|The Beauty of Brown Flowers
Warm-colored flowers, I tend to avoid. The artist in me knows I'm losing half the spectrum, and the plant lover despairs at such prejudice but those tones have just felt jarring to my eye. Now I've found a new way to heal this handicap: brown flowers.
In living plants, there's nothing muddy about brown: it glows with the sparkle of light refracting inside their cells; it displays mysterious combinations of hues.
One of the oldest varieties of bearded iris as common as purple ones has yellow on top (the petals called standards) and brown on the bottom (the falls). The complex shadings of modern hybrids are harder to describe; for example the catalog from which I bought 'Afternoon Delight,' says "inside of standards is a warm honey-tan which melts through the lavender on the outside. ...Falls are bright lavender sporting a honey-tan border. Undersides of falls are also honey-tan."
Another favorite of mine has standards of purple-brown, with a hint of cream-gold; falls are cream-gold, with purple-brown edges. I got it from a friend who didn't know its name, but I suspect it may be 'Mountain Melody.' (Catalogs describe this iris' brown as "smoky mulberry.")
'Gingerbread Man,' an iris even more brown, still has shadings toward yellow or purple. I love to gaze at the transitional zone between one color and another; my mind boggles at trying to name what my eye is seeing.
Other flowers with a touch of brown: several daylilies, including 'Chocolate Dude' and 'Double Bourbon'. The new calendula (pot marigold) 'Touch of Red Buff ' "silvery apricot" (beige) petals with redder undersides, and a big brown eye.
Chocolate Cosmos is a deep burgundy-brown, with a chocolate scent. A new morning glory, 'Silk Rose', has huge blooms in a color described as "milk chocolate-rose," with a white edge. The columbine called 'Chocolate Soldier' has chocolate-purple petals, green sepals, yellowish-green stamen and anthers, and brown spurs.
Viola 'Irish Molly,' a rare old pansy, is quite changeable, showing at various times tones described as dark gold, maroon brown, brown-violet, iridescent bronze, khaki-yellow with a hint of green, and chocolate.
The feathery or tassel-like flowers of ornamental grasses come in a spectrum of browns. Grasses' fine textures make good contrast among plants with bigger flowers and leaves. In a similar way, among flashier colors, flowers in browns and near-browns provide variety and refresh the eye.
© Copyright 2003 Catherine Holmes Clark