Thursday, 7 June 2012

Impure Blue

There seems to be a reluctance to admit that there is such a colour as bluish-purple. Blue has rarity value, for sure, and I can believe that it sells better. But stop trying to convince us that Siberian irises, phlox, or geraniums are blue. 

Or dianthus, as one blog famously pointed out in an article entitled True Blue, My Ass. She was complaining there about dianthus amurensis “Siberian Blues”; maybe they’re depressed in Siberia because the best they can muster is a sort of washy magenta. Maybe the Siberians need filters. If you look up “Siberian Blues” on Google, the images will dazzle you with their blueness.  Some of them are so blue, they look fake even on first glance.

I had the same suspicions when I bought the phlox “Blue Paradise” to sit between the magenta and blue parts of a border. And I have to say it’s not too bad, really, but it’s not blue. Claire Austin’s page has a good picture of it: a purple flower, leaning towards blue-purple. 

Another much-hyped phlox, Nicky, apparently becomes blue-purple when the light is low, and magenta when it’s sunnier. A neat trick, but still not blue.

Another blog, Carolyn’s Shade Garden, provided the inspiration for this piece when she explained why she uses Latin names:

And my favorite:  Gardener: “I didn’t like the iris I bought last year, when it bloomed the flowers were purple.”  Me: “You are right the flowers are purple.”  Gardener: “Then why do you call it blue flag?”  I could write a whole different article on the color I call “horticultural blue”, which results from plant breeders’ apparent need to describe purple flowers as blue.

My own personal theory is there is paranoia about trying to sell anything as purple or purple-blue. Personally, I love these colours, but I seem to be in a minority. I’ve loved Siberian irises since I first saw them, and their colour is still gorgeous to me.

It would be fun to do a border or bed in Impure Blue. You would have lots of geraniums, asters, campanulas, clematis and irises to choose from. And hellebores. And roses. And....well, you get the idea. Now I have to think of similarly impure plants to go with them.

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