sun. In cool weather, they darken somewhat and display a deeper veining or netting. Personally, I wish the blooms carried a couple more rows of petals, but examples of semidoubles are not plentiful in modern roses, so Edith Holden’s blooms do serve as a refreshing structural contrast to those of most other roses—brown or otherwise, and the bright ochre stamens complement the petal color perfectly. Although by no means a stingy bloomer, Edith Holden can’t match the "bloom machine" production of such brown roses as Brown Velvet, Brown Study, and Hot Cocoa. In addition to the truly unique color, Edith Holden is a very vigorous grower as well: once established, it will turn into a big shrub—easily six feet even in cold-winter climates—with a very vertical growth pattern that lends itself to training as a pillar or shortish climber. In fact, it’s a mystery how it ever came to be classified as a floribunda. The shiny, dark green foliage is on the small side for a plant this size, as are the blooms (not usually more than 2½ to 3-inches wide).

Hot Cocoa

Given the incredible and carefully orchestrated hype of today’s commercial rose industry, few people reading these lines will be ignorant of the name Hot Cocoa, the recently introduced Tom Carruth floribunda and one of the 2003 AARS winners. As a group, brown roses are largely unknown by the general public—even the general rose-growing public. Hot Cocoa is now poised to change all that. Even beyond its role as a popularizer (or at least profile-raiser) of this genre, Hot Cocoa is in itself a notable and praiseworthy rose. Bloom color is extremely variable: usually far less red—and far less warm a shade of red—than it appears on some photos. I don’t think that "burnt orange"—a frequently used description—can ever accurately express the color. There’s an oddly cool, translucent, smoky—almost taupe (some might even say "muddy") tone through which the base color "glows." This is completely different than the plum/smoke haze that Brown Velvet develops in cool weather, which is clearly an overlay; here, it’s much more integral. It’s the difference between sunglasses and tinted contact lenses. Hot Cocoa’s base color ranges from the streaky maroon of certain magnolia buds in cool weather to a muted shade of nectarine red in hot weather that is a somewhat less saturated version of the red outer petals found in Livin’ Easy—one of Hot Cocoa’s parents, and from which it derives some of its best qualities. If you're familiar with Livin' Easy, imagine one of those blossoms being dipped in very strong espresso coffee. In cooler weather, Hot Cocoa’s blooms are actually more reminiscent of Smoky (see below), than any of the roses that are conventionally considered "brown." Thanks to Livin’ Easy (which should always have a place on any top ten list of carefree modern roses), Hot Cocoa has beautiful, shiny, extremely healthy foliage of a slightly deeper shade of green than its parent’s, and blooms of a similarly cupped "camellia" shape. It has the same vigorous—almost aggressive—growth habit and, alas, thorns of a quantity and sharpness that put even Livin’ Easy’s far from smooth canes to shame. Of those roses that display thorns of the "hypodermic needle" type, Hot Cocoa will never have more than a few rivals. As excellent a rose as Hot Cocoa is, it’s no substitute for other brown roses. I have sometimes described it as a bridge between the oxblood-russet category of browns (Brown Study, Jocelyn, Brown Velvet, Victoriana, and Edith Holden) and the beige/parchment category (Julia's Rose, Spiced Coffee, Tantarra, Café Olé) that always carries a hint of cool pink or lavender. It's not, as has occasionally been suggested, a replacement for any of them.


This extraordinary rose—another LeGrice creation from 1970—is an extremely beautiful shade of mahogany/oxblood. It’s a somewhat brighter shade of red than either Brown Study or Brown Velvet, and a deeper tone than Victoriana, but clearly belongs within the genre. Unlike any of them, however, Jocelyn’s blooms are very double, almost cabbage-roselike in form (as opposed to the cupped, camellia-like blooms of Brown Study or the flared, wavy, blossoms of Victoriana). One of the biggest differences between Jocelyn and the other roses in this category is a considerable amount of blue in its color makeup—particularly as it ages. In conventional red roses like Oklahoma or Mirandy, this can be obnoxious; in Jocelyn, with its warm oxblood-russet base coloration, it adds an almost plumlike shading that is very attractive, but that can make an older bloom bear a greater resemblance to Smoky (see below) than to its fellow brown roses. Because of the high petal count, Jocelyn’s blooms may tend to ball to some extent—or at least take a very long time to open—in cool, damp weather. The plant tends to be a somewhat weakish grower with visciously thorny stems that, among brown roses, relinquish first place for thorniness only to Hot Cocoa. The shiny foliage is a deep and beautiful emerald, with an unusual, narrowly ovoid shape.


I sadly admit that Sherry was one of my failures—not in the sense of staying alive—or even thriving vegetatively—but in terms of its blooms. The color is usually described as being identical to its liquid namesake, but in my climate it proved to be a disappointment. The rather small, unusual blooms have a lot of petals that tend reflex strongly, arching downward to give it the appearance of a pompom dahlia or zinnia. In color, they were and remained throughout the season the very clear, fire-engine red of geraniums, with no hint of amber or any other tone reminiscent of sherry. They rather resembled a muted version of the floribunda, Trumpeter. Sherry is vigorous; a plentiful bloomer on a relatively compact plant, but apparently needs more summer heat than I can give it, since friends in hotter areas claim a certain sherrylike tint to the blooms.


This hard-to-find but truly exquisite grandiflora was originally a florist’s variety, a sport of the popular, but very demanding Leonidas. Unlike Leonidas, however, it is possible to achieve Terracotta’s "typical" color in a garden, rather than a greenhouse, setting. The very large blooms (almost 5 inches on mature plants) are characteristically a soft burnt orange, not unlike a slightly lighter, decidedly mellower version of Brown Velvet’s "summer color," but with a greyish-cinnamon haze completely unlike that on either Brown Velvet or Hot Cocoa. The effect explains the name: no other brown rose, with the possible exception of Irish Crème (see below), so closely resembles its namesake. As the bloom matures, the petals develop a darker, mottled edge very similar to Camara—a striking and exquisite effect. Like all roses originally developed for the florist trade or for exhibition, Terracotta (forget the many spelling variations, it’s all the same rose) will need that extra bit of TLC but, unlike Leonidas, will reward you with really lovely blooms. The subtle color will, of course, be more saturated in cool weather, and it pays to note that, overall, Terracotta is not a rose that does well with excessive heat or sun. If at all possible, give it a very sunny eastern exposure with shade from midday, or find a way to otherwise block the afternoon sun—blooms will crisp and the color will bleach out in hot sun. If given a situation and culture that suits it, Terracotta can become a typical grandiflora—in other words, tall and vigorous.


This unusual and oddly beautiful floribunda was a late (1977) LeGrice creation, and is a very fine example of his "art." It’s essentially a bicolor: the petals are a russet/"ember-glow" red with silvery-white reverses. The warmth of the russet shade can change to a softly muted Chinese red in midsummer (not nearly so sharp as Brown Velvet), but is always striking since the large blooms gradually change tone as they age, occasionally developing a smoky-grape haze. The bloom form, while double, is almost poppylike, with lots of wavy, flared petals. Victoriana is not an especially vigorous rose, and it benefits from as much TLC as you can give it, but it’s not a sickly plant either. The deep hemlock green foliage, while not particularly striking as such, does provide a very attractive contrast to the showy blossoms. Despite my caveats, this is one of my favorite brown roses. Love it or hate it, it’s unforgettable!

"Warm" Beige-Tan/Tawny Gold Tones:


LeGrice called the color of this rose "Egyptian buff." Although I decided to pass on growing this one myself, my impression is that it belongs to the "warm tan/tawny gold" category of brown roses. Based on friends’ reactions, here is some information on this rather rare brown rose: "Amberlight’s blooms are about 3¼ inches"; "Newly opened blooms have a honey-gold overlay"; "Amberlight is a mixed bag in terms of color: the intense butterscotch yellow at the base of the petals fades outward to a yellow-tan, then to lavender-tan at the tips"; "The bloom becomes more and more pastel as it ages"; "The bloom form is ruffled like Angel Face"; "…this is one of those roses that is at its most beautiful as the bud begins to open, when the butterscotch-yellow-tan colors are well-defined"; "…canes are upright, rather than arching or bushy…foliage is somewhat sparse and light green in color"; "…some blackspot, but no rust, powdery mildew, or other diseases so far"; "Although Amberlight is a floribunda, it hasn't produced any clusters of blooms as yet."


Eugene Boerner’s 1959 floribunda, the result of a cross between Lavender Pinocchio and Grey Pearl, must have been an incredible oddity in its day—the heyday of the huge, gaudy, fluorescent hybrid teas and floribundas of the postwar period. Brownie’s buds are usually toffee-colored with rather alarming flashes of deep cerise on the petal edges. The smallish, very double blooms open a definite walnut shell tan—not beige—very much like the tan on the reverse of Leonidas petals. The cherry red edges pale as the petals quickly roll back, allowing the tan to dominate. Although Brownie is a rather small, weakish plant that can use lots of TLC, it is obdurate in producing a considerable number of buds throughout the season—most of which should be removed in its first year. This "tough love" approach will give you a sturdy, healthy plant that will then be able to support all those blooms the following season. The matte, greyish-olive foliage presents an attractive opportunity for fungal diseases, so be sure to spray. Despite the caveats, Brownie is a unique and very worthwhile rose.


One of the few "brown" climbers (the other being the greyish white-to-taupe Ash Wednesday, see below), this 1986 introduction by William Warriner is not to be confused with a 1942 golden apricot hybrid tea of the same name. Until it was reintroduced this season by Armstrong Roses, Climbing Butterscotch had inexplicably disappeared from commerce, and was the subject of one of my most energetic "rose hunts." Climbing Butterscotch produces lovely, large, cup-shaped blooms—almost like a polyantha on steroids—that are sturdier than their fragile, long-necked appearance would suggest. True to its name, Butterscotch’s blooms are a glorious series of pale Chablis, gold, buff yellow, straw-tan shades that age to a tea-stain beige the color of balsa wood, particularly in the center petals. They tend to come in several flushes rather than regularly throughout the season. A vigorous, but not ruthless climber, Butterscotch has attractive, relatively disease-resistant bluish foliage when the leaves mature. If you like the unusual at all, you will adore this rose.


One of the earliest brown roses, Café was bred by Kordes and introduced in 1956. It’s the product of a cross between the Brownell climber Golden Glow and Lavender Pinocchio—and therein lies the tale. The somewhat quartered bloom form, reminiscent of centifolias, is rare among brown roses and is most attractive. Café’s color is very climate- and season-dependent, but at its best Café produces large blooms truly the color of coffee with cream—always, however, with a warm, golden undertone that reveals the yellow in its breeding. Depending on the climate and season, the blooms can sometimes be a rather jarring, deep brassy yellow the color of goldenrod—not an overly attractive shade. There must be something ill-omened about roses with "café" in the name, because both this rose and the mini, Café Olé, (see below) are not always the most reliable producers of the brown blooms that we presumably grow them for. Café is, however, one of only a handful of fragrant brown roses, and produces blooms with a sweet, old-fashioned scent that matches their form. Another anomalous floribunda, Café is a big plant with big blooms. My three-year-old grafted Café already has four-foot long canes and 3½ to 4-inch blooms that do, however, come in clusters. Its matte foliage, somewhat prone to mildew, is an attractive shade of deep apple green.

Golden Julia

I didn’t quite know how to visualize this sport of Julia’s Rose when its discoverer, the brown rose authority Kim Rupert, described it as a cold shade of yellow. When a friend who grew it said it reminded her of Dijon mustard, everything clicked. The blooms, almost identical in form to Julia’s Rose (although slightly smaller), are indeed a light, tarnished brass color, but with a very definite nod to Julia’s beigey-grey tones. As they age, the blooms pale to a straw color similar to one of the color stages Climbing Butterscotch (see above) goes through. Golden Julia displays much the same restrained, vertical growth and conservative bloom production as Julia’s Rose, just as one would expect of a sport.

Iced Tea (mini)

This recent Ralph Moore introduction is one of a handful of miniature roses in the brown range of tones. Personally, I wouldn’t necessarily classify it as a brown rose, but its color is unusual enough to exclude it from the apricot category. In my garden, Iced Tea produces flowers of bronzy tan-peach with a coppery-rose reverse that are reminiscent of both Singin’ in the Rain (see below) and Belle Époque (the 1994 Fryer introduction). I don’t find it to be a bloom machine, but when it blooms, it is indeed very beautiful. It tends to produce vertical growth in a miniature imitation of the Edith Holden growth pattern.

Irish Crème

This recent introduction is not always considered a brown rose—certainly not by the ARS, but in fact it most definitely is—and a very attractive one at that. For once, the name is apt. The buds as they open are mottled shades of warm and cool, deep and pale fawn-tan that exactly resemble the liqueur. I’m also somehow reminded again and again of Julia’s Rose as well. In cool weather, there’s an overlay smoky copper that creates a definite resemblance to Julia’s Rose—at least in bud form, but of a much warmer, deeper tone. There are also overtones of the tarnished brass nuances at the center of unfurling CL Butterscotch blooms. It’s this decidedly warm tone that causes me to classify Irish Crème with brown roses of the tan category. For a hybrid tea, blooms are on the small side—about 3–3½ inches. Although far more double than Julia’s Rose, Irish Crème blooms don’t have a lot of petals, and so tend to open fairly quickly. For this reason, as well as the fact the a lot of heat and sun turn the blooms a golden apricot comparable to an anemic Brandy (if I may mix my liquors), I definitely recommend afternoon shade. The thin, matte olive green leaves with a reddish cast to them are not overwhelmingly attractive (except to insects, whose palates apparently find them akin to caviar)—although they do complement the bloom color—and are somewhat reminiscent of Lady Hillingdon, as are the rather thin, wiry bloom stems. From tight bud to half-open, the blooms are absolutely exquisite—especially in the cooler months. As the blooms age, the petals tend to reflex and quill—a characteristic I personally dislike in any rose. Despite that trivial detail, I’d be willing to put up with a great deal more from this rose for its exquisite color.


I haven’t personally grown Kaleidoscope, but I’ve seen many, many examples of it in various stages, either growing in friends’ gardens or in arrangements at rose shows. This rose—classified as a shrub (rather ludicrously, since it normally barely reaches 3 feet), but like a floribunda in every significant way—is well-named since the bloom colors are constantly (although not always felicitously) changing. Smallish (about 2½ inches), very double blooms open from attractive ivory-cream-dusky rose buds, sometimes with a tinge of yellow, and gradually change to a odd pink or (more rarely and only in cool weather) warm lavender on the outer petals with the inner petals turning buff-tan. As the blooms age, the—to my mind at least—unattractive pink grows warmer as the tan spreads outward. The blooms are said to have a slight scent, but I’ve never detected an iota. Many people I know find Kaleidoscope "ugly," "dirty-looking," "…the center of the flower looked dead"; others praise its very generous bloom production, its relative health (some tendency to blackspot), and its dark, attractive foliage. I’ve found the blooms very effective as cut flowers in certain arrangements when seasonal variations don’t permit the rather vile pink to take over, which it all too often does. Compounding the problem is that the tan is a very warm shade, while the pink is a very cool, Pepto Bismol-ish shade, and the two do not complement each other in the slightest—in fact, the combination is quite bilious. Even for those who like most brown roses, Kaleidoscope seems to be quite polarizing. Frankly, if you’re attracted at all to this type of color combination, I suggest you check out Distant Drums, a far more successful variation on this theme.

Singin’ in the Rain (UK name = Spek’s Centennial)

Although not usually classified as a brown rose, this vigorous McGredy floribunda incessantly produces clusters of three-inch blooms of an indisputable tan-dusky peach color with a bronzy-cinnamon reverse. In cool weather, the tan is especially pronounced, often deepening almost to a toast color. In midsummer, however, the heat and sunlight often bring out pinkish or pastel tints that can be minimized if the plant is given some afternoon shade. Singin’ in the Rain is rather tall—easily four or five feet—and vertical without being leggy. The foliage is a deep pine green, exceptionally shiny and healthy. Although reputedly somewhat fragrant, I’ve noticed only the mildest scent. Along with Hot Cocoa and Brown Velvet, it’s among the most low-maintenance of brown roses.

"Cool" Beige-Parchment Tones

Ash Wednesday (CL)

This once-blooming climber is usually classed as a white, but its very varied and nuanced coloration is no more "white" than off-colored blooms of Café Olé (see below). As the name implies, there’s an "ashen" quality to the blooms, which in cool weather have a greater or lesser greyed milk chocolate-taupe tint to the centers, varying in degree from flower to flower. This shade is almost identical to the haze of cocoa-taupe found at the heart of Grey Pearl, immediately clarifying Grey Pearl’s unofficial name, The Mouse. As a once bloomer, Ash Wednesday gives you one chance to get the bloom color you want: if your May/June weather is cool and overcast, you can expect greater nuance; if it’s already sunny and hot, you’ll get a greyish-lavender cast to the blooms much like the hybrid tea Stainless Steel. Based on my personal experience, which may not be typical, I’ve found Ash Wednesday to be slow to get established—slower than the average climber, that is.

Café Olé (mini)

When this famous Ralph Moore mini (a sport of the very attractive greyish-lavender mini, Winter Magic) is at the peak of perfection, it is breathtaking and justly deserves its reputation as the brown mini. In my garden, however, it gets a mixed review. I get the "perfection" about 40 percent of the time: a dozen thread-spool sized, strongly-scented flowers of a nuanced "cool" beige-taupe that is a lot closer to a light chocolate malted than to milky coffee. The rest of the time, the color is all over the map. In very cool weather—nights in the 40s—Café Olé turns an icy grey with a hint of bluish lilac, like a combination of Grey Pearl with Stainless Steel or Sterling Silver. This is its Winter Magic background reasserting itself. In normal early spring and autumn weather, blooms are an off white with a hint of warm dove grey shading to "mouse". Only in a summer hot spell, preferably accompanied by cool nights, can I count on "perfection." The blooms, which tend to ball in damp weather and should never be given overhead watering, are produced in flushes separated by distinct intervals. The much-touted scent, while always present, is only a bowl-you-over experience when the weather is warm and damp. To my eye, Café Olé has strange foliage—an oddly sharp birch-leaf green quite at odds with the color of the flowers (except when showing their grey-lavender tones). This is a fairly vigorous plant, rather large for a mini, and is relatively disease resistant—but be warned that the foliage tends to be more than ordinarily prone to chemical spotting.

Julia’s Rose

When I was building my collection of brown roses, I felt obliged to include this hybrid tea, one of the best known of the browns, despite the fact that all the photos I’d seen had shown what I considered a very unattractive pinkish tinge to the petals. What a pleasant surprise to discover that the pinkishness was completely absent when Julia’s Rose first bloomed for me. Time has taught me that the pinkishness can be accentuated or suppressed by the degree of sun and heat Julia’s Rose receives: more heat brings out the warmer tints, more shade makes it a bit pinker. The very large, scentless blooms are a cool shade of beige not seen much anymore. For me, the color is very reminiscent of the "nude" shade of beige chiffon that Parisian couturiers used in the early-to-mid-1960s—the kind of "ladylike" color that you'd have expected Jackie Kennedy or Marlene Dietrich to wear to cocktail parties. Deeper and "cooler" than buff or parchment, with the faintest hint of an apricot-copper undertone. Julia’s Rose, while by no means sickly, is not a robust grower. Neither of my three-year-old plants has quite reached beyond three feet yet, despite being perfectly healthy. This is a plant that tends to make a lot of vertical growth, and since it seems to resent anything but the lightest pruning, I suggest relentless tip-pinching to encourage lateral growth. Also, if you can bear it, remove two out of three buds the first season—particularly painful advice as Julia’s Rose is a regular, but not lavish producer of its exquisite blooms. On the plus side, there seems to be very little seasonal variation in the bloom color.

Kim’s Cream

This light cream sport of Lavender Pinocchio was registered by Kim Rupert in 1991 and, regrettably, is only available from one source. Although I have it on order, I haven’t yet grown it myself. Kim has described it as "…a creamier, less pink-infused version of Lavender Pinocchio." In his article, Coffee Roses, he goes on to say: "It is a very fragrant, floriferous floribunda with clusters of three to five, 3½" to 4" blooms. The ovoid, pointed buds begin as a rich coffee-gold-cream, slowly unfurling the 26–40 petals, until the flower opens, showing the many, fine, gold stamens. The coffee and gold tints hold well in the shade or cool weather. High heat causes them to pale to a rich cream. It's a soft, elegant shade that sets off the medium green, semi-glossy foliage to good effect…like a lighter shade of Amberlight."

Lavender Pinocchio

Lavender Pinocchio, one or the genetic "venerables" in the history of odd-colored roses, grew in my mother’s rose garden. As a small boy, when I saw the innermost petals turning their characteristic tan-beige, I recall asking her, "Why are these roses rotting at the center, Mummy?" To me at the time, that tan color was symptomatic of camellias with petal blight, rain-damaged white OGRs, and general horticultural putrefaction. Fortunately, I’ve learned since then to appreciate the odd beauty of Lavender Pinocchio. In terms of color, Lavender Pinocchio shows a wide, subtle range of color gradations: lavender, misty plum, a slightly warmer grey than Grey Pearl that very gently segues into mauve, the warm tan at the center fades around the periphery into a Spiced Coffee-like parchment. It’s this extra subtlety of shading that gives Lavender Pinocchio the edge over another tan-centered rose, Kaleidoscope. One is Jackie Collins, the other is Chekhov. Lavender Pinocchio also actually has a discernable scent reminiscent of the more olfactorily pleasing Austins, and is a reasonably vigorous, fairly healthy plant (although not a relentless bloomer, producing its clusters of blooms in flushes. Like Brownie (see above), another Boerner creation, it has a low, spreading profile. To my eye, the blooms age rather badly—not in terms of color so much as form, becoming shapeless and flaccid fairly quickly, especially in summer heat—not surprising, as Lavender Pinocchio hasn’t a great many petals.

Space Walk (mini)

This is a little-known but absolutely terrific mini by Ernest D. Williams, creator of a number of miniatures with very unique coloration such as Suntan Beauty and Smoke Signals. Space Walk’s plentiful blossoms are an unusual, muted shade of greyed apricot-peach with smoky overtones that, because of the layering, gives an impression of rosy-tan—similar to Brownie, but with even less pink in it. The color is deeper and slightly warmer in tone than either Julia’s Rose or Spiced Coffee (see below), but definitely of that ilk. It's an historic sort of shade—you can find this kind of color in the 18th-century portraits by Fragonard or Vigée-Le Brun. lists it, quite incorrectly, as mauve/mauve blend—which it is light years away from being. Blooms becomes a bit more pinkish in midsummer and, if given a lot of very hot midsummer sun, sunburn to a very unattractive shade of cerise where the sun hits them. This is a healthy and vigorous miniature rose with exceptionally small leaves.

Spiced Coffee (UK name = Vidal Sassoon)

This McGredy hybrid tea is a true contradiction. It’s one of my strongest growing brown roses, but ironically is also one of the most vegetatively disease-prone. Nevertheless, it’s an eye-catching rose. Spiced Coffee continuously produces quantities of very large, cup-shaped beige blooms with a hint of gold at the heart and "bruise-lavender" shading at the edges of the outer petals, particularly during cooler, overcast weather. A slightly warmer shade of beige than Julia's Rose, more akin to Lavender Pinocchio in color, but similar to Julia's in bloom size. In the heat, Spiced Coffee becomes a complex but not particularly attractive shade of greyish pink-beige reminiscent of an Ace bandage. The blooms are among the most fragrant of brown roses, with a strong, rather clovelike scent similar to certain Austins. Inconsistently, Spiced Coffee’s proclivity to rose ills does not keep it from being a very vigorous plant and an aggressive bloomer. It easily reaches four feet or more in its first season and always has some buds "in the works." The matte, light green foliage does need regular spraying to keep it looking good, however.


This hybrid tea is a very unusual shade of cool beige—far lighter than Julia’s Rose. At its most typical, the bloom color resembles very pale coffee ice cream. In warmer weather, Tantarra’s large blooms—which are definitely at their most beautiful between half- to three-quarters open—have just enough peachy tones to resemble the lightest shade of pink sandstone. Flowers are produced sporadically, if languidly, throughout the season rather than in distinct flushes, but young plants need "tough love" disbudding to get them to a decent size. Although said to have a fragrance, I’ve not detected much as yet. This is a reasonably strong, although not aggressive grower with lovely dark bluish green foliage that is a perfect foil to the pale blooms.

Tom Brown

Tom Brown, a 1964 LeGrice floribunda—and one of the rarest brown roses in the U.S.—falls into the same category as such strongly lavender-based roses as Kaleidoscope, Lavender Pinocchio, and Spiced Coffee. In other words, it has a lavender base that is overlaid with tan—especially in the centers of the blooms—which gradually spreads as the blooms age. Although it’s rather a small plant, Tom Brown is quite the little bloom machine, producing typical floribunda-type clusters of five to seven very double blooms in generous flushes, separated by fairly long intervals. The blossoms start out as deep plum/magenta buds, then open to petals of a rather cold shade of deep lavender with plum/burgundy reverses. They resemble a much more nuanced Fragrant Plum or a less smoky Smoky (see below). As the blooms age, the tan begins in the innermost petals and spreads outward—although never completely eclipsing the plum. The many-petaled bloom form is reminiscent of another LeGrice rose, Jocelyn (see above), and is equally inclined to not open fully in cool, damp weather. The foliage is a striking dark green and purplish brown, very shiny, and far healthier than that of many other brown roses. Unfortunately, that lovely foliage would be a far more complementary background to russet blooms than to lavender ones. In my cool climate, I've seen no hint of the reputed "orange" tints mentioned in several descriptions, but they might emerge in a climate with hot summers. Nor have I noticed much of what has been described as an "outstanding fragrance."

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