What do George Burns, Picasso, and Playboy have in common? Well, I don’t know whether the two famous individuals fell into the playboy category, but the connection for rose lovers is that they are all beautiful, multi-colored roses. What do I mean by multi-colored? In this context, these are roses that have two or more distinct colors on a single bloom. Some may be a picotee type, with the edges of the petals a different color from the remainder of the bloom, like ‘Hannah Gordon’’. There are the classic blends of colors – yellows and oranges like ‘Peace’ and ‘Playboy’. There are striped roses, that are just that – stripes of one color and the remaining petals another; ‘Honorine de Brabant’ and ‘Hurdy Gurdy’ are good examples. And a relatively new group of multi-colored roses are the “hand painted” types – where each rose is unique, and one color appears to have been painted on the background color. All these multi-colored roses present unique combinations of color and can often change depending on the age of the bloom, or the exposure to sun.
You may think that multi-colored roses are just a current fashion in roses – but in fact, one of the most popular striped roses is Rosa gallica versicolor, more commonly known as Rosa mundi. This peppermint pink striped rose dates to 1581 and was originally called “Rosamonde” after the mistress of Henry II, who ruled England from 1154 – 1189. ‘Mutabilis’ is another old rose, and a very interesting one that not only has multi-colored petals, but the five-petaled bloom changes color completely as it ages, and the entire plant looks like a mixture of colored butterflies.
Now fashion does have something to do with it. Modern hybridizers are always trying to develop new and different roses. Three of them have made a significant contribution in creating multi-colored roses in the past thirty years. Ralph Moore, creator of more miniature roses than anyone, introduced wonderful color combinations like ‘Magic Carousel’ and ‘Over the Rainbow’. The king of the “hand-painted” rose was Sam McGredy IV of New Zealand, with the uniquely colored roses ‘Picasso’, ‘Stretch Johnson’ and ‘Roller Coaster’. Tom Carruth, formerly of Weeks Roses, added to the multi-colored class with striped gems like All American Rose Selection winners ‘Fourth of July’ and ‘Scentimental’, along with ‘George Burns’ and ‘Berries & Cream’.
All these roses are categorized by the American Rose Society (ARS) as “blends”. If you are looking for something different for your garden, add a couple of these multi-colored winners!
|Name||Type||Color||ARS Rating||Year Introduced|
|R. gallica versicolor||Species||Red blend||8.9||<1581|
|Louis Philippe||China||Red Blend||8.9||1834|
|Royal Sunset||Large-Flowered Climber||Apricot blend||8.9||1960|
|Mutabilis||Hybrid China||Yellow blend||8.8||<1894|
|Hannah Gordon||Floribunda||Pink blend||8.6||1984|
|Baronne Edmonde de Rothschild||Hybrid Tea||Red blend||8.5||1970|
|Rainbow’s End||Miniature||Yellow blend||8.5||1984|
|Erfurt||Hybrid Musk||Pink blend||8.4||1939|
|Fruhlingsmorgen||Hybrid Spinosissima||Pink blend||8.4||1940|
|Gemini||Hybrid Tea||Pink blend||8.4||1999|
|Magic Carrousel||Miniature||Red blend||8.4||1973|
|Double Delight||Hybrid Tea||Red blend||8.3||1976|
|Hot Tamale||Miniature||Yellow blend||8.3||1993|
|Fourth of July||Large-Flowered Climber||Red blend||8.2||1999|
|Priscilla Burton||Floribunda||Red blend||8.2||1977|
|Roller Coaster||Miniature||Red blend||8.2||1988|
|Betty Boop||Floribunda||Red blend||8.1||1999|
|Honorine de Brabant||Bourbon||Pink blend||8.1||no date|
|Hurdy Gurdy||Miniature||Red blend||8.1||1987|
|Sheila’s Perfume||Floribunda||Yellow blend||8.1||1982|
|Peace||Hybrid Tea||Yellow blend||8.0||1945|
By Nanette Londeree, Master Rosarian
Photos from top: ‘Hannah Gordon’, ‘Stretch Johnson’, ‘Gemini’; all photos by the author
Updated December 2019