Wednesday, May 21, 2008
In a recent post I reported that I've had a lifelong hatred of the color purple. Today, as I was gazing out the window onto my garden, I realized I was dead wrong. Cascades of beautiful purple flowers are blooming profusely around my deck and down the side of the stones that separate my perennials from the grass. This same flower, Dead Nettle (lamium maculatum) grows crazy wild around the sloppy compost piles at the edge of the woods, beyond any areas where I try to tame nature. It's a gorgeous plant that blooms both in the early spring and in the fall. But be careful if you use it. Saying it's invasive would be an understatement. Thankfully, it's shallow rooted and easy to remove (and transplant).
I adore purple flowers. In fact, I love purple flowers so much that I have to force myself, when considering new plants, to keep from buying more purple ones. Right now, lilacs are starting to bloom all over Maine (though I haven't seen any as short and manicured as in this photograph.)
I have dreamt of lavender fields after seeing photographs such as this (Grasse, France):
I can not even begin to imagine what it smells like to stand in this field.
Clematis is another stunner which comes in many shades of purple (though I've had no luck at all growing it):
How could I even think I hated purple?
Somehow, taking purple out of the garden ruined the color for me, to the point that I didn't even think of the lilacs, lavenders, salvias, catmint, hardy geraniums, (the list goes on and on) as purple.
Consider this story: My mother owned a clothing store. It was knd of "hippie-ish" or "artsy", depending on how you saw it. In 1984, after her death, I took over the store. I considered, seriously, the discontinuation of selling any purple clothes. But the women who worked there before I came along stopped me. In fact, they cautioned me that there were customers who came in specifically for purple clothes. One of them we called "the purple lady".
This woman was a schoolteacher. Everything she wore was purple. Everything. Always. She must have worked hard to find all this purple stuff. Besides her sweaters, skirts, pants, blouses and dresses, she wore purple shoes and stockings (and of course, scarves, hats and any other accessories that don't immediately come to mind). She wore purple eyeliner, eyeshadow, lipstick and nail color. She carried a purple bag which held a purple checkbook with, you guessed it, purple checks. And she signed those checks with a purple pen. She had a purple car (of what make and model I have no idea). And so, whenever anything whatsoever arrived with the UPS truck that was purple, we would give her a call.
One time she came in with her teenage daughter. They shopped and the daughter whined, "Oh no, Mom, not that! It's purple!" I felt for her, being the daughter of the Purple Lady. I tried not to think of what the interior of her home looked like. What a way to grow up (though of course, there are worse upbringings than being subjected to a single color palette).
She was a kook who was defined by a color. And everything in me, at the age of twenty six, wanted to put an end to this nonsense by stopping the supply of purple clothes. It was tempting, but I did not do it.
The truth is, I was once rather afraid of any color at all. Once I gave up using crayons, I stuck with pencil and pen and left colors behind. When I got to art school, I did not know how to paint. It had never interested me for it involved color (though a more imaginative me might have endeavored to use a black and white palette). I had such trouble in my first year of painting simply because I was overwhelmed by it. There were too many! The tubes of paint were endless - how could I pick even that, never mind paint with them?!
I wound up in a remedial painting class (not their description, but it was apt). We used a limited palette: Black, white and the three primary colors. Somehow mixing my own made me less nervous.
In the garden, nowadays, I have to treat purple like I once treated black. Use less of it. See, I'm actually a purple freak! Last year I planted the first yellow flowers ever. I started, tentatively, with some white ones (wow, how terribly daring of me!) I've thrown in some pinks, dusky reds and magentas. I'm near to a full spectrum of color. But the predominant one is purple. Ha!
Photo note:My desktop is filled with photographs of purple flowers and I could post hundreds. For more, visit Wayside Gardens or any number of gardening sites.