You can call it bronze all you like, but basically, we’re talking brownplus or—old-school—puce. I love to experiment with unusual annuals and have long mail-ordered old-fashioned tall nicotiana from companies like Select Seeds, which offers a good selection of plants, not just seeds. I love the sylvestris, which can get to 5-6 feet and offers elegant fountains of white tubular flowers. ‘Bella’ also provides tall plants with clouds of mixed pastel star-shaped blooms. Those two have always done well for me, so when the botanical gardens sale offered nicotiana langsdorffii ‘Bronze Queen,’ (shown above) I went for it, probably without looking too closely.



The plants are a bit spindly and the flowers don’t offer quite the profusion as their relatives. They’re also brown, pretty much, especially from any distance. Up close, you see the reddish/purplish tones (my picture is flattering). In the not-as-trashy-as-other Regency novels by Georgette Heyer I still read used to read, women’s gowns or men’s jackets in puce were always a mistake. It was a “trying” color.

Unfortunately, I have the langsdorffii in 4 separate garden spots, both in a couple containers and in the ground. A tall annual like this can work either way. It’s doing Ok so I’ll keep it and see what people say. Overall, dreary colors like brown or black, unless offset by a bright foliage color or otherwise contrasted don’t work that well for me. I hate my mondo grass, which, sadly, is doing so well. But where black as a certain cache, brown is generally the color of death in the garden. Let the mums have it.

I should have stuck to yellow.

Originally posted on

Elizabeth Licata is Editor-in-Chief of Buffalo Spree Magazine.


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